Pay cuts; and perks

Roopinder Singh

We present to our readers a report of a meeting held recently to discuss a crisis situation. The state which has the highest per capita income in the country is finding it difficult to meet its plan expenditure.

The meeting was chaired by the Chief Executive (Ch. Exec) of the participants included a Senior Minister (Sen. Min) the Administrative Chief (Adm. Ch.) accompanied by the Financial Chief (Fin. Ch.) and “chamchas” of the Ch. Exec and the Sen. Min. (C1 and C2 respectively).The PAs of the Adm. Ch. and the Fin. Ch.(PA1and PA2) were also present:

Adm. Ch: Sir, we are in dire financial straits.

Ch. Exec: I am aware of that. But our’s the first popular government in the state after a decade or so of the muddle created by you bureaucrats. And now you are telling me that we can’t even please our electorate with some populist measures!

C1: Hear! Hear! What is a popular government without populist measures?

Adm. Ch.: Sir, unless drastic cost-cutting measures are undertaken soon, the situation will take a serious turn.

Fin. Ch.: We have a grave fiscal crisis here. Our deficit stands at Rs 416 crore. That is Rs 416,00,00,000.

Sen. Min.: It’s all your legacy. You bureaucrats ruled the state. You made it bankrupt. And now when we come, you say there is no money.

Adm. Ch.: Sir, we understand your sentiments. But you have to see the situation in its proper perspective. After all, there was a law and order problem here— and may I also point out that the cost of running the government was at no time as high as it is now.

PA1: To take just one example. Sir, the Ministers spent Rs 6.91 lakh just on refreshments between February and June this year. The Ch. Exec’s expenditure alone was to the tune of Rs 1.69 lakh.

C1: You people are plain jealous. How do you expect popular governments to retain their popularity? What do you expect us to do? We have to take care of “chai-pani ka kharcha“.

PA2: But, sir, this is not the only extravagance. The enhancement of the salaries of the ministers and legislators costs the exchequer Rs 1.22 crore per annum. The phone bill ceiling has been increased from Rs 7,200 to Rs 18,000 per month. And instead of a free first-class rail pass for 20,000 km, the legislators get Rs 40,000 in cash.

Ch. Exec. Let’s have a bit less of the bickering, please. What are your proposals?

Fin. Ch.: We have come up with some austerity measures. Power rates have to be hike again because the commercial loss of the electricity board is expected to be Rs 700 crore this year. We should also prune the staff and increase vigilance to bring down power stealing.

Sen. Min.: Don’t ever think of entering politics. With just this move, you will alienate everyone—the voters, the electricity board. There has to be another way.

Adm. Ch.: Sir, the other main expenditure is on the Cabinet — its maintenance, security and other expenses.

C2: Are you suggesting that we cut the security and endanger the lives of our ministers?

Fin. Ch.: Oh no. All I am saying is that a 10 per cent cut in the perks would be a big saving.

C2: Are you crazy? Cut the perks! No way. Why do you think that the ministers have struggled for long?

Ch. Exec: Well, my Political Adviser has just joined us. My friend, you have served many governments. How do we tackle this situation?

Political Adviser: It is really quite simple. We announce that the ministers will volunteer to take a 10 per cent pay cut, which will amount to Rs 250 to 400 per month. This way we would have made the gesture to alleviate the financial difficulties of the state. After all, it is not the pay but the perks that matter.

Ch. Exec: Capital idea. Let us issue a press note announcing this decision immediately.

Adm. Ch.: Sir, in keeping with the spirit of the thing, I volunteer to take just a token pay of Rs 1 per month, provided you increase my perks, of course!

December 5, 1992