Editorial: Babu benefits sacrosanct?

By: |
March 2, 2016 12:36 AM

Cuts in their emoluments need to be considered

It is odd, infuriating really, that while benefits are being taken away from the middle-class and higher taxes are being imposed on the rich on grounds the government is strapped for cash, there is absolutely no attempt to rein in the costs of babus. Surely, when a largesse of Rs 1 lakh crore was proposed by the 7th Pay Commission some months ago, the government could have asked for cuts in it, if not rejected it outright? After all, as the IIM-A study that the pay panel got done showed, government employees get paid a lot more than those in the private sector do—nurses get paid 2.5 times more and lower-level staff like drivers get paid around double. As for the productivity of these employees, the evidence is quite clear—year after year, ASER studies show that students in private schools perform better than those in government schools where the teachers get paid around 2.5 times what their private sector counterparts do.

While the argument is made that government employees do not get pay hikes of the type the private sector does, this is not true either since, at the very least, salaries are indexed to inflation and there is also an annual increment—most government employees see their salaries rise 10-11% each year. And there is also an equalisation of pay where even babus who have retired get a significant bump up in their pensions once salaries are raised for existing employees by successive pay panels—while this equalisation was not absolute earlier, the pay panel has gone ahead and done this. The next time the government complains about being cash-strapped, it would be a good idea for it to look inwards and cut some of the flab within. Or is it that government employees have rights that are superior to those of the common folk?

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