| Dasgupta: Mr Bounty
Calcutta, Aug. 6: The government today opened its purse for the second time in three days and announced the release of an instalment of dearness allowance equivalent to 4 per cent of basic salary.
The enhanced DA is expected to benefit over 10 lakh employees in government offices, educational institutions, civic bodies, panchayats and local bodies, public undertakings and statutory authorities.
Today’s move comes close on the heels of the government’s decision to release gratuity for retired schoolteachers. On Wednesday, finance minister Asim Dasgupta announced that the dues of 44,000 teachers who retired from primary and secondary schools would be released soon.
Today’s scheme will also bring relief to about four lakh pensioners of the state government and other institutions.
Payment of the DA will cost the exchequer Rs 196 crore, Dasgupta said.
An official said the government has not announced any DA since last July. “Since then, the government undertook several measures to mop up resources. It had earlier launched an austerity drive.”
The austerity measures were taken two years ago regarding official use and purchase of cars, telephones, air-conditioners and furniture and entertainment of guests. Expenditure on government functions, especially on flowers and food, was curtailed.
Officials said the government foresees a slimmer workforce since recruitment has virtually been frozen. “Even employment to next of kin of employees if he or she dies in harness has been kept in abeyance. The chief minister has repeatedly said in public meetings over the past year that the government will no longer be able to provide jobs and has been stressing on self-employment,” said a senior government official.
The Left-backed Co-ordination Committee of State Government Employees lauded the DA announcement. “All employees will be happy since all are getting the benefit. Even pensioners will get relief. We are still five instalments behind the Centre, but the difference went up because the government’s finances had not been looking good,” a union leader said.
However, members of rival unions said one instalment was not good enough. State government employees have been demanding the outstanding 16 per cent DA for months now.
An official said when Jyoti Basu took over as chief minister in 1977, the state government was 17 instalments behind the Centre. This gap was bridged in 1998, with the state paying DA on a par with Delhi. But the gap started widening since 2002, when the state started feeling the pinch.