Why hold back scraping of SRO 202?

K B Jandial
The controversial & repugnant SRO 202 of 2015, an abhorrent ‘gift’ to the youth by no other than BJP-PDP Alliance Govt, continues even after 10 months of total ‘integration’ of J&K with rest of India and extension of all central laws and systems to UT. While all benefits of the Central Govt employees like education allowance, hostel charges, transport allowance, medical allowance, LTC were immediately extended to UT employees but the appalling SRO 202 was not scrapped even when J&K UT employees are now at par with Central Govt employees.
It is intriguing that BJP when in Govt in J&K with PDP consented to the proposal of the Kashmir’s ‘financial wizard’ Haseeb Drabu and preferred to ‘rob’ the local youth of their rightful salary on their recruitment in to Govt service. To be fair to him, it wasn’t his original idea which was copied from the failed similar policy of Omar Abdullah led NC-Congress Govt with little changes. Both these schemes were introduced ostensibly to grapple with the resource crunch. The Damocles’ sword fell on the new recruits while the extravagant expenditure continued unabated.
Omar Abdullah Govt’s scheme of “fixed salary” was a gift of NC veteran AR Rather who came up with a unique scheme in 2011 only for non-gazetted posts where under only 50% of the basic pay was paid to the new appointees for the first two years and 75% for the next three years. During this five-year period, the appointees were deprived of increments, DA, HRA and CCA. As this scheme cost heavily to both NC & Congress with rout in 2014 Lok Sabha poll including first ever defeat of NC Supremo, Dr. Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah, sensing similar debacle in the Assembly poll, immediately withdrew the policy in May 2014. Still it couldn’t return to power.
The most astounding aspect was the conduct of BJP Ministers on this anti-youth policy when they were in the Govt headed by Mufti Mohd Sayeed. Both PDP and BJP when in opposition had slammed Omar Govt for his repressive ‘fixed salary’ concept. While BJP and its youth wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parshad strongly protested and even violently clashed with the police on it, the PDP’s Chief patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed had said “instead of formulating a comprehensive youth policy, the incumbent Government was trying to befool the younger generation”. The BJP’s then spokesperson Dr. Jitendra Singh, now important Minister in Modi Govt, too had slammed the Omar Govt saying: “The 50 per cent salary rule will alienate the youth. It is an injustice to pay only Rs 2,800 to a new employee who is officially in the Rs 5,200- Rs 20,200 grade.” Despite these strong objections of BJP, Omar’s irrational policy and electoral debacle of NC & Congress in the State, these parties came up with another draconian pay structure for the new recruits when they came to power in alliance.
PDP-BJP Govt. introduced “The J&K Special Recruitment Rules, 2015” vide SRO 202 on 30th June, 2015 whose Rule 8 envisaged 5-year probation for the new entrants to the Govt service in non-gazetted cadre and some notified Gazetted posts. It says, “A person appointed under these Rules, shall be initially on probation for a period of five years and…” The Rule 9 envisaged that such appointees “… shall be entitled to the minimum of the scale of the pay along with the grade pay applicable to the post…”. The youth appointed after June 2015 continued to get much less salary as compared to their colleagues of pre-SRO 202 period after withdrawal of 2011 ‘fixed salary’ order.
The purported ground for this scheme was financial crunch which was just an eye wash. While J&K’s financial position had never been happy as it had been surviving on the Centre’s doles but this never came in the way of the luxurious living of VIPs. For example, every new Chief Minister got a new house constructed or renovated with additional accommodation, facilities, new grandeur equal to their enlarged status and the accommodation would continue to remain with them after losing power, thanks to the law made by them. Farooq Abdullah who remained CM for longer time has his own house at Srinagar’s most prestigious area of Gupkar Road but regular renovations were done at the cost of the state exchequer besides rent of the house. Omar Abdullah got his official residence constructed nearby but cost of the tastefully constructed and furnished residence is not publically known but it won’t be less than Rs 4 to 5cr. ‘Fairview’, once the notorious Papa-2 interrogation centre, was converted into official residence of VVIPs with lot of renovation which was redone when Mufti Sayeed selected it as CM’s residence & continued with Mehbooba Mufti. According to rough estimates, Rs. one crore are spent annually on upkeep of VVIPs bungalows in both capital cities.

