Diwali Bonus To Central Government Employees Is Utterly Misplaced And Perverse

India is in the middle of a pandemic. Though, the Central Government would want everybody to believe that COVID-19 has already left India. How to ensure that everybody believes this figment? How to be seen as caring though it is farthest from the reality? Declare the Diwali bonus to central government employees.

Why only Government Employees?

Prakash Javadekar says that the plan is to put cash in employees’ pockets. Why does the Government not plan to put cash in everyone’s pockets? Are the Government’s accountability and responsibility only towards its’ employees? Is it not Diwali for the rest of the people apart from these 30 lac employees?  Who is going to help the remaining 125 Cr citizens celebrate Diwali?

The Government has said that the Diwali bonus addresses a major concern of the middle class. Does the Government think that the Indian middle class is this shallow pool of only 30 lac families? Then, where do the rest of the Indian citizens belong? We are surely not a rich and developed country. With the middle class addressed, the rest has to be poor by the Government’s own admission.

The Government has extended ration scheme. The Government has announced Atmanirbhar Bharat package. Let the Government announce the number of beneficiaries and the financial outgo on the welfare schemes. It would be zilch. The Government doesn’t know the number of migrant workers, for that matter even their existence. But, it does know the existence of 30 lac employees.

Everybody knows that majority of the work in the country came to a standstill during the lockdown. The Government staff hardly did any work during this period. Even now, the work has not picked pace. The private sector employees had to suffer salary cuts, worse lay-offs. Government employees were and are protected. Even better, they get a Diwali bonus.

The Government goes around asking people to donate for PM Cares so that PM can care for the people of the country. Whom does the PM care for? 30 lac employees.

Where is the Diwali to celebrate?

The economy is in a tailspin. Even as per the Government’s doctored data, the GDP has contracted by 24% in Q1 2020. People are losing their jobs and occupations. Livelihoods are vanishing. Life is on the edge. What does one expect the Government to do? Be with the citizens. Give a helping hand to the citizens. Wrong. The Government will give Diwali bonus to central government employees.

The lockdown was messed up. The migrant workers were made to suffer in their own country. The self-employed are left to fend for themselves. The mess of interest on interest in EMI moratorium continues to drag on. What is the Government’s solution to this self-inflicted mess? Give a Diwali bonus to central government employees.

The Government says that festival bonus will spur demand, boost spending and strengthen the economy. What a pitiable condition Indian economy is in? 30 lac Government employees are considered able enough to get the economy moving? Is this all that the Indian economy requires – spending of 30 lac families?

The Government says that it does not have the revenue to spend. The Government’s borrowing is increasing manifold. The debt to GDP ratio is ballooning. So, what does a prudent action require? Cut down on unwanted and unnecessary spending. And if spend you will, try and benefit all. What does the Indian Government do? Benefit 30 lac families. Rest are left to fend for themselves.

The lost opportunity

Would there be any Government employee association, even one employee who would say that our fellow countrymen are suffering, so in solidarity with them, we are letting go of the Diwali bonus? The Prime Minister asks people to sacrifice for the country, why wouldn’t he ask his 30 lac employees for the same?

Diwali bonus has to raise the heckles of the RBI, the opposition leaders and most of, the Indian citizens. Yet, none of this is bound to happen. We have well accepted that the rights of the Government employees are supreme. They need to be paid and taken care of, no matter the condition of the rest of the country.

We are such a contrary lot that if the Diwali bonus would not have been announced, the opposition leaders would have pressured the Government. The employees association would have threatened a strike with full-salary. And, all of us would have supported the plight of the poor Government employees.

COVID-19 was an opportunity for the Narendra Modi Government to tackle the issue of fat salaries. The major portion of Government expenditure goes towards salaries and pensions. A pandemic was a right ingredient to set the matters right and slash the inequities between the wages of the Government and the private sector. Alas, it is a lost chance.

The perverse outcome

The only thing that a Diwali bonus to Government employees in the current environment will do is to further increase the lure of the Government job. The Indian youth are stunted in their most productive years as they keep preparing for the Government jobs endlessly. The Government of India could have set on a course-correction. No, it would choose to further raise the bar of waste.

Diwali bonus for a minority when the vast majority is suffering is an utterly misplaced and perverse move. What’s more nonsensical is that we Indians will gladly accept this unfair and inequitable behaviour from our Government. Really don’t know when we will get the priorities right.

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