Home Stories

Central government employees and pensioners question government on delay in releasing DA/DR frozen during Covid

The union government had frozen the Dearness Allowance (DA) and Dearness Relief (DR) of central government employees and pensioners during Covid-19. The employees have been demanding the government to release the amount ever since. Government employees and pensioners ask why the government is dilly-dallying on this critical issue even as they are spending thousands of crores on development projects, including writing off loans of big corporate houses.

By Pavitra Utgikar
New Update

publive-imageRepresentative image | Photo courtesy: Special arrangement

The Dearness Allowance (DA) and Dearness Relief (DR) of central government employees were frozen by the government during the Covid-19 pandemic. Lakhs of government employees and pensioners who have been waiting for their pending arrears are hoping that they may get a concrete response from the government after Union Budget 2023, but many ask why did the government freeze the payments even when it went the extra mile to waive off bad loans of corporates and spend thousands of crores on infrastructure projects.

The Probe’s Pavitra Utgikar speaks to P.S Suriyaprakasam, Joint General Secretary of National Federation of Indian Railwaymen and General Secretary of Southern Railway Employees’ Sangh

“During the pandemic, railway employees suffered a lot. Many of them died. As per the government, nearly 3350 employees have lost their lives to Covid-19. But our data has shown that nearly 10,000 people died because of Covid-19, not 3350. During this period, the government extracted work from the railway employees. But so far, the government has not paid these victims’ families a single rupee as compensation. Their DA arrears of 18 months have been on hold. The government is spending lavishly on reconstructing the stations. They are spending 10,000 crores. The government is spending thousands of crores on the Central Vista project. The centre is waiving off loans, but the government employees who serve the nation are given a step-motherly treatment,” says P.S Suriyaprakasam, Joint General Secretary of the National Federation of Indian Railwaymen and General Secretary of Southern Railway Employees’ Sangh.

In a written statement in Parliament last month, Union Minister of State for Finance Pankaj Choudhary, when asked about the release of arrears of DA and DR to government employees and pensioners, had replied: “The decision to freeze three instalments of Dearness Allowance (DA) and Dearness Relief (DR) to central government employees and pensioners due from 1.1.2020, 1.7.2020 and 1.1.2021 was taken in the context of Covid-19 which caused economic disruption so as to ease pressure on government finances. As the adverse financial impact of the pandemic in 2020 and the financing of welfare measures taken by the government has a fiscal spillover beyond Financial Year 2020-21, the release of arrears of DA/DR was not considered feasible.”

“We have given letters and have had discussions with the cabinet secretary, and we have given our representations to the Prime Minister and the Railway minister. We have been pursuing a lot, but nothing has come out of it. The Department of Personnel and Training recently told us that they are willing to discuss the matter, but we have not heard anything concrete from them,” confirms Suriyaprakasam.

Many central government employees for months have been protesting to get their dues. V.N. Mishra, Senior Vice Chairman of the National Ex-Servicemen Coordination Committee, says that his organisation has submitted several memorandums to the Defence Minister but has yet to receive a response from the ministry.

“We have written to the Defence Minister on the issue. During Covid, we tried to understand that the government was in a critical position and, therefore, could not pay. But the critical phase of Covid is over. All restrictions that were imposed have been lifted. Then why are the Dearness Allowance and Dearness Relief still suspended? Many soldiers and their family suffered a lot during the pandemic, and many others are not even alive to take this money. This is something the government really owes to the government employees and pensioners. It should not be delayed anymore. When we approach the centre, we don’t get any concrete assurance,” rues Mishra.

Mishra claims that the rules do not permit him or his association to protest against the government. “There is a limit to which we can protest as we are associated with the Ministry of Defence. We cannot protest too much. When our association registered, there was a clause that we could not go against the Indian government. So, we can only request the government or submit a memorandum to the ministry. Our hands are tied. We cannot protest beyond a point. We can’t engage in any agitational programmes. The government always says that this is a policy matter and will look into it but at the end of the day nothing really happens”.

Shiva Gopal Mishra, General Secretary of the All India Railwaymen’s Federation, says that the government did not consult the stakeholders before deciding to suspend the DA and DR. “During Covid-19 times, many of us had given our day’s salary. Some people had donated two days’ salary, and many others had given their salary worth three days. But unfortunately, when the government took such a big decision, they did not consult us. They did not even try to find out how this would affect us. We have written at least five letters to the Cabinet Secretary. The government has been saying that they will review the matter and they will take a decision. So far, no decision has been taken on the subject,” notes Mishra.

Dearness Allowance is a salary component which is a fixed percentage of the basic salary aimed at hedging the impact of inflation. In July last year, the government increased the DA and DR of the central government employees to 28 per cent from 17 per cent after a long pause.

S Parthasarathy, a retired Senior Section Engineer with the Indian Railways in Chennai, says he has served the railways for four decades but never in the past years has any government resorted to withholding DA and DR. He now says that a decision may finally be taken by the government as election year is approaching. “I served the system proudly for close to 40 years. We have been waiting for our legitimate dues patiently. Even after working with so much dedication for so many decades, I have been losing a lot of money every month because of this. I have been losing roughly 1500 rupees per month. It is unethical for the government to stop DA and DR without consulting stakeholders like us. This is undemocratic. Now, we are all mounting pressure on the government. We are hopeful that we will get our dues after January 31st. They will not delay it anymore because the election year 2024 is approaching,” asserts Parthasarathy.

When The Probe contacted Finance Secretary TV Somanathan on the pending DA and DR arrears, he said, “Nowadays, the budget process is going on in the ministry. So, we cannot comment on the issue.”