Secret allowance, family planning allowance, desk allowance, cash handling allowance, metropolitan allowance and headquarters allowance are among 52 of the nearly 200 allowances which the government could scrap soon.
The Seventh Pay Commission found inadequate the justifications offered by the Ministries for these allowances. The government was asked to suggest rationalisation of a variety of allowances. A committee is examining the Commission’s recommendations.
The Commission found the entire system of nearly 200 allowances “haphazard”. There are 13 for travel, 14 for additional duty, 51 for risk and hardship, nine for uniform, 4 for good services, 5 sumptuary allowances, 2 for training and 3 for knowledge update. Many were meagre cash payments and lost significance, it concluded.
Rejecting the demand for doubling the family planning allowance — ranging from Rs. 210 to Rs.1,000 a month depending on grade pay — for those who adopt family planning norms after one child, the Commission recommended that it be abolished as a separate allowance was no longer needed.
Also to be abolished is the “meagre and outdated” Rs. 90 a month cycle allowance to postal officials. The briefcase allowance, paid once in three years and covering expenditure of up to Rs.10,000 on handbags, could be enhanced.
Allowances are paid to employees — both in civil and defence jobs — over and above the basic pay, either as a percentage of it, or as a specified amount, which usually varies with employees’ “level or status.” Children’s education allowance is an exception for which the absolute amount is the same across all ranks. Besides recommending that 52 allowances be abolished, the Commission suggested that another 36 be subsumed in an existing allowance or in new allowances it proposed.
While allowances for newspapers, Internet and mobile phones are paid in the private sector, government employees seem to be receiving a whole bunch of top-up payments, including in cash, for simply carrying out their job. Arguing that responding to emergencies is part of the duties of any government servant, it recommended the scrapping of breakdown allowance given by the Ministry of Railways. Similarly, it found no need for secret allowance paid every month as a flat sum for dealing with ‘Top Secret’ in the Cabinet Secretariat or metropolitan allowance for Delhi Police personnel on account of “hardship faced in a metropolitan” area. The present rates are Sub-Inspector Rs.180 a month and Constable, Head Constable and Assistant Sub-Inspector Rs. 120.
The axe could also fall on headquarters allowance (Rs. 225 a month) paid to officers of Organised Group A Service in the Department of Telecom and some other Ministries for postings at the headquarters. With growing emphasis on banking, it recommended abolishing cash handling allowance for cashiers working in Central government departments. It is paid at rates starting from Rs. 230 for disbursing sums less than Rs. 50,000 on an average in a month and goes up to Rs. 900 for sums in excess of Rs. 10,00,000.
Investigation allowance to attract talent from other Ministries to the Serious Fraud Investigation Office of the Ministry of Corporate Affairs is another such example.
Some allowances it has renamed. Special allowance paid to members of expedition teams visiting Antarctica will now be called Antarctica Allowance. The Indian Antarctic Program Team Leader gets Rs.1,856.80 a day in winters and Rs. 1,237.50 a day in summers. Other members get Rs.1,688 a day in winters and Rs.1,125 a day in summers.
With the rise in pay scales offered by the successive Pay Commissions, it found little need for sumptuary allowances to reimburse employees’ expenditure on entertaining visitors. These include the entertainment allowance for the Cabinet Secretary and in the Railways; official hospitality grant in the defence forces; and sumptuary allowance in training establishments and to judicial officers in the Supreme Court Registry. It recommended that expenditure on hospitality should be treated as office expenditure for which the Ministry of Finance should fix the ceilings.
The Commission received many demands for children’s education allowance and extending it to cover graduation and post-graduation levels. But it rejected them.
SOURCE - THE HINDU