The Mamata Banerjee government has introduced a new allowance — sumptuary allowance — for senior IAS officers amid questions on whether the additional expenditure is needed at a time the state is facing an acute crisis of funds in the backdrop of Covid-19 and launch of new welfare schemes.
According to sources, the chief secretary and additional chief secretaries would get a sum of Rs 34,000 each a month as sumptuary allowance to entertain their guests and visitors.
Officers in the rank of principal secretaries and secretaries would receive a monthly sumptuary allowance of Rs 20,000 and Rs 17,000 each, respectively.
“The new allowance was introduced from November 1. A section of central government officers gets the sumptuary allowance, but this is the first time it is introduced in Bengal,” said an official.
A bureaucrat has said the sumptuary allowance for central government officers has a maximum limit of Rs 10,000 a month, but the amount is much higher in Bengal.
The new allowance became a point of discussion in administrative circles as many felt that the announcement could have been delayed by some time, particularly when the finance department’s austerity measures were still in place.
An official explained that the facility for the top most IAS officers was announced at a time when several development projects were stalled because of lack of funds in the backdrop of the pandemic and introduction of several new welfare schemes.
“It’s not about the outgo on account of this allowance.... The new allowance would leave an additional burden of a few lakhs of rupees, but it does not send a good message when austerity measures are in place. Besides, the common employees who did not get fresh installments of deafness allowance in the past one year might feel bad,” said a bureaucrat.
The decision to introduce the new allowance for the senior IAS officers was taken soon after the state had hiked the special allowance for senior IAS officers up to Rs 5,000 a month in November.
The move hasn’t gone down well with WBCS officers and other staff members.
“The administration comprises IAS officers, WBCS officers and common cadre employees. No government can function properly by making only one section happy,” said a WBCS officer.