Recently, BJP president Amit Shah said in Tripura that if people elect a BJP govt. in the upcoming Assembly elections, it would implement the 7th Pay Commission recommendations and raise govt. employees’ salaries. In doing so, Shah typically displayed gross ignorance about the state and also, again typically, he glossed over the anti-employee record of his party in states where it is in power. Like PM Narendra Modi, Shah too seems to be an expert in making wild and false promises to win elections. Remember how Modi had declared that he would create 1 crore jobs? Shah is pulling a similar trick.
The 7th Central Pay Commission (CPC) which recommended increase in central govt. employee salaries was accepted by the Modi govt. in 2016. Following this various state govt. were required to declare their acceptance of similar pay structures for their own employees. Since most states are cash strapped and imbued with the idea of cutting down on expenditure, they were tardy in accepting the 7th CPC. This led to agitations and strikes all over the country by state govt. employees during 2016 and 2017.
But – Amit Shah should make note – many states do not follow the Central Pay Commission for fixing salary levels. They have worked out their own ways of revising salaries periodically. Such states are: Kerala, Karnataka, Andra Pradesh, Telangana, Tripura & Punjab. In Kerala, Karnataka, AP and Telangana, wage revision is done once in five years. So govt. employees are actually getting better wages than their central govt. counterparts.
Tripura govt. announced a salary increase of 19.68% for all its employees and pensioners in June 2017, to be effective from 1 April 2017. Gratuity amounts as well as medical and housing allowances were also increased. Amit Shah is probably not aware of all this – or he is hiding it. The salary and pension increase entailed an additional expenditure of Rs 1,242.69 crore, according to reports quoting the state finance minister Bhanu Lal Saha. Employees of autonomous bodies, boards and PSUs were also covered in the pay hike.
A quick review of other states that have accepted the 7th CPC recommendations shows that pay hikes range from 14% to 20% across states. For instance, Madhya Pradesh govt. (run by BJP) agreed to a hike of 14% for its employees. Compared to that, Tripura is one of the states with a higher increase. This is also something that Amit Shah does not seem to know – or is not saying it.
But the story does not end here. BJP run state govts. have unleashed a series of attacks on state govt. employees in the past decade. These include wholesale abolition of regular posts, non-filling of vacant posts, outsourcing of govt. jobs to private contractors on much less salaries and without reservation for SC and ST, imposition of the private pension plan (National Pension Scheme), and so on. Amit Shah’s concern for Tripura’s employees is nothing but shedding crocodile tears.
A.Sreekumar, general secretary of the All India State Government Employees’ Federation told NewsClick that in the last decade, the number of regular state govts.’ employees has drastically gone down from about 82 lakh to 60 lakh. This has happened mainly because in almost all states except Tripura and Kerala, govt. jobs have been outsourced.
“In fact the Pay Commission itself has suggested that regular jobs should be outsourced to contractors to reduce the financial burden on state govts.,” Sreekumar said.
In December 2017, BJP run Maharashtra govt. announced its model of implementing the 7th CPC. It said that it would cut the employees workforce by 30%. The savings from this would help meet the additional spending due to hike in employees’ salaries. Maharashtra has about 19 lakh employees although about 2 lakh posts are lying vacant. Besides scrapping these posts, another 2 lakh on the job employees will be thrown out on the streets. Is this what Amit Shah has in mind for Tripura?
Sreekumar estimates that about 40-50% employees in BJP run state govts. are now contractual. The central govt. has explicitly directed state govts. to utilise contractual employment in centrally sponsored schemes, he said. Such contractual employees get low salaries from their private employers, practically no benefits and have no job security.
One of the biggest losses emerging from this outsourcing process has been for dalits and tribals.Since private contractors do not follow the reservation policy, employment prospects for dalits and tribals, as also for OBCs, have vanished in thin air.
In Tripura, on the other hand, quite the reverse policy has been followed by the Left Front govt. The number of appointments made by the State Public Service Commission and various employment exchanges in the state is the highest in the country, said Sreekumar. “Over 20,000 youth have been appointed in regular jobs in the last five years in Tripura. This policy has opened a new world of security and dignity for the dalit and tribal youth of the state, giving them the opportunity to progress,” he added.
Another attack of the BJP state govts. has been the enthusiastic and forcible implementation of the National Pension Scheme (NPS) which privatises pensions. The scheme, based upon the US model, was promulgated by the earlier NDA govt. in 2003, while the law regarding setting up of a pension regulator was passed in 2004 by UPA with BJP support. The huge pension fund corpus is invested in equities and bonds, raising market related risks. It is compulsory for employees joining after a certain cut off date, with 10% of their salaries automatically going to the fund. Tripura remains one of the few states that has not implemented the NPS for its employees, preferring to continue with the Old Pension Scheme that does not risk employees hard earned pensions. Does Amit Shah recommend imposition of the NPS too in Tripura?
The central BJP govt. has also obstinately refused to provide funds to help states to implement the 7th CPC. Sreekumar said that the Federation had repeatedly urged the central govt. to release funds to the weaker state govts. which are finding it difficult to implement pay hikes. Yet the BJP led govt. has taken no heed of their requests.
All this means that Tripura, and its state govt. employees are much better off under the present Left Front. BJP attempts to hoodwink them with promises for pay hikes are nothing but a Trojan Horse to smuggle in all their anti-employee policies. Amit Shah is only concerned with winning elections, not with employees welfare.