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Mayhem at sop opera as govt plays Santa Claus

Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta’s press conference at Writers’ Buildings today where he announced the revised pay and allowances for the state government employees turned into a rally,with hundreds of the babus turning up at the venue to listen to the announcements.

Written by Express News Service | Kolkata |
February 26, 2009 2:59:59 am

As finance minister announces a 32 pc hike in gross salary of govt staff,hundreds of them mob him at a press meet,forcing him to leave in a huff

Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta’s press conference at Writers’ Buildings today where he announced the revised pay and allowances for the state government employees turned into a rally,with hundreds of the babus turning up at the venue to listen to the announcements.

The minister announced a 32 per cent hike in the gross salary and a total of 16 per cent DA for the employees. The revised pay package has been put under effect since April 1,2008. The arrears will be paid in three annual installments,Dasgupta said.

The revised pay structure will be applicable to retired employees too. In all,13 lakh people will benefit from the pre-poll bonanza.

Requests by the media to hold the rally at some closed-door place like Rotunda instead of the podium meant for press conferences fell flat on finance department officials.

The entire first-floor corridor of the protected area was filled up with employees eager to know the largesse being doled out on the eve of the Lok Sabha polls.

The police had a tough time controlling the crowds and the gates to the first floor were closed down. Even after the press conference,as press releases and booklets containing the details of the pay package began to be distributed,hell broke loose as employees gate-crashed into the press room and pounced on the booklets.

And all this happened in front of the finance minister who came to clarify a few more points. An exasperated Dasgupta waited for a few minutes and then walked out in a huff. The police had to be deployed at the gate of the press corner to control the entry of the employees.

Leaders of some of the employees unions owing allegiance to the Opposition slammed the finance minister for the lawlessness. “It became a rally of the employees. I fail to understand why the finance minister allowed it,” Subrata Bhattacharya,general secretary of the Confederation of State Government Employees,said.

Minister promises better roads
In the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls,the state government plans to widen the state highways at a cost of Rs 3,500 crore,which is awaiting a clearance by the finance department.

Speaking at a seminar on “Road Infrastructure in West Bengal – Current Status”,organised by the Bengal National Chamber of Commerce and Industry,State PWD minister Kshiti Goswami said it was being done to improve road connectivity and ease traffic congestion.

“Some of the roads are just 2.5m wide while others are 5m wide. We are planning to make all of them 7m wide to bring in uniformity,” the minister said.

Expressing his dissatisfaction over the work carried out by the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI),Goswami said the project to repair NH-34 was taken up by the NHAI in 2005 and they are yet to complete the work. He,however,said that NHAI had received stiff resistance from landowners during the land acquisition process at Gandamara and Amdanga but added that the work was delayed even after the dispute was resolved.

LF waits as partners sit on candidates’ list
The Left Front has failed to announce its candidate list even at the end of this month as two of its major partners could not finalise the names in time.

Earlier it was decided that the ruling LF will place its list of candidates on February 8 at the rally at Brigade Parade Ground.

Sources in the Left Front said the Forward Bloc (FB) and the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) could not finalise their nominations because they want to change some of their candidates. The FB already has decided to replace their sitting MP for Barasat constituency while the RSP will change its candidate for Joynagar constituency.

“They have requested Left Front chairman Biman Bose to wait till March 2. Bose,accordingly,called the Left Front for endorsement of the list,” said a senior leader of the Left Front.

“We will forward our list to the LF chairman before the meet. Already our Barasat MP has declared that he will not contest this time. We have to replace him,” said Hafiz Alam Sairani,when asked.

The CPM has finalised its list of candidates in its February 24 state committee meeting,except for Bongaon constituency.

The pre-poll windfall
* Overall 32 per cent increase in salary across the board
* Four per cent more DA. Now it is 16 per cent,which is at par with Central government employees’ DA.
* New pay structure to be effective from April 1,2008
* The arrears for the period from April 1,2008 to March 31,2009 to be given in three consecutive yearly installments commencing from the financial year 2009-2010.
* Medical allowance to be raised from a monthly Rs 100 to Rs 300.
* Self Help Groups Corporation (Swarojgar Nigam) set up. It will buy rice from farmers and sell them back to the Central government.
* SHGs will now have to pay 4 per cent interest on the money they borrow from banks. The remaining 5 per cent will be given as subsidy by the government.
* Govt to pay Rs 35 crore as advance to ration dealers to enable them to sell rice @ Rs 2 per kg to BPL families.

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