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Tea security force seeks rights

Tezpur, July 29: Assam Tea Plantation Security Force personnel have expressed resentment over the alleged indifference of the government towards the release of their salaries and have sought allowances on a par with the personnel of other forces in the state.

They have also urged the authorities to regularise their appointment.

The government had raised the force in the mid-nineties by recruiting ex-servicemen of the Assam Industrial Security Force during 1993 and 1996.

A member of the force, Pranab Kumar Handique, alleged that after retirement from the AISF, they were engaged in the force to ensure security in the tea gardens and of their respective officers.

However, they have not been paid salaries applicable against their ranks and status from time to time.

“Owing to such discrimination on the part of the agencies concerned, we moved Gauhati High Court seeking justice. Subsequently, the court, through a judgment dated June 17 this year, advised the government either to give permanent status or rehabilitate them elsewhere,” Handique said.

The force’s personnel had, in 2008, also moved Gauhati High Court, following which the court had asked the government to either accord permanent status or rehabilitate them.

He said as the government at that time did not comply with the directions of the court the petitioners took the path of agitation.

Thereafter, the government issued a notification on April 22, 2008, whereby two new battalions were raised to absorb the eligible personnel of the Assam Tea Plantation Security Force under permanent structure.

Accordingly, screening tests were conducted and altogether 2,571 personnel were selected and appointed by the commandant, 1st Battalion of Nagaon-based AISF and commandant, 2nd Battalion of AISF, Dibrugarh, with financial approval.

“Despite this, during 2008, we were forced to sign an undertaking to the effect that we will remain contractual employees of the force liable to be terminated as and when desired by the competent authority. Finding no other way, we joined in the force under compulsion for our survival,” he said.

Handique said, “We were absorbed against the ranks we were holding while working in the ATPSF and we have been discharging under various ranks on a fixed salary of Rs 10,224 per month. The appointment was on contract without any increment or any other service benefits, including earned leave.”

He alleged that the government’s refusal to grant regular payscale is arbitrary, discriminatory and in violation of the Ex-Servicemen (Reservation of vacancies in the state service and posts Class III and Class IV) Rules, 1986.

“However, the court has given an order on June 17 to the government to pay our regular pay scale and other allowances and dry ration admissible to other personnel. But we are yet not sure whether it would be implemented. If we are not entertained, we will again have to take the path of agitation,” Handique said.