Calcutta, Aug. 19: A proposed agriculture census, cleared by chief minister Mamata Banerjee, has hit hurdle as the finance department has told the government that contractual staff for the project may seek permanent employment after a few years.
The agriculture department had proposed the census to find out the reasons for problems in Bengal’s agrarian system, such as decrease in grain production and area under cultivation.
The department had proposed recruitment of 1,526 people on contract. The file on the plan was forwarded to the finance department for approval with a note from the chief minister in which she had termed the project a “very good initiative”.
But Amit Mitra’s department, tasked to generate resources for non-plan expenditure, asked what would happen if the contractual employees demanded permanent jobs. Non-plan expenditure, which includes outgo on account of salary, pensions and other employment benefits, has been growing because of Mamata’s focus on populist policies.
“We made it clear that the funds for the project can be secured from the Centre…. But the finance department asked what would happen if the employees demanded permanent jobs later,” agriculture minister Malay Ghatak said.
“We have got the queries from the finance department…. We will reply that if such a situation arises, the Centre has to handle it,” he said.
Sources in the agriculture department said Ghatak was keen on the project with contractual staff as the Centre has been sanctioning funds under a plan called Bringing Green Revolution to Eastern India.
“But the Centre will never pay the salaries of permanent employees and that’s why we had raised the question,” a finance department official said.
The former Left Front government had started the census but because of the lack of staff in the land and land reforms department, it was stopped around eight years ago.
Finance department sources said Mitra did not want to take chances. “Although the nature of employment is contractual… the project is permanent as it will be carried out at regular intervals. So, we asked who will bear the expenditure if they demand permanent employment,” an official said.
The erstwhile Left government had given permanent employment to people who worked as contractual hands.