Government in a bind as pay report heat rises

Government in a bind as pay report heat rises
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First Published: Sun, Apr 06 2008. 11 11 PM IST

Mulling options: Veerappa Moily.
Mulling options: Veerappa Moily.
Updated: Sun, Apr 06 2008. 11 11 PM IST
New Delhi: Growing dissatisfaction of government employees over the recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission may force the government into reviewing these even as it gives the opposition parties another issue they can use in their favour in elections in several key states this year and to the Lok Sabha in early 2009.
Mulling options: Veerappa Moily.
The recommendations, submitted on 24 March, recommended an average increase of 40% for government employees, and was supposed to do for the Congress-led ruling United Progressive Alliance in urban India (at least among government employees) what the Rs60,000 crore farm debt relief package is expected to do for it in rural India.
“The government has not yet accepted the recommendations of the commission. It can always review the recommendations, or send them back to the commission,” said M. Veerappa Moily, chairman of the Congress party’s media cell.
However, Ravindra Dholakia, a professor of economics at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, and a member of the four-member pay commission headed by Justice B.N. Srivastava, said the ball was firmly in the government’s court.
“The commission has done its job in record time. Now, it’s up to the government to accept, selectively accept, modify or reject our recommendations,” Dholakia added. “We have made our proposals after careful consideration, by taking on board views of all interest groups, and we believe it is a package that cannot and should not be accepted in parts.”
It appears increasingly unlikely that the government would accept the report as it is. Apart from trade unions backed by the UPA-allied Left parties, a cross-section of Central government employees, including those belonging to the Armed Forces and the elite Indian Police Service, have expressed serious reservations over the recommendations.
Even members of the Congress have joined the chorus. While Union defence minister A.K. Antony assured the Armed Forces that the government was open to a review of their pay package as recommended by the commission, Union minister of state for urban development Ajay Maken met finance minister P. Chidambaram to seek an upward revision in salary scales of Group C (mid-level, non-gazetted) employees. And Congress president Sonia Gandhi, along with home minister Shivraj Patil, met representatives of the Indian Police Service Association.
The Opposition has been quick to seize on the government’s discomfiture.
“The restlessness over the pay commission’s recommendations only reveals that the inflationary pressure on the aam aadmi (ordinary citizen) has been so great as to erase any possible benefit from the proposed salary hikes,” Rajiv Pratap Rudy, a national spokesperson of the Bharatiya Janata Party, said.
The government’s allies among the Left parties have also jumped into the fray.
M.K. Pandhe, president of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-backed Centre of Indian Trade Unions, said the proposals were skewed in favour of government employees who were already well paid, not the aam aadmi. Mohammad Salim, a Lok Sabha member of the CPM, and a member of the Parliamentary Consultative Committee on Finance, said: “Manufactured feel-good factor cannot last, as this government is discovering. The government came out with the farm debt relief package and the pay commission report in the hope that voters would be impressed. But you can’t impose happiness on people through such half-baked measures.”
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First Published: Sun, Apr 06 2008. 11 11 PM IST