It has been three months of 50% pay cut and the state is silent about when the remainder will be paid up
58-year-old T Devake Devi who lives and works in Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao’s native Karimnagar district, is in dire straits.
Despite having a “secure” job as a teacher in a government school, Devake is uncertain about her future and anxious about the present.
Devake has been struggling against all odds to ensure the best treatment possible for her mentally ill son.
“I have two children and my first son is mentally ill,” Devake Devi told The Lede. “Since I am not in a position to take care of him, I have admitted him in a private hostel. My family is dependent on my salary.”
But with the Telangana government now slashing salaries of all government staff by 50%, Devake’s family has been pushed to the wall.
“The Telangana government claims to be a friendly government. Even we thought so, but deducting our salaries is not a friendly thing. I am a rheumatoid arthritis patient. I am completely dependent on others and have to spend a lot on medication. Even in the school (where she teaches) since I can’t move, I sit in one place and teach the students. Though I have this problem I have never stopped teaching students,” she said.
The financial crunch is so bad that she is unable to pay back a recent home loan, the hostel fee for her son and medication for herself and her son.
“The government has given moratorium to pay home loans but I got to know that if I pay later then I will have to pay more interest which I can’t afford. So I am paying my home loan and taking care of house expenses. Since I have to handle house expenses with this half salary I have stopped buying medication. Now I am buying only essential medicines and stopped buying strength and nutrition-related medicines,” she said.
Devake’s is only one among 1.15 lakh government teachers whose salaries have been cut by half. The entire government machinery has been forced to take similar pay cuts as a result of COVID-19.
That works out to approximately 3.5 lakh government employees and 2.4 lakh pensioners.
It has been three months of receiving just 50% of their salary and these government employees are protesting, saying they are unable to make ends meet.
On June 01, government employees and pensioners from Ikya Vedika (Teachers’ group) and Democratic Teachers Front (DTF) protested in front of all district Collectorates demanding that they get the remaining salary due to them in the months of March, April and May.
Talking to The Lede, State Steering Committee member and DTF state president M Raghushankar Reddy said, “Using the Corona pandemic as a reason, the state government is deducting 50% of salaries for the past three months from government employees and pensioners.”
The nationwide lockdown was announced on March 24. All government employees in Telangana had been working for at least 22 days before the announcement. Yet, their salaries have been halved.
In April and May, many government offices and all government schools were closed. The chief minister had announced a temporary 50% slash in salary to be credited to the staff after the economy stabilised.
“In May, after the lockdown relaxation by both state and central governments, all economic activities have returned to normalcy and the government is getting income. So we have requested the government to pay at least our full basic salary from this month and have sent messages and tweets to the state Finance Minister, Chief Secretary, (IT minister) KTR and the CM,” said Raghushankar Reddy.
“Even for pensioners, in the first month, they have deducted 50%. Since they have gone to the court, government reduced it to 25%. Government employees take loans for children’s education, house loans, based on our salaries. We also have elder parents who need medication and have to bear their hospital expenses. Due to the 50% pay cut, it has become difficult for us to pay EMIs and manage our family needs,” added Reddy.
Government teacher based in Siddipet, 44-year-old A Raghunandan Chary, agrees with Raghushankar Reddy.
“I am the only earning person in my family. I have to take care of the expenses of my children for their education and also the medical expenses of my elder parents. Apart from this I have taken a home loan and have to pay EMI for household items. Thanks to this pay cut, I have taken a private loan of Rs 30 thousand at 3% interest rate for the last three months. I am very worried about how to repay this extra amount,” he added.
The neighbouring Telugu state of Andhra Pradesh initially announced salary cuts and deferments for government employees for the month of March and April in light of the COVID situation. But chief minister, Jaganmohan Reddy, has paid out the entire salary to government employees for the month of May.
“KCR's government hasn't fulfilled his promise made on May 16, 2018, in which he promised to pay our PRC (Pay Revision Commission), IR (Interim Relief) and DA (Dearness Allowance) in three months,” said Raghushankar Reddy. “He also assured us that we will get our IR immediately from June. It is been prolonged for two years. Now they are saying that we will get it on December 31. Whereas our neighbouring state Andhra Pradesh, during Chandrababu Naidu’s tenure got 20% and in the present Jagan government, employees got an additional 7% which comes to a total of 27%.”
It is clear that government employees are struggling. But will this uprising go the way of the RTC buses strike or will all government employees actually band together and demand their dues?