The Andhra Pradesh government is now mired in a serious problem in the form of the burgeoning list of rapacious demands of Secretariat employees who are supposed to move out of Hyderabad and relocate to Amaravati, the new capital of the truncated state.
The major demands put forth by the 1,900 employees included:
i) 30 percent of HRA to those relocating from Hyderabad;
ii) Five-day week instead of the current six-day week to enable those leaving their families behind in Hyderabad to make weekly visits;
iii) Bachelor accommodation for those who would be moving alone. There are employees who have children pursuing higher education, or have immediate family members who are under medical supervision. (450 staffers made this demand);
iv) Waiver of toll tax on the National Highway between Hyderabad and Guntur so that they can use their own vehicles (250 staffers asked for this). Over 450 employees offered to move to Amaravati with their families and sought accommodation in the new location.
Though the employees seem to be asking for too much, the president of AP Secretariat Employees Association U Muralikrishna doesn’t feel that their demands come from avarice. He has told Firstpost that the government will agree to these “genuine demands” as the employees have to undergo much hardship while relocating to the new capital.
The government is trying to arrive at a ballpark estimate of the burden on the exchequer, if these demands are to be fulfilled.The state government has entrusted the responsibility of dealing with employees and addressing their challenges in moving to the new capital to Chief Secretary SP Tucker.
The Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014 has provided for Hyderabad being the joint capital for AP and Telangana for 10 years from the date of bifurcation. But for very obvious political and administrative reasons, the AP government chose to move the capital to the new location as soon as possible.
The government wants to commence the shifting of staffers from 27 June in three phases and complete it by December 2016.
Accordingly, the construction of a temporary secretariat was commenced. Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, on 25 April, completed the customary inauguration on an identified muhurtam.
If the 1,900-odd employees in the AP Secretariat, who will be moving to Amaravati from Hyderabad, are given the concessions they sought, the 8,000 employees working in various government departments would naturally expect similar concessions. Aside from this, there a few hundreds of policemen, and over 1,500 employees working under different organisations created under Schedule 9 and 10 of the Constitution.
The number of staffers to move from Hyderabad will grow once the Road Transport Corporation and electricity departments are divided between AP and Telangana.
The government is struggling with the spiralling estimate of the temporary secretariat to an amount of Rs. 1,000 crore, a paucity of funds, and the Centre’s categorical assertion declining special category status. It now has to do the task of convincing the machinery that actually runs the administration.
Moving from one location to the other, that too under compulsion, will be challenging for anyone, says K S Jawahar Reddy, Principal Secretary to Government, Panchayat Raj. Reddy heads the committee that deals with the employees’ shifting. It wouldn’t be a surprise, if a large number of employees are reluctant to move out of Hyderabad. They are volunteering to shift, and all that they want is a few concessions. Regarding the concessions, Reddy says, the government can deal with them.
Andhra Pradesh Non-Gazetted Officers (NGO) Association president P Ashok Babu says that people need not be cagey about their needs. The nature of demands may go through the roof and the list too may become longer. But that’s natural. “Just because we put across our demands, there is no guarantee that the government will agree to all of them. The Secretariat employees work within the four walls of their work place, unlike those working in the other government departments and district offices. So, it is natural for them to seek more concessions,” he quipped.
For instance, the chief minister was favourably disposed towards the demand for 30 percent of house rent allowance (HRA) on a par with those in Hyderabad, even in Amaravati. Ashok Babu feels that if any employee, who is working in Guntur and draws only 20 per cent of basic pay as HRA, approaches the court of law, the enhancement for others will be struck down, as it defies any logic. So, if a concession has to be extended, the government must find an unassailable way to justify its actions and continue the concession. The government can offer an HRA of 20 per cent and give the additional 10 per cent as an incentive for relocating from Hyderabad.
However, all these concessions will be limited to a specified period and they cannot be offered permanently, says Jawahar Reddy.
Regarding the five-day week, employees,who are already working in the new capital region, are already seething with anger and disgruntlement. Ashok Babu doesn’t rule out the possibility of a divide among employees who are already working in AP and those migrated from Hyderabad, due to the differential treatment. The working hours too will become a bone of contention. He says that AP is the only state where the number of working hours is less – 10 am to 5.30 pm, whereas even the central staff, who have a five-day working pattern, work from 9.30 am to 5.30 pm.
Meanwhile, doubts are being expressed over the completion of the Secretariat buildings within the stipulated time.
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