The much-awaited decision of the Union Government finally reached its subject, thereby, creating the sense of happiness among few but grievance upon many. This article especially focuses on such aggrieved class of subjects which had on many occasions faced betrayal by its own government in forms ranging from non-recognition of its status to non-receipt of rightful benefits and many more.
The subjects referred to here are Gramir Dak Sevaks (also referred as GDS/ ED Agents). They are such members of central postal department who are non-permanent members and are recruited for some period of time to ‘assist’ the regular employees. This position of ‘mere assistant’ of GDS has been time and again contested by their representatives at multiple forums and demands have been raised for their inclusion in the permanent category.
These demands were on many occasions backed by government institutions in one form or the other such as rightful recognition by earlier pay commissions, by the nation’s apex court, etc. Following heads may try to put forth such instances where the position of GDS was advocated and they were considered to be on the same footing as that of regular departmental employees.
Earlier Pay Commissions
The struggle for the rightful recognition can be seen right from the inception of the very first Central Pay Commission.The first commission was of the view that the ED Agents fall within their purview. But contrary to this view, the Second and Third Pay Commissions excluded them on the ground that Postal department had always treated them as ‘Agents’ and a ‘class apart’ from the regular departmental employees.They also observed that the ED Agents were not even the holders of civil posts, and thereby cannot avail the claimed benefits that are only availed by the regular employees.But the fourth Pay Commission again differed from the above opinion and observed that it is beyond dispute that ED Agents were holders of Civil Posts.
Justice Talvar Committee Recommendations
Justice Talwar while tracing the history and treatment of ED Agents as civil servants observed that in the year 1901-02, ED Agents assisted during the ‘Census’ in the year 1901 which highlights the fact that they were being treated by the department on the same footing as that of other regular Government employees. Thus the following was recommended:
“The Extra Departmental Agents have to be included within the overall class of civil servants, being holders of civil posts. They can be grouped as ‘additional’ to the departmental employees, but they cannot be classified as a class apart from the civil servants. At any rate they cannot be classified with the sole object of not granting the benefits which accrue to a departmental employee.”
Fallout of 7th Pay Commission
There are two sides of this dispute. One side spoke of the fact that the group C and group D governmental employees are paid way more, as recommended by the 7th CPC, in comparison to their private counterparts, while the other side spoke of the fact that they are not equivalent to their private sector counterparts but are much more capable and qualified persons recruited by well conducted examinations by the government itself.
As rightly pointed out by Mr. Shivakant Mishra, Secretary General, Bhartiya Postal Employees Federation (BPEF) and representative of Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh, “there is a huge difference between private sector employment condition and the government/public sector condition…public sector group C and D employee, many a times, had to work in hazardous situations like that in railway sector, postal department etc. which is not a situation with that of ‘helpers’ from private sector. So, mere comparison of helpers of private sectors with that of these employees from public sectors is fully wrong on the part of 7th CPC and therefore the minimum salary fixed, which is Rs.18000, is not adequate.” He also pointed that these categories of public employees are covered under Articles 309 and 311; they come from reputed universities and are recruited after proper examinations and interviews, so not considering these factors both by IIM Ahmedabad during its survey/report and by the 7th CPC has led to nothing but a complete failure on their part while determining the ‘adequate’ salary of the clerks.
Highlights of the 7th Pay Commission
There were drastic changes which can be seen in this 7th CPC report. Following are few which attracted the controversies the most:
- The minimum pay has been increased from Rs. 7000 to 18000 p.m. Starting salary of a newly recruited employee at lowest level will now be Rs. 18000 whereas for a freshly recruited Class I officer, it will be Rs. This reflects a compression ratio of 1:3.12 signifying that pay of a Class I officer on direct recruitment will be three times the pay of an entrant at lowest level.
- Rate of increment has been retained at 3 %. This will benefit the employees in future on account of higher basic pay as the annual increments that they earn in future will be 2.57 times than at present.
- Gratuity ceiling enhanced from Rs. 10 to 20 lakh. The ceiling on gratuity will increase by 25 % whenever DA rises by 50 %.
- The Commission examined a total of 196 existing allowances and, by way of rationalization, recommended abolition of 51 allowances and subsuming of 37 allowances. Given the significant changes in the existing provisions for allowances which may have wide ranging implications, the Cabinet decided to constitute a Committee headed by Finance Secretary for further examination of the recommendations of 7th CPC on allowances. The Committee will complete its work in a time bound manner and submit its reports within a period of 4 months. Till a final decision, all existing allowances will continue to be paid at the existing rates.
Resentment among the employees
After the acceptance of the Central Government to the recommendations of the 7th CPC, Bhartiya Majdoor Sangh (B.P.E.F, B.P.E.A. Gr. ‘C’, BRMS & MMS EU CLASS-III, BPAOEA (Postal Accounts), BPAOEA (Admn.), BPEA Postman & MTS, BPCWNGEU (Civil Wing), BRMS & MMS EU Mailguard& Gr. D and BEDEU (GDS Union)) unanimously, after making tireless appeals to the government, decided to go on an indefinite strike against the government decision of accepting the recommendation of the commission, starting from 15th July, 2016. Also, they have issued a Charter of Demands stating the basic demand from the government. Following are the few such demands from the charter:
- Minimum Pay should be fixed at 24000/- rupees in place of 18000/-;
- The fitment formula should be 3:42 in place of 2:57;
- The ratio of minimum Pay and maximum Pay should be 1:10;
- Annual increment should be 5% in place of only 3%;
- HRA should be granted at the rate of 15%, 25% and 35%. Similarly all allowances and advances should continue without waiting for the committee report.
- Minimum two increments should be granted at the time of every promotion;
- Old Pension Scheme should be restored in place of NPS;
- Commuted Pension should be restored on 12 years in place of the 15th year;
- All vacant post in all cadres of regular employees and GDS employees may be filled up at the earliest.
The Road ahead
The above stated demands are few among many but after looking at them, it seems that they are very basic for such employment. When we compare the 7th CPC to the earlier CPCs, we observe that the current CPC has provided a low increment than the earlier CPCs and this became the strongest reason for the resentment among the central government workers. The reason for such resentment was the fact that such increment comes after 10 years and even after one decade, if the increment is low as compared to earlier increments, then such resistance becomes the last resort.
It is also suggested by some that such formula of constituting a pay commission after every 10 years is an old and fruitless idea; they suggest the formation of such commission should be after every 2-3 years. Some also point out the fact that the whole system of evaluation of income is faulty and the government should come up with new methods of evaluation. But within these administrative and bureaucratic decisions, it is the lower category of employees who are getting troubled.
Therefore, everybody is eyeing the Majdoor Sangh strike and the government. It is an administrative test for the government, which will judge whether it will hear the plight of its workers or will show the kangaroo like attitude and stick to its decision.