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Prasanna Mishra

The Government of Odisha recently decided to release the increased Dearness Allowance (DA) to its employees that would give additional amount of 11% of their basic pay and increase the DA to 28% of their pay. In a separate order, the state government also decided to release additional Dearness Relief (DR) to the pensioners raising the DR to 28% from 17% of the basic pension.

Local print media have reported this decision as Puja Gift to the government employees. This merits some discussion. Gift to a government servant is regulated by the conduct rules of the government employees. As a general rule, gift is considered as an unmerited favour to the government employee. 

In the festive atmosphere before or during festivals, gifts to near and dear ones and friends have become a widespread practice. In many cases precious items pass off as gifts and are given by interested parties to gain favour with people in government. While government employees in crucial assignments are more vulnerable to heavy gifts, gifts elude thousands of government employees who are positioned in unimportant seats. Gifts act as lubricant and make the grant of favour from government easier. Gift-givers' visits to people in power become hassle-free; their papers move faster; favourable decisions are more likely. Gifts make quick friends in the corridors of power. 

In the case of release of DA and DR, the use of the term Puja Gift, however, is intended to create a different meaning to relationship between the government employees and government. In our country, a consensus has developed to ensure complete protection to government employees and pensioners against price rise through DA or DR, as the case may be. They get two DA rises every year, in January and July. There was disruption to this arrangement last year due to unprecedented constraint on resources arising out of covid pandemic. 

Government of India however released the enhanced DA a few months ago and Odisha Government followed recently. What the employees are to get now is their entitlement, it is not gift.

To term an entitlement as gift would create an impression of a Royal favour to its servants—a situation not envisaged in our Constitution. 

Ours is not a Monarchy nor an Oligarchy where affairs of state are conducted through favours, rewards and tips. Ours is a Democracy and it runs through Rule of Law. Media is widely regarded as the Fourth Pillar of Democracy and it is duty bound to foster a climate that strengthens democratic ethos in our polity rather than promote an oligarchical or feudalistic disposition. Gift is a device to create an unethical bonding; it creates an obliging clientele. Therefore, terming the payment of DA as puja gift is likely to dent objectivity of the government employees. It is hoped the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to journalists Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov for their fight for freedom of expression and free, independent and fact-based journalism would enrich our journalism. 

While on the DA issue, the prevailing inequity with regard to another segment of government employees deserves mention. There are thousands of employees who are out of the DA advantage. They get a consolidated amount as remuneration and have no hedging against inflation. Many of them do job similar to regular employees and yet the principle of ‘equal pay for equal work’ doesn’t apply to them. They seem to be children of the lesser God. This is perhaps time the anomaly was removed and those employees got regular pay and the prescribed Dearness Allowance. 

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same. The author can be reached at lonewalker.1942@gmail.com)

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