By Anznoo Wasim
While failing to cut their ever increasing expenditure in the wake of limited revenue generating avenues , the Jammu & Kashmir government took certain austerity measures. These were taken after giving heed to the economists repeated advice in favor of them. It was speculated that the economy of the state would not show any signs of recovery unless some long term harsh policy decisions were not taken urgently. It was against this backdrop that the New Pension Scheme replaced the old one in 2010 and now SRO-202 restricted the salary of new recruited public servants to merely their basic pay.
All these ‘policy decisions’ are only directed towards distressing the poor employees while there is scope to implement them in many other sectors as well. The government’s policy decisions cannot be challenged in any court of law. I , for the sake of the argument here , assert that what if any Policy decision is in contradiction with the basic human rights of the citizens. Who is going to guard the masses against this excess? In reality, one feels insecure with such a situation . Besides, excessive need of some institution which can keep check on the bodies yielding such an unflinching power is also an exigent need.
The new Recruitment Policy, applicable now on all the newly appointed employees of state government except the gazette ones, enables government to pay just the basic pay to a meritorious and highly qualified person for the first five years of his service without any increment. This makes an employee receive monthly remuneration just more than one-third of what he/she was entitled to prior toits application. And it, by every stretch of imagination, is not enough to live a dignified life in contemporary times.
In the times of inflation, it is no secret that one with handsome income also feels heat while going out to buy some household goods. The rates of grocery items have nearly have increased by 400% in the past 5-6 years. Same is the case with other mundane-used goods like garments and clothes. Similarly,public transport fares shot-up many fold during the same period of time. Life is really becoming hard to live sans any perennial source of suitable income.
Under such circumstances if we push anybody to the wall and go on assuming not to face retaliation of any form is quite naïve of us. It is a universal principle that everything here is subordinate to survival. When the basic right to survive with dignity is threatened, it is instinctive of him to adopt means, irrespective of their legal status, in order to breathe. Thereafter, it is pretty diabolical to cajole him to remain pious on this materialistic planet.
Today, when competition is fierce, going has really become tough. For each advertised post, our recruitment agencies are receiving applications in thousands. The average age of candidates who eventually are supposed to get selected is above 30 years. As the necessary qualification and skill acquisition requisite to fetch the job takes good portion of one’s age. Only after that one can think of himself to be eligible to get one.
Now, after such a struggle and hard work, when one succeeds in securing a job, he/she is simply paid peanuts for the first five long years of his/her service. This is no good than the long abolished Begaar(forced labour), now legally enshrined and willingly done- since opportunities are scarce. There is no dearth of talent, however. Willy-nilly people are frantically pouncing on whatever they are offered on whatever terms and conditions. Hence, it is no exaggeration to categorize all this as exploitation. The irony is that this was done by the agency supposed to guard its subjects against the same.
It is not presumed that the government is doing it willfully. After all, politicians are also part of this society. As postulated, the financial health of our state is in a bad shape. Therefore, appropriate steps inevitably need to be taken forthwith. But, NRP is no justification. After all, castles can’t be made over graveyards. There are other ways and means of austerity which will decimate no one.
A simple course of action might be that we all, irrespective of our status, contribute a bit. The salary and other perks received by our legislators need to be reasonably slashed to affordable levels. All the employees, irrespective of their status, should be paid just the basic pay for their probation period, which almost continues for the first two years of their service. This is the practice in many private financial or commercial establishments. There could also be some more steps to follow like realization of rent from the occupants of government land. We should also reassess the rent of commercial establishments in government infrastructure as per current trends and much more.
The only thing government needs to do is to broaden its horizon of vision and look beyond stressing only small time employees. Although, exploiting them is non-lethal and a safe bet but eventually their life and affairs also matter. So, sooner the preparations ,better would be the results.
—The Author is Post Graduate in Mass Communication & Journalism from the University of Kashmir. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org