Drabu’s third budget a mixture of populism, reform

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Srinagar, Jan 11: Much to the delight for over sixty thousand casual laborers, Minister for Finance. Culture and Labour & Employment, Dr Haseeb Drabu while presenting the 2017-18 Budget in the State Assembly Wednesday said a committee already appointed for regularization of 61,000 casual labors will process their regularization.
The FM also declared that the government will implement the recommendations of the 7th pay commission from April 2018 to give a massive 23.5 per cent hike to lakhs of government employees and pensioners in the state.
Dr Drabu told the state legislature that he bargained hard with the employees of the state government on the implementation of seventh pay commission. While praising the employees for their response, he eventually set the deadline for the new pay commission – April 2018.
J&K has an estimated 61,000 casual, seasonal, ad hoc, temporary, NYCs and various other categories of persons engaged in various departments without proper authorization. Drabu said his predecessors “engaged them without thinking about source of wages or remuneration for them” but the incumbent regime treats this problem as a social issue.
“I have a choice to make: either implement the 7th Pay Commission or regularize, in some manner, the estimated 61,000 casual and other workers who have been on the fringes from 10 to 20 years,” Dr Drabu said in his speech. “On grounds of economic and financial logic both have competing claims. Yet on social and moral grounds the case of the casual workers is a much more compelling and a heart rending one.”
In the course of the next financial year, Drabu said the process of regularization of the casual workers of various categories will start subject to a set of guidelines and objective criteria. The regularization will be on a contractual basis. The first category will be those who have given their land to the State Government on the promise of a job and have been left out so far. They will have to go through a process of documentation and verification which will be done by the General Administration Department, he said.
For the remaining categories, a Committee under the chairmanship of Chief Secretary is currently busy in formulation of various options to deal with the issue. During the course of the year, the Government will set out a policy with timelines for absorbing these people.
Drabu said his two previous budgets focussed on micro finance and allocation in the industrially backward state while the present budget aimed at operations.
He proposed a reform in the government's payment system and announced that treasuries would be replaced by functionally aligned pay and accounts offices (PAO) to monitor and control the purpose and objective of payments, budgetary sanctions and ceilings, proper classification and excess payment issues.
For all receipts and disbursements of the government, the PAOs would be departmentally aligned.
"They would deal with those heads of accounts which are related to the functions of their concerned departments.
"Instead of receiving the receipts and disbursing the payments of numerous departments in the treasury system, the PAOs would deal with just one department."
He said the new system would do away with the practice of physically carrying bills, challans and invoices to the treasuries for audit and invoice checking at the department level.
"Instead, a computerised integrated financial management system (IFMS) will process all those functions online. The new system will be in vogue from October 1, 2017 and complete the transition by March 31 the next year," Drabu said.
He also said the state government has decided to waive token tax collected from public transport operators for six months beginning this July.
This was being done to mitigate the sufferings of public transport operators due to shutdowns and curfews during the months of unrest in the Kashmir Valley.
He also announced that the services of all casual labourers working in various departments of the state government would be made permanent from next year while steps would immediately be taken to regularise the services of those contractual labourers who had given their lands free of cost for developmental purposes.
The budget proposals also provide for making Adhaar card compulsory for everybody who seeks a government job in the state.
He said all government departments would get 50 per cent of their fund allocations by February 10 and this would ensure that various projects get started in right earnest without losing any time in the next fiscal.

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