Sri Kamalesh Chandra, Retired Member, Postal Services Board & Chairman Gramin Dak Sevak Committee has submitted it’s report to Government on 24th November 2016. Even though earlier GDS Committee reports were published on the same date of submission itself , this time the Postal Board kept it pending for two months and published only on 19th January 2017. Against the unjustified delay in publishing the report , NFPE & AIPEU – GDS conducted series of agitational programmes like protest demonstrations , mass dharnas and finally declared indefinite hunger fast of Secretary General and all other General Secretaries in front of Postal Directorate (Dak Bhavan) from 18th January 2017.
The main recommendations of the Committee relates to simplification and rationalisation of categories of GDS and the number of Time Related Continuity Allowance (TRCA) slabs, increasing the wages of GDS and other welfare measures of GDS. The Committee has not attempted to analyse the justification of our demand for grant of Civil Servant status to GDS and has refrained from making any recommendations on the legal status of the GDS stating that the matter is presently subjudice and hence left it to the outcome of the court case. The committee , however , observed that there is a tendency to withhold the legitimate demands of GDS which are due to them , based on the apprehension that they will get closer to regular employees , and their claim for regularisation will be strengthened in the court of law , if such demands are allowed.
The Committee has further observed that the future survival of the Postal department will largely depend on the successful management of the GDS post offices, which effectively form it’s “soul” and it would be difficult for the department to survive without the “soul”. The Committee felt that the India Post Payment Bank (IPPB) which is going to be rolled out shortly , will use the strength of the GDS network and experiences of more than 2.60 lakhs trustworthy Gramin Dak Sevaks.
Under the new wage structure recommended by the Committee, eleven (11) TRCA slabs are subsumed into three (3) wage scales with two levels each for Branch Postmasters (BPMs) and for other than BPMs. Out of three wage scales , one scale will be common to both categories of GDS. The minimum scale for GDS other than BPM is fixed as 10000 for 4 hours duty and the minimum scale for 5 hours duty is 12000. Similarly, the minimum scale for BPM with 4 hours duty is fixed as 12000 and minimum scale for 5 hours duty is 14500. There will be only three categories of GDS with nomenclature BPM, Assistant BPM and GDS. All GDS working in Branch Post offices (other than BPM) are re-designated as Assistant Branch Post Masters (ABPM). All GDS working in Departmental Post offices are designated as Gramin Dak Sevaks (GDS).
The minimum working hours of GDS is fixed as 4 hours (Level – 1) , instead of 3 hours at present and maximum working hours is 5 hours (Level – 2). Point system for assessment of workload of BPM is abolished. The new wage structure is linked to revenue generation of GDS Branch Post offices. Based on revenue generation , all GDS Post offices will be categorised as A(Green), B (Orange) , C (Pink) , D (Red) and efforts to be undertaken by the GDS BPM and the departmental officers to increase revenue of each category is explained in detail in the report. Committee has recommended that existing TRCA should not be reduced. If the BPM in the category D (which is the lowest category as per revenue earning) is not ready to improve the revenue earning , extension of working hours of Post office , stoppage of increment , withholding of promotion under financial upgradation scheme , relocation of the Post office etc are also recommended. The GDS BPM will be paid a revenue linked additional allowance @10% beyond level – 2 wage scale , if the revenue earned exceeds the limit fixed for category “A” offices. The increment rate recommended is 3%.
The other major recommendations are (a) Composite Allowance comprising of support for hiring accommodation , office maintenance , electricity charges etc (b) Children Education Allowance (c) three promotions (financial up gradations ) on completion of 12 ,24 and 36 years. (c) Enhancement of ex-gratia ceiling and Group Insurance Scheme amount (d) 26 weeks maternity leave for women GDS and one week Paternity leave (e) 30 days General leave (instead of paid leave) with provision for carry forward and leave surrender benefit upto 180 days of accumulated General leave at the time of retirement ( f ) five days Emergency leave like casual leave (g) Minimum one year service for writing promotional examination (h) liberalisation of grants and financial assistance from welfare fund and (h) Risk and hardship allowance.
Regarding Pension, no major change is recommended by the Committee, except increase in severance amount and increase in contribution to Service Discharge Benefit Scheme (SDBS). Similarly, there is no favourable recommendation regarding medical facilities. While recommending that the existing policy of relocation /redeployment should be vigorously pursued to relocate GDS post offices which are not justified as per norms, the Committee had also recommended that the department should not order closing of any GDS post office to further reduce the existing number of GDS post offices. The existing rule that the maximum hours of duty of GDS should not go beyond five hours , is retained by the Committee. There is also a recommendation that two separate unions should be formed for GDS, one exclusively for BPMs and one for all other categories of GDS.
Now comes the question of implementation. Normally Department will appoint a Postal Board Member to study and process the recommendations of the GDS committee for implementation. Then Postal Board has to approve it after seeking the comments of Joint Secretary & Financial Advisor. Then it is to be approved by other nodal Ministries like Department of Personnel & Training, Ministry of Finance, Law Ministry etc. After completing all these process, the final proposal will be submitted to Cabinet for approval.
NFPE & AIPEU – GDS will be making an in depth study of the recommendations and shall submit a detailed memorandum to the Department demanding immediate implementation of the favourable recommendations and also demanding modifications , improvement and rejection where ever required. NFPE & AIPEU -GDS will make sincere effort to get maximum benefits to the GDS. In case Government refuse to implement or dilute the favourable recommendations NFPE & AIPEU GDS will not hesitate to organise serious trade union action including indefinite strike.
All of us should keep in mind that the favourable recommendations of the GDS committee is a product of sustained struggles conducted by the entire Postal employees under the banner of NFPE , AIPEU -GDS , PJCA and Confederation of Central Government Employees and Workers. Let us be ready for the 16th March 2016, one day strike, for further improvement of our service conditions. Let us unitedly fight and shall not rest till our final goal ie; civil servant status to GDS is achieved. No doubt, Kamalesh Chandra Committee report is ONE STEP FORWARD. Let us hope for the best.