The government today raised to Rs 2,100 from Rs 1,000 the Puja bonus of employees earning up to Rs 20,000 a month and doubled the ex-gratia for pensioners in a move that will cost the exchequer over Rs 127 crore.
The move is an apparent bid to “appease” government employees who will not get a hike in dearness allowance for three months, sources said. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee had announced the decision yesterday.
Finance minister Amit Mitra also announced today that government employees would get 50 per cent of the Fifth Pay Commission arrears this year instead of the full amount.
Earlier, government employees with monthly salaries of up to Rs 16,000 used to get an ex-gratia amount of Rs 1,000 before the Pujas. With the widening of the salary slab, around 10 lakh employees will now get the increased bonus of Rs 2,100.
Mitra also increased the Puja bonus of retired government employees from Rs 400 to Rs 800. The number of retired employees is estimated to be 4.3 lakh. No eligibility criteria has been set for the pensioners.
The move will cost the exchequer an additional Rs 127.2 crore — Rs 110 crore for the employees and Rs 17.2 crore for the pensioners.
Since the 2000-01 financial year, the Left government had been paying a Puja bonus of Rs 1,000 to its employees and Rs 400 to pensioners. Before 2000, the employees used to get Rs 2,000 as bonus. The amount for pensioners was Rs 400.
Those employees who get salaries between Rs 20,000 and Rs 28,000 can avail themselves of an interest-free festival advance of Rs 2,000. The earlier amount was Rs 1,000, which employees with salaries between Rs 16,000 and Rs 26,000 used to get. The advance will have to be returned in instalments within eight months.
“On the instructions of chief minister Mamata Banerjee, we have decided to hike the Puja bonus. People need cash in hand ahead of the festive season,” Mitra told the Assembly today.
“The government decided to revise the Puja bonus amount after sensing the resentment among the employees following the three-month freeze on DA hike,” a source said.
The finance minister also announced that government employees would get 50 per cent of the third and final instalment of arrears of the Fifth Pay Commission this year, although they were supposed to get the full amount.
Mitra said the payment of arrears would cost the exchequer around Rs 500 crore this year. “The remaining 50 per cent is likely to be paid next year,’’ a source said.
Asked when the government planned to pay arrears for the three-month freeze on DA hike, Mitra said: “We will decide on that later.’’
State government employees get 35 per cent of basic and grade pay as DA while their central government counterparts receive 51 per cent.
The state employees were expected to get a DA instalment at an increased rate from July 1 this year but the government postponed it citing “financial stress’’.