Darjeeling 29 Feb 2016 The casual workers of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration have welcomed the state government’s decision to increase their salary even as they said their long pending demand for regularisation should also be addressed ahead of the Assembly election. The state government’s finance department has issued Order No.1107-F (P) dated February 25, 2016 to revise the benefits and salary of the contractual workers. More than 5,000 workers in the GTA are working on contract basis and they have long been demanding for regularisation. The workers were initially inducted into the now-defunct Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) on contract basis and were paid meagre amounts as remuneration.
In 2007, workers under the aegis of the Janmukti Asthayi Karmachari Sangathan (JAKS) started an agitation demanding permanent status.
In 2011, the state government came up with a formula and put the casual workers in a pay-band structure that included employees of the A and B categories as well. Accordingly, Grade C and D casual workers who had been receiving a monthly salary of Rs2,500 started getting between Rs7,000 and Rs8,500 from 2011. Now, the state government has proposed to increase the salary of the grade C and D workers to Rs20,000 and Rs22,000, respectively, provided the workers have been working for more than 20 years. This aside, the state government has also decided to enhance the remuneration by 3 per cent every year. Welcoming the order, JAKS spokesperson Deepak Sharma said today, “Our primary demand is and will remain regularisation. But we definitely welcome the state government’s decision to increase our salary because this was the need of the hour.” The JAKS had also filed a petition in the high court seeking regularisation and the appeal has been upheld. The state government was directed to start the process of regularisation but it is yet to be implemented. “We sought the court’s help and received a positive verdict. However, the regularisation process has not yet started and we fail to understand why despite the court’s directive. It appears the state government has some plan up its sleeves and the increase in salary is just a diversion,” Sharma said. At present, the GTA has 5,321 casual workers in its payroll with grade C and D employees comprising nearly 90 per cent of the workforce. The state government’s order mentions these workers, but there are no specifications for Grade A and B employees even though they are also included in the existing pay-band structure. “We want the state government to look into this aspect also as the Grade A and B workers are being left out of the increment. We feel that since there isn’t any A and B grade in Bengal, the state government may have overlooked this aspect with regard to the hills while making the revision,” the JAKS spokesperson said.