Amid mounting protests, the Kerala government has brought in an ordinance, which empowers the state to cut salaries of government employees during emergencies, as the state is heading for a financial crisis.
Earlier, the government had decided to cut six days’ salary of government employees, named ‘Salary Challenge’ that would continue for a period of five months from April to August. Despite the pleas from various quarters, the Government was adamant on its stand that it would not exempt healthcare workers or the state police force from the salary cut.
However, the government employees, including health workers and teachers, had come up in arm against the government’s decision and taken the matter to the High Court. In a widespread protest against the ‘Salary Challenge’, the employees, including school teachers, burned the government circular and posted the photos on social media. Most of the employees who protested against the authoritarian and inhuman move of the state government had voluntarily contributed to the Corona relief activities in the state.
The state medical officers’ association and the medical college teachers’ association had also requested the government to exempt health workers from the salary cut and warned of protests. “Health professionals are the frontline warriors against the pandemic. The government’s move to cut their salaries at a time when they are engaged in selfless service is highly deplorable,” the medical officers’ association said in a statement.
A few days ago, the Kerala High Court had stayed the government order to cut the salary, in a verdict in favour of the government employees. Following the verdict, the state government decided not to challenge the stay order at the court but opted to bring in an ordinance in a desperate move.
However, with the Kerala governor Arif Mohammad Khan on Thursday signing the ordinance titled ‘Kerala Disaster and Public Health Emergency Special Provisions Act, 2020’, the state government can defer or seize one month’s salary of the employees including healthcare workers and the state police. The Government is now also empowered to cut up to 25% of salaries of state government employees for six months.
The bizarre decision of the ‘Left Government’ stands in stark contrast to that of other states like Haryana Government, which announced that doubled the salary the employees serving Coronavirus patients in an attempt to empower the COVID-19 warriors.
According to a Live Mint report, Kerala has a higher ratio of government employees than other states—one for every 100 people—with a population of 33 million. Nearly 500,000 government employees are paid around ₹42,000 crores every year, or nearly 50% of its total revenue of about ₹85,000 crores.
Thomas Isaac, the state Finance Minister, says that the state has collected ₹2,000 crores in revenues in April but it needs ₹2,500 crores to pay salaries of government employees. The state government expects to raise Rs 2500 crore through the proposed salary cut.
With no money left in the exchequer, Kerala is on the brink of a huge financial crisis as the liquor and lottery ‘industry’ and tourism sector, from which the state derives its significant revenue, have nearly collapsed during the corona lockdown.
“Salaries will be delayed this month until the finalisation of the ordinance. In reality, we can only give salaries after borrowing ₹1,000 crores (from the Reserve Bank of India by way of Statutory Liquidity Ratio or SLR bonds),” Finance Minister Thomas Isaac told media.
Amid the looming financial crisis, in a typical Leftist tactic to lull people into a false sense of security, the Kerala government had announced a Rs 20,000-crore financial package allegedly to overcome the Corona crisis. After taking enough political mileage by pitting ‘the Covid package’ against the Union Government, the chief minister Vijayan, without any qualms, had sought the Prime Minister for financial assistance to implement it.
Besides other existing central projects and aids, the Centre has so far pumped Rs 1,276 crore as revenue deficit grant into the state economy.