Straight Talk

The PDP-BJP Govt contradicted its ground of resource crunch for unfair deal to new appointees in 2015 when almost one year later it extended largesses to legislators by doubling their monthly salary from Rs 80,000 to Rs. 1.60 lakh and pension of ex- legislators from Rs. 28000 to Rs. 50,000. The J&K State Legislature Members’ Pension Act, that showered many entitlements to former CMs like rent free furnished residence, has been amended on 1st April this year to withdraw these entitlements, but not yet enforced on ground. This amendment, however, enhanced legislators’ monthly pension from Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 75000. There is no financial crunch when it comes to rulers themselves.
While the salary of new recruits were made to stagnate for five years inflation and increased cost of living notwithstanding, there was no signs of economy effected in Govt expenditure, be it purchase of fleet of luxurious cars, multiple ACs & heating gadgets, fleet of aircrafts, bi-annual renovation of bungalows etc. If there was financial crunch, why couldn’t CM, Ministers, bureaucrats move in ordinary vehicles rather than in top line SUVs, changed with every new arrivals.
After largesses to legislators, the BJP-PDP Govt rightly gave benefits of 7th Pay Commission to 4.5 lakh State Govt employees and Pensioners including similar pay grades, incurring huge expenditure on its implementation with effect from January 2016. Subsequently, the Govt of India extended other benefits of Central Govt employees available in 7th Pay Commission to UT employees like transport allowance, children allowance, hostel allowance, fixed medical allowance & LTC w.e.f Oct 31, 2019 involving expenditure of Rs 4800 crore. But the post-2015 appointees were left high and dry again. If the State/Centre had enough resources to meet the genuine demands of J&K employees on the well laid down principle of equality then why this discrimination to fresh appointees only?
After State Govt employees became UT employees, they got another bonanza in the shape of Transport allowance (three slabs as per the level of the posts- Rs. 1800, Rs.3600 & Rs.5200), Child Education allowance of Rs. 2250 for two children, Child Hostel Allowance Rs 6750 for two children and LTC. This substantial add-on (allowances) is not available to the new appointees, thanks to SRO 202. If absence of these allowances (17% DA, 16% HRA & CCA for the last five years) are calculated on real terms it unravel a huge disparity in total emoluments. A fresh class IV appointee gets monthly salary of Rs 15100, Junior Assistant Rs 25800 and Gazetted Officer Rs 47900 against their entitlement of Rs. 24034, Rs 38265 & Rs. 69458 respectively if SRO is scrapped. So, they are getting 32%to 37 % less salary only and if calculated for five years with increments, the loss of emoluments is about 45% to 50%. This is the ‘gift’ of SRO202.
Is it fair to continue with such draconian rules when nowhere such anti-youth regulations are in existence? Even the DOPT Master Circular of 11 March, 2019 prescribes probation one to also two years which is mandated in KAS and allied services. Most of other services don’t prescribe any such probation or induction test except in 2015 order. What is the relevance of probation for a Class IV employee for five years? Isn’t it an undeserving punishment to a young person with ambitions and dreams to suffer for no wrong or misdoings?
In February this year, UT Govt ultimately set up CS headed committee to look into all aspects of SRO 202. Even Dr. Jitendra Singh is reportedly seized of the matter.
PM Modi is known for bold decisions and penchant for removing injustice of the people of J&K and Ladakh but why plight of this small section of Govt employees has escaped his attention as also of Amit Shah, Dr. Jitendra Singh, Lt. Governor, G C Murmu and Chief Secretary, B.V.R. Subrahmanyam. Is it not a gross unfair to delay justice to new appointees any further?