The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Buddha freezes salary arrears

Calcutta, Oct. 23: After the cut in Puja bonus and the freeze on dearness allowance arrears, the state government has decided to hold back payment of salary outstandings to employees for another year.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee announced this evening that the arrears — payable this November — would be locked for a year because the government is facing a funds crunch.

“I appeal to you. Please bear with us. We are trying to raise our revenue earnings and have already designed certain austerity measures,” he said.

The arrears will be paid with interest, calculated at the existing rate. Those retiring will get the arrears, along with other retirement benefits, the chief minister promised.

About Rs 3,000 crore has accrued in arrears after pay scales were revised in 1998 following the Fifth Pay Commission’s recommendations. The government had first locked in the arrears for three years, sending the funds to its employees’ provident fund account, controlled by the accountant-general. Last year, the lock-in period was extended by a year.

Finance minister Asim Dasgupta will consider cases of individual employees in need of money immediately, for treatment of some serious illness or for a daughter’s marriage, Bhattacharjee said.

Asked when he would announce the DA instalment that was due, the chief minister said: “We can’t make any commitments now. But we will give an instalment of DA as soon as we are prepared to do so.” Dasgupta said the government was planning to give the instalment at the end of this financial year.

Bhattacharjee did not see the likelihood of any major protest by government employees. “We believe there will not be any agitation as we have no conflict with our employees. We have explained our problem to them,” he added.

The chief minister and the finance minister today separately met representatives of the CPM-dominated Coordination Committee and nine other employees’ bodies, including the rival West Bengal Government Employees’ Union (Nabaparjaya).

Coordination Committee secretary Smarajit Roy Chowdhury said: “We have assured the chief minister of all possible cooperation.”

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