6th pay panel report not ready yet, Punjab govt employees restive
The Sixth Punjab Pay Commission is not likely to submit its report on hike in pay, pension and allowances of about 3.5 lakh state government employees and 2.5 lakh pensioners this year, making the serving and retired staff members restless.
The government employees, particularly those posted at the state headquarters, have started holding protests for salary hike, payment of dearness allowance (DA) arrears and other demands, but they will have to wait for revision of pay scales and allowances.
“There were more than 600 representations from the state employees’ unions and other groups regarding pay, allowances, anomalies in salary structure and on other issues. We will complete the hearings in the next two-three weeks and will start work on policy issues, pay scale fixation thereafter,” former chief secretary Jai Singh Gill, who is heading the commission
‘Pay revision report will take time’
Refusing to give any timeframe for submission of the report, Gill said it is little early to talk about this as a lot of work still needs to be done. The pay panel, set up by the previous SAD-BJP government in February 2016, has taken two-and-a-half-years.
“There have been hiccups from the start due to delay in the appointment of members and other staff and then the government changed,” said an officer of the finance department.
The SAD-BJP, which set up the three-member panel under former chief secretary RS Mann, took nine months to appoint the other two members in November 2016.
Before it could deal with them, the Congress formed the government and Mann put in his papers as he was an appointee of the previous regime. He had cited “personal reasons” for his resignation. Gill, a retired 1968-batch IAS officer, was appointed chairman in April 2017.
Punjab Civil Secretariat Employees Association president Sukhchain Singh Khehra said the pay panel is moving at a snail’s pace. “The government has forgotten its promises. It is also still to grant four instalments of DA. We have started holding protests and will intensify our agitation. They have taken more than two years without result,” he said.
In comparison, the Central Pay Commission constituted in February 2014 for fixing fresh pay scales of central government employees had given its report in 20 months; its recommendations were implemented in months.
Fund-starved state govt in no hurry
The state government, which inherited empty coffers and has been scraping the bottom of the barrel to meet its expenditure, does not seem to mind the delay.
“The average salary of the government employees in Punjab is much higher as compared to other states and even the central government. Already, our salary and pension bill accounts for about 55% of the revenue expenditure. As and when it comes, the pay revision will send this liability soaring even though we have very little financial wiggle room,” said the official.
In its white paper on state finances last year, the state government said the expenditure on salaries had risen from Rs 5,783 crore in 2006-07 to Rs 19,758 crore in 2016-17, a jump of 242%, whereas outgo on account of pensions went up from Rs 1,905 crore to Rs 8,749 crore, an increase of 359%, during the same period.
“No other state governments have such obligations,” it added.
However, Khehra countered the higher average salary argument by saying that the pay scales in Punjab were traditionally more than other states due to the higher standard and cost of living. “This is not the case for new recruits as salaries have gone up in other states,” he claimed.
Source : Hindustan Times