Darjeeling, Sept. 9: Most of the 20,000-odd state government employees in the Darjeeling hills will receive salaries for only six days in August, according to an order by the state government.
Sources in the district administration today said the government had decided to deduct the salaries of employees who did not attend work during the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s indefinite shutdown demanding statehood.
“According to our records, most employees will receive six days’ salary. Some will get salaries for 10-15 days. Very few officials will get the entire month’s salary,” an administrative source said.
Salaries will be paid for the six days when the Morcha and later the Gorkhaland Joint Action Committee, a conglomeration of parties leading the statehood agitation, relaxed their strike.
The strike was relaxed for two days from August 1 and four days from August 15. Most government employees had attended office on these days.
A source said employees of the health department and emergency services were the most regular in August. Emergency services have been exempted from the ambit of the closure.
The sources in the district administration said the computation of attendance began today. The salaries for August have not been disbursed yet. The salaries are usually disbursed by the first week of each month.
The agitation, which began on July 29, has been christened either janata ghar bhitra (people inside their homes) or janata ghar bahira (people outside their homes) after Calcutta High Court termed the strike illegal.
The state government’s move comes at a time the hills are expected to return to normality.
“When the joint-action committee had decided to withdraw the strike and confine the agitation to rallies and forming human chains, the state government arrested senior Morcha leader Binay Tamang, which prompted the party to call another indefinite closure,” a hill observer said.
“The state’s decision could have a bearing on the outcome of the committee’s meeting tomorrow.”
The committee will meet tomorrow at Singamari to decide its next course of action. A source said the committee leaders would decide whether the strike should be continued or if a fresh look at the agitation programme was necessary.
The leaders will be briefed by the committee delegation that called on Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde in Delhi on September 3. Shinde said on Saturday that tripartite talks would be held if the indefinite strike was called off.
The sources said three parties, which do not include the Morcha, were in favour of not continuing with the indefinite shutdown.
The committee had earlier decided to scale down its agitation from August 24 but after Tamang was arrested on August 22, the Morcha had overruled the decision.
The Morcha did not react immediately to the plan to dock salaries. “I have just heard of the government’s decision. We will react tomorrow after getting details,” said Roshan Giri, the general secretary of the Morcha.
Sources in the district administration said the employees had been told that salaries would be cut if they remained absent. “The information was passed on to all employees. Moreover, we had sought replies to show-cause notices. The government has taken the decision after all due process.”
Reacting sharply, an employee asked: “What was the fault of an employee who stays far from Darjeeling and cannot attend office given the prevailing situation?”
Darjeeling residents made a beeline for ATMs and shops to withdraw money and stock essential items as the two-day strike relaxation offered by the joint-action committee began today.
There were traffic snarls at all major intersections.
Educational institutions, however, remained closed. Sources in schools said they would wait till September 13, from when educational institutions will be outside the ambit of the strike, for restarting classes.