- Debjani Bhattacharyya
In pre-poll campaigns, BJP leaders like Shri Amit Shah and Narendra Modi committed to implement 7th Pay Commission in West Bengal once BJP forms Government here. While blogging in detail on this issue in 2018, I researched out the real anomaly in West Bengal Government Employees’ payment structure.
In BJP's “sankalpapatra”, as the Party named their election manifesto, the BJP has promised to give effect to the seventh pay commission for the state government employees of West Bengal. On one hand this promise brought some relief to the deprived state government employees because this is perhaps the first time that some major political party has officially addressed their agony. On the other, this promise also brought some despair among the conscious section of such employees because it proved that BJP is actually unaware about the real reason behind their frustration and the real nature of their deprivation.
It is true that while the Central Government as well as most of the State Governments have implemented their seventh pay commission for their employees, the Trinamool led Government of West Bengal, after much dilly-dally, has only implemented their sixth pay commission from January 2020. But this is not where the deprivation of the State Government employees of West Bengal lie. The real catch is somewhere else.
1. The sixth pay commission of West Bengal has already given its employees the pay scales offered by Central Government in their seventh pay commission. So, the promise of granting seventh pay commission by the BJP leadership could neither bring any solution to the problems nor could address the real grievances of the state government employees.
2. But, while the Central Government has given effect to the seventh pay commission and the scales of pay suggested in it from the first day of January, 2016, the West Bengal State Government has given effect to the same scales of pay for its employees from the first day of January, 2020, i.e. from four years later. As an effect, the State Government employees of West Bengal draws the same pay that their Central counterparts drew exactly four years earlier. In the meantime the Central Government has announced dearness allowance for their employees every six months which the State Government employees thus were deprived of. It might be noted that the dearness allowance is meant solely to counter the inflation in the market and to protect the true value of the pay as it remains at the time of implementation of new pay scales through the pay commissions. Late implementation of pay commission thus necessitates certain dearness allowance from the very beginning in order to protect against the devaluation of the salaries caused due to such delay. Here, the West Bengal Government refused any such dearness allowance from the start day of their sixth pay commission, thus forcing their employees to draw devalued, and hence substantially lesser pay as compared to their Central or other State counterparts.
3. Thus, in order to correctly address the reason behind the grievances of the West Bengal state government employees, one will first have to realize its essence. The main problem now is not the denial of seventh pay commission, but actually the denial of the West Bengal State Government to allow its employees the different allowances including the dearness allowance at par with their counterparts serving the Central Government or the State Governments of any other State of India. Though the inflation in West Bengal is one of the highest (if not the highest) among all the States of India, the Trinamool led West Bengal Government refused to pay its employees their due Dearness allowance required to protect the true value of their salary. Thus, the absolute value of the net salary drawn by employees of the State Government in West Bengal remain substantially less than their counterparts serving the Central Government from the same place in West Bengal.
4. So, if BJP wish to address the grievances of the state government employees of West Bengal, the Party should promise them all the allowances (including DA) permissible to their Central counterparts at par.
5. They should also make their position clear regarding compliance of the already passed court order regarding payment of arrear DA since 2009. Though the Court has unambiguously passed order directing the State Government to grant each employee with DA at par with the Central Government (calculated on the basis of national CPI) and also to calculate the arrears due to each employee since 2009 and to pay it to them accordingly within the date stipulated by the Court, the Trinamool led West Bengal State Government has till date refused to comply with the orders passed by the State Administrative Tribunal and the Honourable Calcutta High Court in this matter and are continuously trying to file one appeal after another before different judicial forums simply with the intention of killing time. BJP needs to assure that if they come to power in West Bengal, they would definitely comply with the Court orders and clear all these dues to each employee in an expedited manner.
6. Only these two promises (viz. Payment of current DA at par with Central Government employees, & Payment of arrear DA since 2009 in compliance with the order passed by the State Administrative Tribunal) could gain them huge support from the State Government employees of West Bengal.
7. Apart from these, there are also several other important issues like removal of inter-service disparity, grant of proper recognition to the bread-earning revenue officials of the government (as being done by the UP Government under Yogi Adityanath), proper filling up of vacancies thus relieving the existing employees from extra burden of work caused by such under-staffing, proper fund allocation and recognition of the services rendered by the different directorate employees other than the WBCS(Exe) etc. which are among the many issues that the new government would need to address and resolve in near future, to overcome the stumbling block of demotivation among various sections of its employees, thus ensuring proper cohesive functioning of all the wings of the governmental machinery and in turn ensuring real “Vikas” of the State as a whole. One major reason of West Bengal Government’s failure in different sectors like Health, Revenue & Education is Employees’ frustration & silent non-co-operation thereby.
It is to be mentioned here that Economist Shri Abhirup Sarkar was appointed by GOWB as chairman of 6th Pay Commission who took 4 long years to deliver his report in which he did nothing exclusive but just reproduced the report of Central 7th Pay Commission in State’s 6th Pay Commission format. Abhirup Sarkar drew hefty salary for copying & pasting at the cost of Government Treasury. In his report, he mentioned that paying DA at Central Rate to the State Employees is not necessary. Instead State could calculate its own Consumer Living Index based on which it could work out legitimate DA for employees of GOWB. However, as the pay commission chairman, Abhirup Sarkar, in spite of working for four long years, didn’t take the pain of presenting the exclusive CLI of West Bengal for remittance of DA. However, as per Press Release of Government of India, Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, National Statistical Office dated January 12, 2021 rate of inflation in West Bengal is higher than the National Average. Hence, if DA is not remitted to West Bengal Government Employees at the Central rate, it should be at the rate of West Bengal’s CLI, which, with all probability, will be even more than the Central rate, but by no chance less than the Central rate.
If BJP remains truthful to solve the real issues of West Bengal Government Employees, the Party would stride ahead in the State dragging fullest co-operation of the Employees' Ecosystem.