Tribune News Service
Amritsar, August 31
About 125 employees, associated with the District Rural Development Agencies (DRDA) and recruited under the Union Ministry of Rural Development Programme across the state, have not been paid salaries for the past 20 months.
The affected employees are from the rank of Project Director to peon.
The Joint Development Commissioner’s office has recommended releasing an immediate additional amount of at least Rs 5.87 crore to clear the dues of employees based in at least 10 districts.
An official document dated August 29 stated Amritsar required Rs 1.77 crore; Patiala Rs 95.84 lakh; Ferozepur Rs 76.27 lakh; Gurdaspur Rs 67 lakh; Sangrur Rs 60.62 lakh; Ropar Rs 37.44 lakh; Bhatinda Rs 29.68 lakh; Jalandhar Rs 21 lakh; Mansa Rs 14 lakh and Fatehgarh Sahib Rs 8 lakh.
Joint Development Commissioner C Sibin said, “The scarcity of funds led to the dilemma. We are helpless till the government releases the money.” Without salaries, employees resented that their children’s could not be admitted to schools on credit, nor books and uniforms be bought on credit. Some of them had to vacate their rented accommodations.
Not only employees, retired ones, too, are awaiting benefits.
Gurdaspur-based Nirmal Singh retired on May 31 after putting in 33 years of service. He is waiting for his retiral benefits. “Like me, there are four others who have yet to receive retirement benefits. Except for provident fund which is employees’ contribution, all dues such as gratuity and leave encashment are still unpaid. My salary arrears since August 2016 till my retirement are also unpaid,” he said.
In Amritsar, aggrieved staffers have been observing a strike in protest against the government’s “apathetic” attitude.
“Most of us had to terminate our fixed deposits prematurely, took loans or borrowed money from relatives and friends to meet the expenses. Resorting to strikes or moving courts seldom yield results,” said Assistant Project Officer (APO) Kanwar Sukhjinder Singh, who has not got salary for the past 21 months.
Sangrur APO RK Singh and his colleagues, however, are lucky to get their salaries. Retirees, however, await their benefits.
“The Centre and the state government contribute salary in the ratio of 60:40. The deficit arises as the biannual grant of the DRDA is irregular. Besides, the Union Ministry of Rural Development has curtailed its share and put the onus on its state counterpart to meet the gap. The state government cannot run away from sharing liability,” RK Singh said.
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