Mobiles for students, but staff await wages

Mobiles for students, but staff await wages


Even as the Punjab Government is all set to distribute 1.60 lakh smartphones to girls studying in government senior secondary classes in the first phase of ‘Captain Smart Connect Scheme’, PSPCL and police department employees are yet to get their salaries.

The Amarinder Singh government plans to distribute the phones as New Year’s gift, spending Rs 85 crore against an estimated target of Rs 110 crore on the purchase of these phones from Indian company Lava, fulfilling Congress’ pre-poll promise to the electorate. The government had announced ‘Mobile Phones to the Youth’ scheme in the 2017-2018 Budget and allocated funds for it in the 2018-19 Budget.

But many like Ranjit Singh (name changed), who works from 8 am to 5 pm with the Forest Department, are far from impressed. For the past one month, Ranjit has started working as a part-time night watchman as he has not received his salary for the past two months. Many employees are in a similar predicament.

Even those retired complain that the government keeps postponing the dates of release of pension. The delay  in the release of Rs 4,100 crore by the Centre as GST compensation for the months of August and September has put the government in a spot. Punjab roughly has 3.5 lakh employees, 1.5 lakh semi-government employees and four lakh pensioners.

Its salary bill is Rs 2,000 crore per month.

Sources said police personnel, teachers, including those teaching in universities, power, health and healthcare staff were  yet to receive their monthly salary. Police officials said they had not been paid wages for the month of November.

“Revenue-generating departments such as mining, excise, transport and cable are poorly managed. That is why the delay in salaries”, claimed SSA-RMSA state president Hardeep Todarpur. Some days ago, Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Badal had said the government would clear the Rs 2,000 crore per month salary bill of its employees from its own resources despite not having received GST compensation from the Centre. When contacted, Finance Department officials said: “We are in the process of releasing salaries as instructed by the Finance Minister.”