The Kerala High Court on Tuesday refused to stay the ordinance by the Kerala government to defer the salary of state government employees and teachers. The ordinance was brought by the government on April 30 to defer payment of up to 25% salary of the employees during the times of disaster and public emergencies.
A single-judge bench of Justice Bechu Kurian Thomas who heard the petitions seeking interim stay on ordinance noted that the government is only differing the payment and it does not partake in taking away the rights of the employees, reported LiveLaw.
Kerala Disaster and Public Health Emergency (Special Provisions) ordinance enables the government to defer six days’ salary of government employees and teachers for five months to meet the expenses for the fight against Covid-19.
Earlier, the government had placed their plan before the teachers and the state government employees as an order. But, the unions backed by Congress protested against it and stated that they would not cooperate with the government. The teachers’ union backed by Congress had even burnt the copy of the order. They had then moved to the High Court where the order was stayed.
The government issued the ordinance after the court noted that the government’s decision was “not properly backed by law.”
The earlier government order on deferment said that the salaries of employees would be deducted for six days every month for five months, beginning April. It also stated that the order was only applicable to those employees who got a salary of more than Rs 20,000 a month. The order also exempted those who had already given up a month’s salary to contribute to the Chief Minister’s Disaster Relief Fund.
3 new Covid-19 cases
Three people tested positive for Covid-19 in state on Tuesday after two consecutive days with no new case in the state.
All these three are from Wayanad district of the state and they are the family members of a lorry driver who tested positive after he returned from Tamil Nadu.
Including the three, a total of 37 people are under treatment, said CM Pinarayi Vijayan in his press conference on Tuesday evening. He also informed that sixty-one patients were discharged on Monday.
So far, 502 people have been infected with the coronavirus in the state, which has claimed three lives, including that of a four-month-old baby girl from Malappuram.
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Over 80 Keralites have lost their lives due to the disease in various countries while reports from other states also show that Malayalees have been badly affected due to the virus, which was "painful", Vijayan said on Monday.
Over one lakh Keralites have registered via NORKA (Non-resident Keralites Affairs) portal for their return to the state. He said 28,000 have applied for passes and 5,470 passes were distributed till 4 pm on Monday. By Monday noon, 515 people had come back to the state through various check posts. Around 13,818 migrant workers have gone to their respective states in the last two days through the special non-stop trains arranged for them from various stations in Kerala.
Meanwhile, senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on Tuesday said that all registered expatriates from Kerala in the Gulf region who want to return should be brought back and poor blue collar workers must not be charged by the government for the journey.
The Thiruvananthapuram MP'’s remarks come a day after the Home Ministry said plans to bring back Indians stranded abroad due the coronavirus pandemic have been chalked out by the government and the process will begin from May 7 in a phased manner. The Home Ministry also said it will be a paid service.
"They should not charge poor blue collar workers, many of whom have not been paid for a month, for this either," Tharoor said.
"It was bad enough that poor migrant workers within India were charged to return home when they didn't even have money to eat. Doing the same to poor pravasis whose remittances kept our economy afloat in hard times would add insult to injury. Yet, that's what the government intends to do," he said.
"Let everyone who needs to come back for whatever reason do so. Returning home is a human right for any Indian citizen. Other democracies have accepted this principle in evacuating their nationals," the former minister of state for external affairs said.
The Home Ministry has said only people showing no symptoms of COVID-19 will be allowed to travel. After arrival in India, their medical examination will be conducted and they will be subsequently put under quarantine for 14 days, either in a hospital or in an institutional facility, also on payment basis, it has said in a statement.
According to an estimate, the number of Indian nationals stranded abroad could be in lakhs. Their travel would be arranged by the government by aircraft and naval ships.
District administration rejects money from Congress for migrant workers’ travel
The Congress, which has been campaigning not to donate money to the Chief Minister's Distress Fund and not to corporate with the government in salary deferment, offered Rs 10 lakh as the train ticket expenses for the migrant labourers. The amount offered by Alappuzha District Congress Committee (DCC), however, was rejected. DCC president M Liju said Congress offered the amount after party leader Sonia Gandhi announced that the Congress DCCs would pay the ticket charge of migrant workers.
On Tuesday, Alappuzha DCC offered the money to the district administration as the ticket fare of migrant labourers travelling from Alappuzha to Bettiah in Bihar. Around 1200 labourers are scheduled to start their journey by Tuesday evening. Each ticket costs Rs 930 and it is being collected from the migrant workers.
An officer of the district administration, however, said they have received no government order to receive the money for train tickets from any political parties. “We can receive the money only after specific order from the government,” the officer said.
(With Inputs from PTI)
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