KATHMANDU, August 2: Amid mounting pressure from former VVIPs , the parliamentary State Affairs Committee (SAC) is preparing to endorse a bill on facilities for the former office bearers.
SAC has been fast-tracking the bill to increase their privileges, according to sources.
Former Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Bimalendra Nidhi had introduced the bill in parliament. Tabled on March 10, 2017, it was later sent to SAC for further discussions.
Although there are many important bills pending at SAC, the parliamentary panel has given priority to the bill concerning state privileges for former office bearers. amid continuing pressure to finalize it at the earliest. The bill has defined former presidents, vice presidents, prime ministers, speakers of parliament, chairpersons of the national assembly and chief justices as former office bearers.
Once endorsed through the parliamentary committee and the larger parliament, these former office bearers shall be legally entitled to billions of rupees worth of privileges from the state that they have been enjoying so far. The bill proposes a wide range of facilities including monthly allowance, vehicles, vehicle repair allowance, fuel, lubricant, house rent and government staff.
Interestingly, parliamentarians have proposed amendment of the bill to include pensions for former lawmakers. Some lawmakers registered an amendment proposal, demanding that those who have been elected to parliament at least once be provided with medical expenses, transportation expenses and other facilities including pensions.
While former president Dr Ram Baran Yadav has also sought a milch cow as one of the facilities, the Ex-Parliamentarians' Forum has demanded monthly allowances for all former lawmakers elected since 1991. During a function organized recently to mark Parliament Day, the lawmakers demanded that they be provided pensions as well.
Former parliamentarians, according to sources, have been repeatedly pressuring SAC Chairman Dil Bahadur Gharti to make necessary legal arrangements to determine their place in the order of precedence and provide them with medical expenses, travel allowances and other facilities.
Should the bill currently under consideration by SAC be endorsed, it will cost the state at least Rs 67.86 million a year. As these facilities are for life and the number of former office bearers increases every year, the state will have to bear increasing expenses in the days to come.
The bill under discussion proposes Rs 200,000 a month for house rent, Rs 50,000 for monthly allowance and Rs 25,000 for vehicle repair for the former president. It also proposes Rs 207 liters of fuel and 20 liters of lubricant a month, besides an under secretary-level aide, a driver and an office assistant.
Similarly, the former vice president shall be entitled to Rs 75,000 for house rent, Rs 40,000 as monthly allowance, Rs 25,000 for vehicle repair, 180 liters of fuel and 20 liters of lubricant, and a section officer and an assistant as staff and a driver.
Former prime ministers, former speakers and former National Assembly chairmen shall likewise receive Rs 75,000 for house rent, Rs 25,000 for vehicle repair, 180 liters of fuel and 20 liters of lubricant a month and a section officer, an office assistant and a driver.
Besides one former president and one former vice president (Paramananda Jha), there are seven former prime ministers currently receiving state facilities and privileges. The former prime ministers include Lokendra Bahadur Chand, K P Sharma Oli, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Madhav Kumar Nepal, Jhala Nath Khanal, Baburam Bhattarai and Khila Raj Regmi.
Similarly, four former speakers and eight former chief justices will also be entitled to state privileges after the endorsement of the bill. Former speakers entitled to receive the state privileges include Daman Nath Dhungana, Ram Chandra Paudel, Tara Nath Ranabhat and Subas Nembang.
If the cost of the vehicles and security personnel provided to them are also taken into account, the expenses the state will incur will exceed billions every year.
Rough estimates suggest that the state spends Rs 4.61 million for the former president and Rs 2.68 million for the former vice president every year. Likewise, the state shall incur Rs 15.14 million a year in privileges for former prime ministers, Rs 36.77 millions for former chief justices and Rs 8.65 millions for former speakers.
Although there is no law allowing such facilities, the former VVIPs have been availing of these privileges for years.
Former prime minister Lokendra Bahadur Chanda, for instance, has taken an Isuzu jeep and another vehicle from the state. Similarly, former prime minister Khanal has availed of a Scorpio and two other vehicles from the state.
Former chairman of the council of ministers Khil Raj Regmi has kept two state vehicles while former prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal uses one state vehicle and former prime minister Baburam Bhattarai has availed himself of a jeep.