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Mamata offers balm

Calcutta, Feb. 22: Mamata Banerjee today told state government employees that financial crunch made it difficult for her to match the dearness allowance given by the Centre and tried to assuage them by offering some sops.

“If we give DA according to the central rate, we will require an additional Rs 12,000 crore a year. Where will we get the amount? The Centre has deducted Rs 70,000 crore from the state’s income since we came to power,” the chief minister said at the general meeting of the Paschimbanga Rajya Sarkari Karmachari Federation, the Trinamul-led state government employees’ union, at Netaji Indoor Stadium.

Bengal government employees get 58 per cent of their basic pay as DA, while their central counterparts get 100 per cent.

According to estimates of various employees’ unions, the Bengal government employees will stand to gain something between Rs 2,800 and Rs 13,000 a month if the state matches the central DA.

The CPM-backed Co-ordination Committee, an umbrella organisation of government employees, has accused the administration of not paying the state staff their “legitimate dues”. It is, however, not binding on a state government to match the central DA.

“Co-ordination Committee leaders are trying to cash in on the disgruntlement of Bengal government employees before the Lok Sabha polls,” a leader of the Trinamul union said.

“There are seven lakh state government employees. If we take their families into account, there would be around 25 lakh voters,” the leader added.

Several government employees said they were disappointed because the additional amount the Bengal government has earmarked in the budget for salaries and pensions next year does not offer much room for manoeuvre on DA.

Soon after the budget on February 17, the Co-ordination Committee submitted a deputation to the chief minister demanding more DA.

State government officials said the sops announced today would cost the exchequer “a few hundred crores” while the outgo would be at least Rs 10,000 crore a year if the central DA was matched.