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Digha guards in quit threat

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  • Published 26.06.12

Tamluk, June 25: Six beach guards the Digha-Shankarpur Development Authority (DSDA) had appointed in 2010 have threatened to quit their job as the main hoteliers’ association has refused to pay its share towards their salary.

The six causal workers, who keep a watch on tourists bathing in the sea in Old and New Digha and rescue people from drowning, said they did not get their full salary this month.

While the DSDA pays each of the six men Rs 1,500 a month, the Digha-Shankarpur Hoteliers’ Association makes a matching contribution.

But the workers alleged they did not get the Rs 1,500 from the hoteliers’ association in May.

The beach guards, locally known as nulias, said it would not be possible for them to work from July if they were not paid the full salary.

“I come from a family of fishermen. The six of us are not entitled to off days. We have to work from morning till late afternoon. The hoteliers’ association refused to pay their share in our salary. How will we run our families if we are paid only Rs 1,500 a month?” said Sukumar Patra, 32, one of the beach guards.

Another nulia, 24-year-old Nemai Dhar, said: “Our work involves a lot of risk. If we are not paid our full salary, we will not work from next month.”

DSDA officials said the six were appointed in 2010 after it was found that around 25 tourists drowned in the sea in Digha every year. It was also found that many more dashed against boulders in Old Digha and suffered injuries.

The officer in charge of Digha police station said the number of deaths had come down to 20 in the past two years. “The number of tourists have also increased,” Ajit Jha said.

A DSDA official said that at the time of the recruitment, the hoteliers’ association had agreed to the government body’s request that it pay a matching amount of Rs 1,500 towards the salaries of the six. “The association only has to pay Rs 9,000 a month,” he said.

The joint secretary of the Digha-Shankarpur Hoteliers’ Association shifted the onus of paying the entire salary on the DSDA.

“We decided last month that we would not pay the nulias any longer. The DSDA charges Rs 5 from every tourist as tax. We collect the money and hand it over to the DSDA. So, it can pay the entire salary from that amount,” Bipradas Chakraborty said.

DSDA executive officer Soumen Pal said it was not possible for the body to pay the entire salary and hinted that the full amount of the tourist tax did not reach its coffers.

“At least 50,000 tourists visit Digha every month. So, we should have got Rs 2.5 lakh in tourist tax on average every month from the hotels. But we get only Rs 1 lakh. Whatever we receive is spent in paying power bills for streetlights, cleaning up garbage, keeping the streets clean and paying a portion of the beach guards’ salary. It is not possible for us to take any additional burden,” he said.