At a time when Tamil Nadu has been crippled by the bus strike for nearly a week over a wage hike, Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami has introduced a bill to increase the salary of MLAs in the state Assembly.
The Tamil Nadu Payment of Salaries (Amendment) Bill proposes to increase the monthly salary and other allowances paid to every MLA in Tamil Nadu to Rs 1.05 lakh from Rs 55,000 presently. That’s a hike of nearly 91%.
The draft bill has been opposed by the DMK and by RK Nagar MLA TTV Dhinakaran.
Leader of Opposition and DMK’s working President MK Stalin raised objections when the Bill was being introduced, stating, “We are strongly opposing the draft which provides Salary hike for MLAs. At the time of the crisis if this government passes the bill, people will laugh at us.”
Opposing the bill, Dhinakaran asked the Tamil Nadu government how they could double the salary of MLAs when they were unwilling to pay striking bus drivers.
Meanwhile, speaking in the Tamil Nadu Assembly on Wednesday, Chief Minister Edappadi urged striking workers to resume work immediately and promised that pending dues of workers, who have retired on or before November 30, 2107, will be paid before Pongal.
Since last Thursday, drivers belonging to the Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation have been on an indefinite strike demanding a revision of their wages. Drivers belonging to as many as 17 trade unions affiliated to the Left parties and to the DMK. They are demanding that wage revision be fixed at 2.57 times while the state government refuses to budge beyond 2.44 times.
The Tamil Nadu government that has been in talks with trade unions has refused to agree to their wage revision citing a cash crunch.
“Despite severe cash crunch, we are ready to dispense salary increase of 2.44%. Transport Department workers are paid in par with other government department. Trade unions are misleading the workers on the wage issue. I kindly request the workers to immediately resume work. The trade unions are adamant on the strike for political reasons,” said Transport Minister MR Vijayabaskar on Monday.
Bus services across Tamil Nadu have taken a huge blow, leaving passengers stranded in the state.
Following the strike, the Madras High Court issued orders on January 5 and January 7 demanding that protesters return to work. Trade unions, however, have refused to comply with the court. The High Court, however, noted that no protesting worker can be terminated from service without the permission of the court.
The court also directed the state government to clear the pending dues of the workers.