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Carrot for contract staff
- In election year, generosity extends to all govt employees

Calcutta, Jan. 31: Buddha- deb Bhattacharjee's govern- ment is pulling all stops to woo its 10-lakh strong workforce.

Asim Dasgupta's finance department has decided to regularise appointment of all contractual staff members hired against regular vacancies between 2000 and 2005.

A finance department official said: 'In 2000, when the government was going through a financial crisis, it decided to fill up essential regular posts by hiring employees on contract. It continued to do so till last year, cutting down cost by about 45 per cent,'

There was a rethink last September and the government decided to do away with contractual appointments altogether. Flush with funds from the 12th Finance Commission, it also decided to regularise the appointment of all contractual employees hired in the government sector between 2000 and 2005.

Now, it has decided to extend the largesse to employees in public undertakings, municipal and local bodies, government-aided educational institutions, statutory bodies and corporations.

'The promise has obviously been made with the elections in mind,' the official said.

'Jobs' seem to be one of the Left Front's favoured campaign planks this time. At a Brigade rally in December, Jyoti Basu had announced the lifting of the recruitment freeze and promised that about 50,000 vacant posts would be filled up.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had echoed him, saying recruitment to vacant posts have started, especially at the block level.

In addition, Dasgupta gave away three instalments of 4 per cent dearness allowance last year, totalling approximately Rs 330 crore.

Towards the end of 2005, he loosened the purse strings further, enhancing the leave travel allowance (LTA) for general category employees, enabling them to avail the Rajdhani/Shatabdi express.

Though finance department officials declined comment on the financial implication of the regularisation process, it is expected to run into several hundred crores.

Facing an annual salary burden of over Rs 12,000 crore, Dasgupta's department is unlikely to stick to the promise after the polls, observers said.

A circular issued on January 24 also carries a rider ' the regularisation will have to be made with the approval of the cabinet committee on appointments chaired by the chief minister.

That the government may not live up to its promise is evident from its dragging feet on the redeployment of relatives of employees dying in harness. Dasgupta had said last year they would be redeployed or compensated and a list of such cases had been sought from all departments.

The list is in place, but the committee to look into it is yet to be formed.

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