Congress seems to be in a desperate bid to find faults with a government that is right now putting all its energy in fighting the pandemic. Earlier, Rahul Gandhi demanded some items to be made GST-free, without realizing how that move could end up hurting our own industries and help the others, especially Chinese manufacturers. Next, without understanding the basic difference between Brent and WTI crude price and the consumption slump in the lockdown period, he questioned why the government was not reducing oil prices. Now, the Congress camp, including former PM Manmohan Singh, is criticizing the government for freezing the dearness allowance (DA) payable to central government employees and dearness relief payable to central government pensioners at current rates till July 2021.
Points to Be Noted
- There are millions who are not sure about getting the next payment due to Corona lockdown situation. Government is trying to concentrate resources on that front. In contrast, central government employees, their salary and allowances are assured – only the hike on those allowances are suspended. Does the Congress want to focus this segment at the cost of everyone else?
- Congress has suggested that development projects such as Central Vista be stopped seem extremely stupid. Projects such as those are crucial for providing livelihoods to thousands after the lockdown.
- When it comes to the Bullet Trains project, Japan is funding the project for that specific purpose only. If the Congress suggestion is taken to stop that, investment will disappear and job creation, which is the need of the hour, will take a hit.
- Congress is making a noise at the Centre on the mere freeze of DA, DR hike. Ironically, in Maharashtra where Congress is allayed in the ruling coalition, A and B level employees were subjected to a 50% cut in the salary, while C level employees were forced to take a 25% salary cut.
Does the Issue Need So Much Noise?
One need not be an economist like Manmohan Singh to understand the simple logic of freezing DA, DR to a specific period. Is there really a need to project the move as some kind of body-blow given to the Central government employees? Simple logical thinking tells us the following:
- It is not that the salaries of the government employees are frozen.
- It only means that the additional amount of money due to government employees and government pensioners on account of DA revision and DR, respectively, will not be paid from January 1. However, the government announced that the DA and DR at current rates will continue to be paid.
- Compared to the private sector employees, these government employees are secured on the job security front. At a time when the pandemic and lockdown situation has caused the job market distress globally and the firms are forced to come up with ways to avoid job losses, should the Congress party make noise on mere DA, DR freeze of government employees?
Congress argues that instead of freezing the hike of DA, DR to government employees the central government should have cancelled projects like central vista development and bullet train, which it terms ‘wasteful’ expenditure.
How it becomes a wasteful expenditure is a puzzle, since the Congress itself demanded that the nation can’t be put in a continuous lockdown which may end up destroying livelihood, and a partial calculated relaxation that paves way for economic activities was needed.
Now think about what happens when a development project is suspended to avoid ‘wasteful expenditure’. It is the construction workers, raw material providers, those who manage machineries, who are deprived of opportunities. This is the exact segment that everybody, including Congress, has been supposedly representing when demanding livelihood opportunities amidst the lockdown.
In contrast, the DA is a calculation on inflation, and allowance paid to government employees, while the DR is the amount paid to Government Pensioners. How can anyone’s livelihood itself be compared with DA, DR of government employees?
The finances of the whole world stand shattered because of Corona. India has acted decisively in safeguarding the vulnerable and poor. As many as 33 crore people have obtained various direct transfer benefits worth ₹31,253 crore and it is bound to increase further if the situation does not improve. In such a situation, Congress is busy in arguing that the life of Central government employees have been shattered, just because a hike on their DA, DR has been temporarily frozen.