Nepal | October 21, 2020

Dashain allowance for House members draws flak

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At a time when the country’s economy is facing the devastating impact of COVID-19, federal lawmakers received Dashain allowance equal to one month’s salary.

Spokesperson for the Parliament Secretariat Rojnath Pandey said lawmakers received festival allowance as per the government’s decision of 17 September 2019. A federal lawmaker draws a monthly salary of Rs 64,070.

The government also decided to provide festival allowance to members of office bearers’ private secretariat and also lawmakers’ private aides who have served for six months.

Nepal Communist Party (NCP) Spokesperson Narayan Kaji Shrestha said it was improper of lawmakers to accept Dashain allowance when people were dying of hunger and a large number of work force had lost jobs and businesses had closed in the face of the pandemic. Shrestha said he had announced he was giving up his pay and perks for one year, keeping in mind the devastating impact of COVID-19 on the economy.

“ I cannot expect all lawmakers to make the sacrifice I have made as they might have pressing needs, but they can at least give up the festival allowance or the Parliament can decide to deprive them of it,” he argued. Shrestha said he had raised the issue in the Upper House, but the House did not take a call on the issue.

He also said he had put forth a proposal in the party’s Standing Committee calling on party lawmakers to give up allowance in the face of COV- ID-19 pandemic. “The government has barred government employees from taking allowance in the face of the pandemic, so how can lawmakers receive festival allowance?” he wondered.

Executive director of Freedom Forum Taranath Dahal said elected representatives were expected to lead by example, but the federal representatives’ readiness to accept festival allowance reflected their mentality and showed they were not ready to give up the pay and perks they were entitled to. He said distribution of festival allowance to lawmakers was wrong as they had received money at a time when they had not done anything. “The government provides festival allowance to government employees as they work hard the year-round, but elected representatives are not like government employees,” Dahal argued. Had federal lawmakers forgone the allowance, they would have set a good example for corporate houses and businesses to contribute to government coffers for fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.

A version of this article appears in print on October 18, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.

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