Opinion: Unanswered questions on Jagan govt’s cash crunch claims

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The Andhra Pradesh government’s decision to pay employees’ salaries in two installments has triggered doubts on its true intentions. It is saying that the second installment will be certainly paid at a later stage but has not given any definite date. Doctors, police and sanitation staff are exempted from this cut. But all other departments are also involved in preventive measures some way or another. There is always the threat of making it a practice once this kind of salary cuts begins in the name of financial crisis.

There are also doubts on the government’s claims of cash crunch though it is talking about effect of COVID-19 threat and consequential revenue loss. It should not be forgotten that the true impact of Coronavirus can be felt only after a month or so. Its real effect on financial position would depend on how the country tackles it in coming weeks.

The State revenues were not affected in a big way till March 22, when Janata Curfew was held and subsequently national lockdown began. Amid this, it is a fact that the AP government made payments to its favoured contractors – Rs. 2,000 Cr on March 30 and Rs. 4,400 Cr on March 31, 2020. These payments were made as the national lockdown was in force for over a week then. Now, the Chief Minister is saying as if the government has run out of money to pay employees’ salaries.

The huge payments made to contractors in the last two days of the financial year are proof enough of where the government’s real interests lie. It’s clearly a game plan to use Coronavirus scare as an excuse. Rather than using the money for the welfare of common man, the people in power are diverting the public funds to benefit their cronies. It’s a government for the cronies, by the cronies and for the cronies, but not the one for, of and by the people.

As a matter of fact, the Governor cleared the AP Appropriation Ordinance for 3-months Vote-on-Account budget on March 29. The government was authorised to draw Rs. 70,995 Cr from the Consolidated Fund of the State. The government had not expressed concerns over big cash crunch at that time. In fact, it projected a total expenditure of Rs. 2,26,178 Cr for 2019-`20 financial year, which was an increase by 18.38 per cent over 2018-`19.

Also, in its budget estimates, the government raised allocation for development schemes from Rs 49,103 Cr during 2018-`19 to Rs. 65,486 Cr during 2019-`20.
Actually, the governments have no authority to cut salaries of employees in any occasion other than a financial emergency imposed in the country as per the Article 360 of the Constitution. If the AP government still defends its decision, then it is for the people to realise how this government’s inefficiency is exposed in mismanaging the state finances for just a week from March 25 to March 31 during lockdown period.

Employees will be thoroughly disadvantaged if their salaries are denied now. They don’t have ration cards, can’t claim rice, dal and sugar. They will not be able to get even loans to pay house rentals in this virus scare situation which is further worsened by the AP government’s maladministration and negligence.

Obviously, the Telangana GO on salary cuts and indefinite postponements was copied in ditto by the AP government. Perhaps, the Telangana GO has not mentioned cuts for Advisors’ salaries because it has no top level advisors at the level of the government. But, the AP GO also omitted Advisors despite the fact that over 30 Advisors are present drawing higher salaries than even senior IAS officers.

Undoubtedly, salary cuts are made unavoidable only to save funds so that the chosen few can get bills passed by collecting three to five per cent commissions. Without any principles, they are taking advantage of even a world epidemic like Coronavirus situation. No wonder, all these payments may also be shown as have been meant for purchase of bleaching powder or medical masks.

It is beyond anybody’s imagination why, instead of using employees’ services to prepare action plans to fight COVID-19, the government is cutting their salaries. It is a matter of debate now whether financial crisis arose because of employees’ failure or lack of vision on the part of the rulers. Sadly, the government’s decision will surely have an indirect impact on the private sector employees.

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