The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Austerity scare for Digvijay sop

Bhopal, July 24: The spate of sops being offered by Digvijay Singh to the people has run into a state panel’s advice to slash salary for certain categories of government officials.

With Assembly polls scheduled for November, the recommendations have the potential to antagonise a small but vocal section of officials.

The Bramhaswaroop panel has suggested cuts in salary for a large number of gazetted, class II officers such as lecturers, account officers, deputy superintendents of police and assistant statistical officers in the state service.

For instance, a slash from Rs 8,000-13,500 to Rs 6,500-10,500 has been suggested for deputy superintendents of police. A similar cut has been recommended for state administrative service officials and government lecturers.

The panel, however, has advised an increase in pay scales of nurses, police inspectors and lower-rung officials.

State employee associations have already reacted sharply to the recommendations of Brahmaswaroop, a former state chief secretary appointed to review facilities available to state workers. They have threatened a statewide agitation.

If the threat is carried out, Digvijay’s populist attempts to sweep up support of almost all segments of society ahead of polls will suffer.

Sources close to the chief minister said the drastic measures are unlikely to be accepted this year.

Of late, Digvijay has been on a sop spree. Recently, he offered to donate 100 acres for a Muslim university that would be built on the lines of the Aligarh Muslim University.

Earlier, he had announced a hike in the endowment to temple priests and imams of mosques.

Other Backward Classes were promised an increase in job quota from 14 to 27 per cent.

Tribals were promised the conversion of 925 forest villages into revenue villages so that they could avail of state-sponsored funding and avoid hassles related to conservation laws.

The chief minister did not forget urban Madhya Pradesh either, regularising almost 600,000 jhuggis that state records had dubbed encroached and illegal.

Digvijay also distributed patta (lease) to 200,000 landless Dalits, thus reducing government-owned grazing land from 5 to 3 per cent.

Though the upper castes stiffly opposed the move, the chief minister was unfazed. He went ahead and slapped fines on those trying to forcefully occupy land allotted to Dalits.

Farmers, too, are on the sop radar with the state planning to waive Rs 400 crore in electricity dues.

When somebody from the finance department objected, Digvijay reportedly joked that in an election year, good economics does not make good politics.

Government officials are now demanding to know why they should be singled out when others were getting concessions.

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