No pay for 1 year: Assam hills council plans VRS for staff

Guwahati, December 17 (PTI): Having failed to pay salary to its nearly 2,300 employees for the last one year, the North Cachar Hills Autonomous Council is planning voluntary retirement for around 1,000 staff to “get rid” of them and has sent a Rs 200- crore proposal to the Assam government for approval.


The North Cachar Hills Autonomous Council (NCHAC), which controls almost all departments in the Dima Hasao district with executive power except general administration, police, treasury, election and judiciary, has not paid any salary to its employees since November 2016.


NC Hills Autonomous Council Employees’ Union (NCHACEU) and activists have alleged massive corruption and leakage of funds for the situation.


The council, however, has blamed huge non-required hiring by earlier governments for the current situation and sent a proposal for a Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) for its employees to the Assam government for approval.


“When the new administration took charge of the council 15 months ago, the salaries were pending for nine months. The earlier governments hired unnecessarily, giving jobs to their close ones and that led to this scenario,” NCHAC Chief Executive Member (CEM) Debolal Garlosa told PTI.


The council has 2,270 people on its rolls and salaries have not been paid since November 2016, he added.


“The monthly salary requirement is Rs 6.3 crore, while our revenue collection is just around Rs 2 crore. Moreover, when we took charge, the DA was 65 per cent and now it is 109 per cent. So, how can we handle? No CEM can handle it unless the state or central government helps,” Garlosa said.


When asked about the solution to the present crisis, he said the only way is to reduce the head count immediately so that there is minimum accumulation of wages to be paid, besides working to increase the revenue.


“We can function very well with about 1,200 people. So, around 1,000 people are extra and we need to get rid of them.


We have already prepared a VRS proposal and sent it to the state government for consideration two months ago. We have sought around Rs 200 crore for this,” Garlosa said.


The ruling party of the state BJP controls the council as well. Garlosa alias Daniel Dimasa, a former deputy commander- in-chief of the militant group DHD(J), was made the CEM after the surrender of all cadres following a peace process.


The NCHACEU is not aware of the retirement plan.


“The main issue here is fund leakage. There are resources to generate revenue, but intentions are lacking. There is huge financial mismanagement in the forest department. No leader is giving any account of their departments,” NCHACEU president Prasanna Hasnu said.


Of the employees, around 1,000 are lower primary school teachers, followed by forest officials, including guards.


“The condition of the employees have become pitiable. How will a family sustain if there is no pay for one year? Many have become daily labourers, while some are selling properties. Corruption has increased manifold as people are forced to take bribe to run families,” Hasnu said.


He claimed that the earlier Congress government often paid salaries as ‘grant-in-aid’ to the council, but this has stopped after the BJP government came to power in Assam.


“This government is not taking any interest on the issue.


In July, we launched an indefinite strike but there was no response. We were instead baton charged. When the then Governor Banwarilal Purohit visited the district, we requested him to do something. But nothing has happened,” Hasnu said.


Assam-based rap band Digital Suicide’s lead vocalist Daniel Langthasa has launched a campaign — Singing For Salary to highlight the people’s plight.


Armed with his guitar, the young musician has been singing on streets, market places and every possible locations to create awareness among people about the situation in his home district and is pressing for immediate payment of the wages.


“The idea behind the campaign is to let people know what is happening. It is important as employees themselves are giving up hope,” said Langthasa, whose father and NCHAC Executive Member Nindu Langthasa was allegedly killed by DHD (J) rebels in 2007.