The Telegraph
Friday , January 17 , 2014
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Twin plans to cut transport subsidy

- Section of staff to be offered voluntary retirement, many to be redeployed

Calcutta, Jan. 16: The transport department will offer voluntary retirement to 850 employees and “redeploy spare staff” to cut down on the annual subsidy of Rs 700 crore given to five corporations for salaries and other benefits.

The department will spend Rs 161.5 crore under the voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) to pay Rs 19 lakh each to 850 employees of the state corporations.

The department will “redeploy spare staff” from the five undertakings to offices directly under it.

The five transport department undertakings — CSTC, CTC, NBSTC, SBSTC and WBSTC — employ around 12,000 people.

“The (850) employees of the five transport undertakings who have served us so long will be handed over cheques at a programme on January 31,” transport minister Madan Mitra said today.

The minister added that the move would also “dispel misgivings, if any, that the government is not financially sound to pay employees under the voluntary retirement scheme”.

The decision to restructure the corporations — coming on the heels of the government’s plan to ask a “transaction adviser” whether to keep the state’s equity in five tea gardens — is an indication that the administration is showing flexibility and embracing the path of reforms.

Transport department sources said a list had been drawn up of employees who would be offered the VRS. The sources said the employees belonged to four corporations — CSTC, CTC, NBSTC and SBSTC.

“There are some drivers who are close to retirement and are struggling to drive buses because of failing eyesight. Some of them have expressed willingness to opt for the VRS,” a senior transport department official said.

Officials said chief minister Mamata Banerjee had always been averse to taking unpalatable measures such as trimming of workforce but the move to offer the VRS “would reduce overhead costs considerably”.

“The move will help the transport department. Probably, that’s why the chief minister has given her consent,” a department official said.

The Left government had also toyed with the idea of restructuring ailing corporations through rationalising the workforce and merging undertakings. But the plan had to be aborted following stiff resistance from trade unions.

Some consultancy firms — such as Ernst & Young, hired by the Left government, and KPMG, engaged by the Trinamul administration — had advised staff strength “rationalisation” as one of the steps to run the transport department efficiently.

The firms had also prescribed monetisation of excess land owned by the five corporations.

Although the department had tried to sell land lying unused with corporations, the move got lukeworm response from buyers.

Senior transport department officials said they were confident that the VRS and redeployment plans would not face any hurdle. Citu leaders have, however, said they would oppose “worker-unfriendly” policies of the Trinamul government.

“If some employees have opted for the VRS, we have nothing to say. But the financial package for the VRS is very poor. If employees are forced to opt for the VRS, we’ll launch a statewide agitation,” said Citu leader Shyamal Chakraborty.

The department has finalised the process of “redeploying” CTC and CSTC employees to units directly under the transport department. The sources said “vacancies” in such units were hampering speedy movement of files.

“The employees who will be shifted will be given the same pay package and deployed in units where there is acute staff shortage,” minister Mitra said.

“To begin with, they will be deployed in different public vehicles departments in and around Calcutta and Salt Lake,” he added.