August 27, 2021 6:36:47 pm
In a major additional Rs 1,500 crore bonanza for government employees and pensioners, the Punjab government has decided to further hike their basic pay by a minimum of 15 per cent as on December 31, 2015, in addition to restoration of certain allowances.
With this, the total average increase in salary/pension per employee has gone up to Rs 1.05 lakh per annum, from the earlier Rs 79,250 per annum that they were getting following the government’s decision to accept the recommendations of the 6th Pay Commission with effect from July 1, 2021, which had earlier led to a Rs 4,700 crore bonanza for the employees.
The decision was taken at the Cabinet meeting held Thursday, chaired by Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, who directed all ministers, administrative secretaries and heads of departments to talk to their respective employees for early redressal of their grievances. He ordered that all reasonable demands of the employees be resolved following Thursday’s announcements, and that strict action should be taken, as per rules, if the employees continue to agitate.
The chief minister appreciated the efforts of Cabinet Minister Brahm Mohindra and others in resolving the grievances of the 2.85 lakh employees and 3.07 lakh pensioners, who will benefit from Thursday’s decisions, which will cost the government exchequer a total salary/pension bill of Rs 42,673 crore per annum.
Amarinder said all operational allowances have not only been retained but also doubled in absolute terms over what they were being paid earlier, with the Cabinet decision to restore common allowances, such as fixed medical allowance, mobile allowance, conveyance allowance and City Compensatory Allowance (CCA), at revised rates (2.59 X 0.8), with effect from 1.07.2021.
The Cabinet also approved treating of Non-Practicing Allowance (NPA) admissible to doctors at the rate of 20 per cent of revised basic pay as pay, with secretariat pay for employees (working in Punjab Civil Secretariat) to be doubled w.e.f. 1.07.2021 and also to be treated as pay.
Furthermore, employees covered under the National Pension Scheme have now given cover under family pension in case of death-in-harness, with the adoption of family pension guidelines dated 5.05.2009 and subsequent linked instructions dated 4.09.2019 with suitable state government modifications in respect of employees covered under New Pension Scheme (NPS) as applicable to similarly placed employees in Government of India, as per the provisions under the Punjab Civil Services Rules- Volume II.
The Cabinet also decided that service rendered during the probation period shall be counted for the purpose of ACP, as already being done by the department of general administration.
The decisions taken by the Cabinet are based on recommendations of the committee of the Group of Ministers, headed by Local Government Minister Brahm Mohindra, to consider the demands of various categories of employees. Constituted on June 25, 2021, the committee also comprised Finance Minister Manpreet Badal, Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu, Social Justice Empowerment Minister Sadhu Singh Dharamsot and Medical Education & Research Minister O P Soni. An ‘officers committee’ consisting of principal secretary finance, principal secretary, health and principal secretary, personnel, was also constituted to consider the issue.
PADDY STRAW MANAGEMENT
The Cabinet also gave a go-ahead for industries to install paddy straw fired boilers, a development being looked at as a positive step to check stubble burning during paddy season.
Industries which can get this benefit include sugar mills, pulp and paper mills and any industry having boiler installation with steam generating capacity more than 25 TPH.
New and existing units of distilleries/breweries proposing replacement of old boilers or expansion with installation of new boilers will also have to mandatorily use paddy straw as fuel in boilers, it was decided at the meeting.
The Cabinet also decided to provide cumulative fiscal incentives of Rs 25 crore to the first 50 existing industries on ‘first come first serve’ basis for using paddy straw as fuel in boilers.
It has also okayed non-fiscal incentives to industries in terms of availability of panchayat land for storage of paddy straw with lease agreement upto 33 years with rate of increase in lease at 6 per cent per annum. Apart from this, balers would be made available on priority in areas where paddy straw is used as fuel in boilers.
The move would help in tackling the menace of stubble burning during harvesting of Kharif crops, thus also conserving the fertility of soil and saving beneficial micro-organisms.
The decision assumes significance in view of the challenge of managing crop residue. Post harvesting, while wheat straw is used as fodder for livestock, paddy straw in the fields is set on fire by farmers to quickly clear their fields for the next crop. Due to field fire incidents in October-November, the problem of air pollution is widely prevalent, causing major major health effects. Due to the climatic conditions, the air quality in the NCR region also deteriorates, with contribution from various local sources such as domestic, vehicular, industrial and municipal solid waste dump fires. However, farm fires in neighbouring states is also blamed for air pollution in the NCR. Paddy is cultivated in 31.49 lakh hectare area (2020) in Punjab, resulting in the generation of around 20 million tons of paddy straw.
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