Will lesser pay of new recruits lessen Mamata's salary woes? (West Bengal Newsletter)

Last Updated: Sun, Mar 10, 2013 10:20 hrs

Kolkata, March 10 (IANS) West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who wakes up every morning "worried about paying salaries to my employees", perhaps would be relieved a bit after her cash starved government decided to pay less to the clerical staff.

Earlier this week, the West Bengal Services Rules (Appointment, Probation and Absorption of Group C employees) were amended. It now requires that new recruits undergo a three-year probation period and their absorption will depend on "satisfactory performance" during the probation.

During this period, they will get a consolidated salary with basic initial, grade pay and medical allowance, allowing the government to save on components like house rent and dearness allowance (DA).

Unlike earlier, they will be entitled to the increment of three percent of basic pay a year till they are absorbed.

Under the old system, new recruits had to undergo a two-year probation period, followed by a year of temporary employment after which they were absorbed. However, during the entire period prior to their absorption, they were entitled to full pay right from day one of service.

Under the new rules, not only will the performance of probationers be reviewed after the completion of each year, they will also have to pass a departmental examination to be eligible for absorption.

If the fresh recruit fails to clear the examination after three years, he or she has to pray for another chance to crack an examination after a year, as per the old system.

But according to the new rules, in case of "non-satisfactory performance or failing to pass the departmental examination (for a second time) the government employee concerned may be discharged".

The new rules have been subjected to severe criticism from the various employees' federations who have been demanding its immediate withdrawal. Even the Trinamool Congress-affiliated federation is seemingly not happy.

"This government is pro-people and we firmly believe it will never do anything which is detrimental to the interest of the common man," United State Government's Employees' Federation core committee member Soumya Biswas said.

"We are studying all the clauses of the new rules and we will discuss the matter with the chief minister," added Biswas of the Trinamool-affiliated employees' federation.

The Congress and Left Front-affiliated employees' federations termed the new rules "unconstitutional" and claimed that the move was aimed at absorbing more Trinamool supporters in government services.

"The order is unconstitutional as it goes against the constitutional principle of equal pay for equal work. Moreover, with this order the government wants the employees to turn into bonded labourers," said Malay Mukherjee, leader of the INTUC-affiliated Confederation of State Government Employees.

The Left-affiliated West Bengal State Coordination Committee dubbed the new rules as "arbitrary" and threatened a massive protest movement unless the new rules were withdrawn.

"Using this order, the government will now recruit only pro-Trinamool people and whoever dares to speak against it will face the heat," WBSCC secretary Ananta Bandyopadhaya said.

The amendment almost coincides with the Banerjee cabinet giving nod to the proposed West Bengal Public Services Rights Bill which seeks to penalise government employees for not delivering services within specified time-period.

The bill also provides for setting up a panel to look into complaints against government employees.

The new initiative is yet another effort of the Banerjee government to "revive work culture" in the state which, according to her, has "gone for a toss during the 34 years of Left Front rule".

Banerjee, who has waged a war against the "politics of shutdowns", has been repeatedly claiming that there has been a "remarkable" drop in man-days lost during her regime.

Inexplicably though, happy at her employees for "defying" a recently called 48-hour strike by various trade unions, she offered longer Durga Puja holidays as a reward.

Banerjee assured the 'babus' that they would get around 10 days of holidays at a stretch during Durga Puja, the state's biggest festival.

(Anurag Dey can be contacted at anurag.d@ians.in)

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