Ex-Speakers may get facilities at par with ex-Presidents soon

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The Indian Express, April 30, 2012

Former Lok Sabha speakers may soon be entitled to similar facilities as former presidents, vice-presidents and prime ministers, including rent-free accommodation, transport, staff and office expenses.

?I have been informed by the staff at the secretariat of Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar that the government has, in principle, accepted my proposal for providing the same facilities to former Lok Sabha speakers as former presidents, vice-presidents and prime ministers,? said former speaker P A Sangma, who had written to Kumar in this connection three months back.

Former speaker Somnath Chatterjee had also sent a letter to Kumar, seeking accommodation and some secretarial and transportation facilities during his visits to the Capital. ?I have not made any demand,? said Chatterjee, adding that he had only made a ?request? and left it to the discretion of the Speaker.

Citing the two letters, Kumar referred the matter to Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal. When contacted, Bansal said the proposal was still at the ?mulling stage?. However, he added that ?there is an inclination to do something, but we are still considering what can be done.?

The argument being put forward is that the Lok Sabha Speaker ? placed at Number 6 in the protocol list along with the Chief Justice of India ? is the only constitutional authority who does not enjoy any special perquisites and facilities after conclusion of term. At present, former Speakers are only entitled to pension and other benefits available to former MPs.

Apart from Sangma and Chatterjee, others who would benefit from the move are Manohar Joshi, Shivraj Patil, Rabi Ray and Balram Jakhar.

A member of the Lok Sabha who has served the House for five years is entitled to a monthly pension of Rs 20,000. In case a member has served the House longer, he is entitled to an additional pension of Rs 1,500 per month for every year in excess of five years. Besides this, former MPs are entitled to free travel in trains ? in AC Second Class if travelling with a companion or AC First Class if travelling alone, and free healthcare under the Central Government Health Scheme.

On the other hand, former presidents, vice-presidents and prime ministers are entitled to a wide range of facilities. Former presidents, for instance, are entitled to pension, free furnished house, private secretary, peon, office expenses, chauffeur-driven car, telephone, internet connection, 12 single journeys in a year by the highest class (air, rail or steamer) accompanied by a companion. In the event of his/ her death, the surviving spouse is entitled to the same facilities for life.

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