Assam: Over 300 Employees Under Town & Country Planning Left Without Salary For About 50 Months
Being bifurcated from the municipal corporations, development authorities of 24 districts of Assam are struggling for self-sustainability and are left without earnings for months
Even as the Assam government brags about the various development works undertaken in the last 5 years ahead of the assembly polls, hundreds of people employed under various development projects across the state are struggling to survive, being left without salary for a period of about 4 years.
Over 300 employees working under 24 Developmental Authorities constituted by the state government in various districts of Assam under the provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1959, have been working without regular pay. The All Assam Development Authority Employees’ Joint Council (AADAEJC) claims that the employees have not received regular salaries varying from 15 to 50 months.
“These authorities are associated with the implementation of the various Master Plan and Zoning Regulations under the government and we were appointed for its smooth functioning. We have been working in lieu of meagre payments,” said Sanjib Borgohain, General Secretary of AADAEJC.
Plight of the people who help develop the state
“Our problem started after the implementation of the 74th Constitutional Amendment Act, 1992 in 2012. After that we had to hand over most of the work to the municipal corporations that were earlier in our hands. They get all the major work and we are left with just the minimum,” said Sanjib Borgohain.
“Our key responsibilities are similar to that of the municipalities. We function on the same lines as that of GMDA (Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority). In fact, GMDA was a part of us until 1992, when it bifurcated from us as Guwahati was declared a metropolis,” he added.
“Anyway, our sole earnings are the developmental projects, which are limited in number. As such our earnings are less. Meanwhile, expenditures are huge - the salaries (except that of the Deputy Director who gets paid by the government), facilities provided to the Chairman and other regular expenditures pertaining protocols. And without enough revenue it’s difficult to sustain. Despite our
work we are not self-sustainable,” said another employee.
The AADAEJC allege that although regular grant-in-aids were allocated by the Congress government, only one minimal grant has been provided in the current five-year-long tenure of the current BJP government. And without any government aid, the authorities are struggling to provide the salaries with just the ‘minimal revenue’ earned.
“It’s not that employees were not paid at all for four years altogether. But it’s irregular. For example, the Dibrugarh Development Authority needs about Rs. 4 to Rs. 5 lakhs for paying just the monthly salaries. But the earnings are hardly Rs. 1 lakh a month, which is insufficient to accommodate all. So we have to wait for about four to 5 months to gather the total amount, and pay subsequently. We could pay just the salary of three months a year, and the rest remains pending,” explained Sanjib Borgohain.
“This is happening for the past four years. Now, it depends from district to district. But as a whole we can say that the employees are left without pay from nine to a maximum of 60 months. We understand that we are a semi-government organisation, but we have to follow every government work rule and work like every other government employee, right from working in the census process to
helping with flood relief, elections, housing schemes and all. So why be biased towards us when it comes to paying the salaries only?” he added.
Without financial support from the government these authorities are struggling for survival. Although time and again the government has proposed certain monetization schemes, the authorities claim that they do not even have the basic funding to develop infrastructure for such schemes. “We can take loans from the banks but the government is not even willing to be the guarantor or pay off the liabilities, if such a situation arises. We are already broke, how can we bear more?” said a council member.
The council has informed that some employees have even retired from service due to superannuation without any retirement benefits. They further stated that their repeated persuasions and memorandums had been left without any action from the government.
What are the Development Authorities?
The Development Authorities in Assam were created under the Assam Town & Country Planning Act, 1959 (as amended) to implement the master plans prepared by the Town and Country Planning department.
Currently, there are 24 Development Authorities in Assam performing various functions, almost equivalent to that of the municipal corporations.
The official website of the Directorate of Town and Country Planning clearly states the following about the financial situation of the authorities – “Development Authorities are annually provided a grant-in-aid by the state government for administrative expenditure, which only meets their minimal requirements.”
The Urban Development Authorities’ (UDA) own major sources of funding are from the fees and charges collected for building permit and land sale application and processing, site and services scheme.
Additionally, UDAs are allowed to borrow from banks, take government grants, loans and aids, etc.
However, consequent to the amendment of the Assam Town & Country Planning Act, 1959 and Assam Municipal Act, 1956, as per the provisions of the 74th Constitutional Amendment Act, 1992, the power of granting building permission and land sale permissions, which was earlier vested on Development Authorities, was transferred to the Municipal Board or Town Committees for areas within municipal
jurisdiction. And the Urban Development Authorities have been left with just the implementation and enforcement of the provisions of the master plan only in areas outside municipal limits, in addition to the infrastructure development schemes of such areas.
G Plus took up the matter with the Directorate of Town and Country Planning. Director Nagen Kalita said, “We cannot comment on the matter. The Act provides that the Development Authorities earn their own salaries and provisions are made accordingly. It is for the government to decide. We have forwarded the memorandum given to us to the higher authorities. I cannot comment further.”
In a press conference organised earlier this month by the All Assam Development Authority Employees’ Joint Council, the members demanded the provincialization of their jobs, immediate payment of salaries as well as the pensions and other monetary benefits of retired employees.
Demanding uniform service rules for all employees they asked the government to regularize its functioning on the lines of its counterparts of the other states of India.
The employees have been repeatedly placing their grievances to the authorities and are again highlighting the same prior to the assembly elections with hopes of early respite. They are hoping that the parties understand their plight and consider solutions in their respective manifestoes.
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