They are the Prime Minister’s power pack, the movers and shakers in the all-powerful Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). Power flows from their file jottings and orders issued sometimes in monosyllables. Rarely seen in public, they reveal little about themselves, let alone disclose their pay.
The communications adviser in the PMO Pankaj Pachauri draws Rs. 1.3 lakh per month, only Rs. 30,000 short of the PM’s salary which is Rs. 1.6 lakh. Pachauri is the second-highest paid official in the PMO after the officer on special duty to the PM K. Muthu Kumar, who draws Rs. 1.44 lakh per month.
Interestingly, the top three officials in the PMO – principal secretary to the PM Pulok Chatterji, National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon and adviser to the PM TKA Nair draw less than Pachauri. Chatterji considered the most important man in the PMO and the force behind all major policy decisions aimed at reviving up the government struggling to step out of a policy paralysis draws just Rs. 92,000 per month. Both Menon and Nair draw Rs. 1.13 lakh per month. PM’s special envoy S.K. Lambah also draws Rs. 1.13 lakh per month.
As far as immovable assets go, Menon owns two flats in Delhi, one in Mayur Vihar with a present market value of Rs. 1.5 crore and another in the posh Anand Niketan area with a market value of Rs. 10 crore. He earns Rs. 32.6 lakh annually from these properties. Chatterji owns two flats, one in Dwarka and another under-construction four-bedroom apartment in Greater Noida. He owns a residential plot in Faridabad as well. Nair has only one property, in Kerala; a double-storey house in Thiruvananthapuram. Overall, the PMO comes across as a huge department.
In all, 404 people keep it running at a monthly wage bill of Rs. 1.49 crore. Of the total budget of the PMO for 2012-13 which is Rs. 29.3 crore, 70 per cent (Rs. 20 crore) will be spent on paying salaries alone; Rs. 3.5 crore has been earmarked for ‘office expenses’. Every year, the PMO spends Rs. 3 crore on the foreign travel of officials or the PM and Rs. 45 lakh on domestic travel. There is no staff shortage. The only key post vacant is of media adviser to the PM after Harish Khare quit.