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The concluding day of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha’s budget session saw Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann launching an attack on Leader of Opposition Partap Singh Bajwa asking him why he left the Rajya Sabha membership to opt for the lesser paid job of an MLA after the senior Congress leader batted for “genuine” salary and pension to the legislators at par with Chief Secretary.
Mann was responding to the address made by Bajwa during the discussion on The Punjab State Legislature Members (Pension and Medical Facilities Regulation) Amendment Bill 2022, where the former Rajya Sabha member backed his party colleague Pargat Singh and SAD MLA Dr Sukhwinder Sukhi for giving perks and pension to the MLAs at par with the Chief Secretary.
Bajwa said that on Wednesday only, the salary of MLAs was increased by the AAP government in Delhi. The Qadian MLA said he was all for one pension, as mentioned in the Bill, but the pay and pension of the legislator should be equivalent to the Chief Secretary as both were placed at par as per the protocol. Sukhi too batted for better salary, saying Rs 84,000 per month was not enough, especially to those who did not have “resources”.
“…we should pay them (MLAs) well…The due right should be given. If our protocol is above Chief Secretary, our pensions should be at par if not more. It is not a crime that we became MLAs. So, I would request, please do pay some attention to it,” Bajwa said, welcoming the concern raised by Pargat and Sukhi.
Addressing the trio, Mann said, “We are not reducing the salary or stopping it. You will get salaries and allowances.”
He said MLAs cannot be equated with the Chief Secretary or employees as the latter are entitled to pension after completing 20 years of service. He added that an MLA, elected at the age of 27 and not getting ticket again at the age of 32 (after completing five year tenure as legislator), cannot be equated with the Chief Secretary and hence cannot be entitled to similar salary and pension as given to the employees.
“When you seek tickets, don’t you then know what is the salary of an MLA? Tusin os naukri vaaste apply hi kyon karde o jedi tankhah eni aa (Why do you apply for such a job which has this much salary),” he asked.
As Bajwa sought to intervene, Mann told Congress leader to listen to him. At this Bajwa said, “Don’t make us listen to you daily”. A furious Mann hit back saying, “I have been elected. I will make you listen to us daily. You get used to it.”
Asserting that salary and pension of MLA was not fixed after getting elected, but known before hand, Mann said, “When you know this much is the salary then why you make desperate visits to the party presidents to get tickets. Koyee hor kam kar lao fir (Then do some other work).”
Bajwa hit back saying then the MLAs salary should not have been increased in Delhi too – in an apparent reference to a Bill in that regard to be tabled in Delhi Vidhan Sabha in the upcoming monsoon session on July 4. Addressing Mann, Bajwa added, “Why do you make everything dramatic? Why are you are always playing to the gallery?”
To this, Mann said a committee had already been constituted to look into the salary of the legislators and added “we will review it”.
Bajwa said they “don’t have any hope from you”, triggering a sharp reaction from Mann.
The CM said, “When you were Rajya Sabha member, you used to get salary. You said you would serve as MLA in Punjab. Don’t you know how much is the salary of an MLA in Punjab?”.
Finance Minister Harpal Singh Cheema intervened and said a committee under the chairmanship of Vidhan Sabha Speaker had been formed to review MLAs’ salary. The committee also had a member of the Congress. “This [Bill] is related to pension only”.
Mann again took potshots at Bajwa. “In an interview, Bajwa said he had turned 65 and served for long, under five CMs, worked as cabinet minister and this time will serve Punjab…and now he says, give salary and pension for the service.”
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