- The government announced DA hike in March with arrears but later froze it
- The action of freezing enraged the employees and the centre is facing backlash
A number of government employees’ unions have come forward to oppose the Central Government’s decision to freeze the Dearness Allowance (DA) until 2021 July as the Unions claim this decision will not only hurt them but also the entire economy.
This has become a worry over the existing opposition from the informal and industrial workforce as it will increase the tension with the government when the country is witnessing a surge in the unemployment rate and a big chunk of working-class is staring at income loss due to the novel Coronavirus.
General Secretary of the Indian Public Service Federation (IPSF), Prem Chand said, “The freeze of an inflation-linked pay hike for government employees and pensioners will have a cascading impact on their lives. While the government wants some economic activities to open up, without consumption, the economy cannot revive,”.
Chand says that they have written their concerns to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the Chief Ministers many times in the past week to reconsider their decision of freezing the DA and Dearness relief.
The freezing of DA/DR till July 2021 came in almost 1 month after the Centre announced a hike in DA however, with the freeze the Centre could save up to Rs. 37,500 crore and the states could save up to Rs. 82,500 crore.
Though the freeze will help the government fight the deadly pandemic and may help it offer another relief package, but the workers feel that this move will only swell the tension between the employees and the governments.
Besides, a surge in the unemployment rate of more than 20% and salary cuts across sectors are only going to increase this opposition againt the government. The employee’s unions have said that the high unemployment rate and losses in wage will push millions if not crore of people into poverty.
The International Labour Organisation said 40 crore Indian could slip into poverty due to the current crisis.
Secretary General, Harbhajan Singh, Hind Mazdoor Sabha which comprises of various government employees and railways factory workers union said, “Such a decision has never taken place in last four decades. The moment you take away the inflation linked hike of government workers, it takes away over a ₹1.2 trillion from the market, badly impacting the recovery of the economy as consumption will take a hit,”.
Singh said that the government may come to face a combined opposition from the working class from different sectors in the coming days. He says, “While workers of most unions will carry out the symbolic protest from May Day from the work stations, once the lockdown is lifted, things will take a bigger dimension,”.
An Umbrella body of the government employees, the Joint Consultative Machinery (JCM) said that all the unions should keep the pressure on the government to push it to reconsider the decision of freezing DA. Secretary of JCM, Shiv Gopal Mishra said, everybody should “be ready to join us as soon as lockdown finishes to formulate the future course of action,” in a letter to employee groups.
The letter also said, “I hope you will continue your effort for mobilizing against this move…and try to consolidate the strength of central government employees on one platform,”.