Punjab: Employees’ phone allowance in focus, finance dept bats for a cut

Kanchan Vasdev
punjab cm amarinder singh, government of punjab, employees of punjab government, punjab news, indian express news

In a presentation to the Chief Minister Amarinder Singh recently, the Finance Department has stated that the tariff rates during last eight years have reduced to almost half. (File)

The cell phone allowance to 3.15 lakh employees of Punjab government is being seen as an unnecessary drain on the government resources. The cell phone allowance, fixed in October 2011, when corporate schemes offered by telecommunication companies were not in vogue, costs the state excehquer Rs 101.2 crore annually.

As the government is looking at cutting corners to save money in the backdrop of a cash crunch, the phone allowance of employees has come in focus. The issue has been raised by the Finance Department seeking rationalisation of various schemes.

In a presentation to the Chief Minister Amarinder Singh recently, the Finance Department has stated that the tariff rates during last eight years have reduced to almost half, mobile phone allowances allowed to employees of government of Punjab have remained unchanged for all categories and the concept of closed user group has not been introduced.

The state government initially allowed mobile allowance on voice call facility, and these days the telecom companies provide additional services besides voice calls such as data services, SMS services even at much cheaper rate than it was in 2011. But no effort was done to look at the cell phone allowance of the government employees.

In October 2011 as per the allowance fixed by the government then, out of total 3.15. 649 employees, 16,061 Class A employees get an allowance of Rs 500 every month and the burden on state exchequer is Rs 9.6 crore annually.

As many as 28,136 Class B employees get Rs 300 and cost Rs 10.1 crore and 2,26,329 Class C employees are given Rs 250 per month cost of Rs 67.9 crore. As many as 45,123 Class D employees at Rs 250 per month cost Rs 13.5 crore to the exchequer.

The Finance Department has given a proposal that if the allowance is revised, the state could save Rs 45 crore annually. As per the proposal, for Group A this should be revised from Rs 500 to 200 , for Group B from Rs 300 to 175, Group C from Rs 250 to 150 , and Group D from Rs 250 to 100. This would save the government Rs 45.3 crore.

Punjab’s employees get the maximum salaries in India. The fat salary bill amounting to about RS 24,000 crore annually burns a huge hole in the state’s pocket. Successive Finance Ministers have scoffed at for the salary bill th government has to cut down on capital expenditure.