2,500 employees without salary for 3 months of Covid lockdown despite Rs 230 cr grant-in-aid
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
JAMMU: Over 2,500 employees of the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir State Forest Corporation (SFC) have been without salaries in the last three months of the countrywide Coronavirus lockdown despite availability of Rs 230 crore grant-in-aid and instructions from the highest offices of the Government of India that no government employee should suffer on account of payment of salaries during the shutdown. Officials are now hopeful that a meeting of the Administrative Council of the Union Territory was likely to approve conversion of the SFC into a company, titled J&K Forest Development Corporation, on Saturday.
The Council is also expected to discuss proposal for setting up Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority (UMTA) in the capital cities of Jammu and Srinagar. Allotment of additional 250 Kanals of land at Rakh-I-Gund Akshna, Bemina, Srinagar for expansion of judicial infrastructure including construction of New High Court building will also get nod in the administrative council meeting.
Knowledgeable sources revealed to STATE TIMES that an amount of Rs 230 crore had been earmarked in the current year’s budget for the UT of Jammu and Kashmir as grant-in-aid for the erstwhile SFC so as to ensure that the employees did not suffer on account of monthly salaries, more so during the Coronavirus lockdown which began in the month of March. Finance Department had subsequently released the funds but none of the 2500 employees in SFC has been paid salaries for the months of March, April and May 2020. “This decision could have been taken in 5 minutes as conversion of SFC into J&K FDC was a continuous process involving certain in-house formalities. Yet none of us has received salaries in the last three months. This is notwithstanding Prime Minister’s assurance and instructions that no employee or worker across the country would suffer on account of payment of wages during the Coronavirus lockdown. This is all the more ironical as this injustice has been done after the State’s conversion into the UT in August 2019”, said an official in SFC. “Officials in Civil Secretariat tell us that our salaries would be disbursed only after our sale revenues exceed the grand-in-aid amount. Government itself shut down offices including our sales and auctions over two months back. Why should we suffer for the Government’s decision? Government has today taken decision to open offices for all employees from tomorrow. Today itself we decided to resume sales and auctions of timber from next week”, said another official. “We are being shifted from a government corporation to a government company. Our services are continuing. We don’t know why we are being treated as if we were running away to a different country”. Commissioner-Secretary Forest Sarita Chauhan did not respond to phone calls and text messages. Sources in the top echelons of bureaucracy asserted that the issue of the release of salaries to 2500 SFC employees was likely to be addressed in a meeting of the Advisory Council in Jammu tomorrow. According to these sources, erstwhile SFC that had ceased to exist after March 2020 due to repealing of J&K SFC Act 1978 vide J&K Reorganisation (Adoption of State Laws) Statutory Order No: 1229[E] dated 31-03-2020. According to these highly placed sources, a meeting presided over by FC Finance Dr Arun Kumar Mehta on 1st of May 2020 had decided to convert SFC into a company titled J&K FDC Ltd. It had been decided that MD SFC would get the Articles of Association and Memorandum of Association drafted for the new company before 7th of May and the registration would be completed before 15th of May. However both the processes had been excessively delayed. SFC officials said: “First the government has to create the company and its structure of Board of Directors and Articles of Association. Registration would be done after the Government’s approval to Articles and Memorandum of Association which is still pending. Besides, there has to be some seed money. But it was unfair to stall everything for want of inertia at some rungs at the higher level”. Managing Director Vasu Yadav, two Chief General Managers, 6 General Managers and 20 Deputy Managers are running the SFC of 2500-strength which has been neither a government department, nor a corporation nor a company since 31st of March. Sources said that Lieutenant Governor Girish Chandra Murmu would preside over Saturday’s Administrative Council meeting from Raj Bhawan while as three of his Advisors and Chief Secretary would join him through video conference from Civil Secretariat and Advisor Baseer Khan would be joining through video conference from Srinagar.
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