Chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday again said it was not mandatory for the government to give dearness allowance (DA) to its employees but was a prerogative.
“We have given 90 per cent DA as per the recommendations of the Fifth Pay Commission till 2019. We have spent Rs 1.66 lakh crore (to give DA till 2019). We have spent Rs 2.52 lakh crore to implement the recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission (introduced in January 2020). But it should be remembered that giving DA is not mandatory but optional for the government,” the chief minister said at the Assembly on Wednesday.
Mamata made it clear that the existing financial condition of the state government did not allow the state to give more DA to its employees and held the erstwhile Left Front government responsible for it.
“The problem occurred because of the Left Front… We are still repaying their loans,” the chief minister added.
As the difference in DA between employees of central and state government is often referred to in debates over DA, the chief minister tried to justify her government's stand by saying that the pay scales and structures of the two entities were different.
While state government employees get 6 per cent DA, their central government counterparts get 46 per cent of their basic salary. Bengal's state government employees have been agitating for DA on a par with their central government counterparts for months now.
Sources in the Nabanna said the chief minister wanted to make it clear that the state government was not in a position to give more DA to its employees at the moment. The CM made the comment at a time when a section of the employees is expecting her government to declare another installment of DA around the New Year.
“Till 2021, the chief minister had been announcing DA installments in January… A section of the employees was expecting that another installment of DA could be declared soon. To douse such expectations, the chief minister made it clear that the state was not in a position now to give any more DA,” said an official.
In reaction to the chief minister's comments on Wednesday on DA, leaders of the Joutha Sangrami Mancha, a platform of employees’ unions agitating for 309 days for DA on a par with central government employees, said that they would continue their fight till their demand was met.
The matter related to giving DA to Bengal state government employees on a par with their central government counterparts is pending before the Supreme Court after the state government challenged Calcutta High Court's verdict asking the state to clear pending DA of its employees.
“The hearing in the Supreme Court is getting deferred repeatedly… We hope the matter will be heard in the apex court by February next year and we will get justice,” said an employee union leader.
Another employee union leader questioned how Mamata could say that giving DA was a prerogative of the government after Calcutta High Court and the State Administrative Tribunal made it clear that DA was an employee's right.
“The government has challenged the verdict…. But it can't claim that DA is not our right until the Supreme Court announces its verdict,” said the leader.