DA hike in West Bengal: State government employees protested outside the West Bengal assembly in Kolkata on Wednesday demanding a hike in dearness allowance at par with the central government employees. The employees have been protesting for months that the Mamata Banerjee government has not paid them the revised dearness allowance after the seventh pay commission was implemented.
As per news reports, the Centre has approved 34 per cent DA of the basic pay to its employees after bringing the seventh pay commission recommendations in January 2016. In West Bengal, the government has so far given 3 per cent DA, which is way less than the national standards.
As per regional news reports, the Trinamool government has been avoiding payment of DA to its state government employees as well as state school teachers since Banerjee came to power. As per state estimates, the total pending payment is around Rs 20,000 crore, which is whopping amount for the ruling government in the cash-strapped state.
Earlier in May this year, the Calcutta High Court had directed the state government to pay the arrears within the next three months after workers’ union filed a petition against the government. When the deadline expired, the workers’ unions filed a contempt of court petition was filed at the High Court before the division bench of Justice Harish Tandon and Justice Rabindranath Samanta.
The state government in between had filed a review petition in the High Court requesting the bench to reconsider an earlier judgment that ordered payment of DA and pending arrears to its employees within three months. The HC had turned down the request.
On September 22, the division bench directed the Chief Secretary and Finance Secretary of West Bengal to file affidavits by November 4 on why contempt of court proceedings should not be initiated against them. The state government has now moved the Supreme Court seeking some relief in the case.
The Mamata Banerjee government has drawn criticism with the move as many opposition leaders have condemned the state cabinet for ignoring workers’ basic demands. Many leaders have even questioned Banerjee’s decision to give away huge sums to Durga Puja pandals rather than looking at workers’ well-being.
Assuring necessary steps in this regard, Parliamentary Affairs and Agriculture Minister Sovandeb Chattopadhyay told the state assembly earlier this month that the government is working for the backward communities first, and hence delaying the DA payment.
"Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has never said that DA arrears will not be paid to the state government employees. It will be paid at the right time. The Chief Minister is trying her best to improve the living condition of the backward people of the state, for which she has introduced various projects. That is why the process of DA arrear payment is getting delayed," Chattopadhyay said on the assembly floor.
He even said that the state government employees, despite not being paid DA arrears, can afford meals two times a day for their families, and hence can wait.
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