Seeking to set an example in austerity, Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar and Election Commissioner Anup Chandra Pandey on Friday decided to give up perks and privileges.
According to an Election Commission statement, the two have decided not to avail exemption from income tax on sumptuary allowance and to surrender two of the three Leave Travel Concessions (LTC) available each year.
After assuming the charge as the chief election commissioner last week, Kumar on Friday held the first meeting of the Election Commission, along with fellow Election Commissioner Pandey.
At present, there is one vacancy in the poll panel which had been a three-member body since October 1993.
"Among other things, the Commission reviewed the perks and privileges available to the CEC and Election Commissioners (ECs), including the income tax exemptions given to them on sumptuary allowance," the statement said.
The CEC and ECs draw salary and perquisites as per Section 3 of the Election Commission (Conditions of Service of Election Commissioners and Transaction of Business) Act, 1991. They are entitled to a monthly sumptuary allowance of Rs 34,000.
There is no income tax payable by the CEC and ECs on this allowance. They are also entitled to three LTCs in a year for self, spouse and dependent members of the family.
"The Commission felt the need of observing austerity in personal entitlements. The Commission unanimously decided that CEC and ECs will not take any income tax benefits presently given to them.
"It was decided to send the proposal to the central government for appropriate action. Further, CEC and ECs will avail only one LTC in a year in place of three LTCs presently available to them," the statement said.
Kumar took the decision on austerity only days after he assumed the charge of the chief election commissioner on May 15.
An official who has worked with him recalled that soon after he took over as the financial services secretary, one of the first major decisions he took was to ask banks to flag shell companies deregistered by the Registrars of Companies and take appropriate action. Over 2.26 lakh shell companies were deregistered in 2017-18.
Subsequently, banks were also asked to ring-fence the cash flow of corporate borrowers and to ensure that their earnings are not diverted for other purposes to protect the interest of depositors.
Kumar is known among his colleagues and juniors as a hard taskmaster with a practical approach and penchant for honesty and integrity.
Some of the reforms undertaken during his two-and-half years tenure as the financial services secretary demonstrate that cleaning up of the banking sector was undertaken in a massive way while equal attention was paid towards furthering financial inclusion with the objective of "banking the unbanked, funding the unfunded and financially securing the unsecured".
A digital pipeline, which acted as a platform for the transfer of record direct benefits under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana during the COVID-19 period seamlessly, was laid during his regime.
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