New Delhi: The decision taken by different state governments to cut or defer salaries of government employees in light of the Covid-19 pandemic has stoked resentment among Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Police Service (IPS) and Indian Forest Service (IFS) officers posted there.
While some have dismissed the decision as “mere optics”, others said civil servants didn’t earn enough for the cuts to amount to a significant corpus. They also pointed out that the cuts came on top of the voluntary donations they had made to the PM-CARES fund.
The governments of Maharashtra, Telangana, Rajasthan, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh have announced that all elected representatives as well as most government employees will receive 50-70 per cent less pay in March to aid the battle against Covid-19.
While Maharashtra and Telangana have announced pay cuts, Rajasthan, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh have deferred a portion of salaries (100 per cent of elected representatives’ pay will be deferred in Andhra).
Some states have announced exemptions, including for police and healthcare workers in Rajasthan, and employees below Class III in Maharashtra.
All states have either invoked the impact of Covid-19 on finances or the need to shore up funds to justify the cuts, but several IAS, IPS and IFS officers told ThePrint that the argument didn’t hold water.
“The salary of an IAS officer is no more than Rs 2.5 lakh (a month) even if they are at the most senior level in the state… The average salary is Rs 1.5-1.75 lakh,” said an IAS officer from Rajasthan.
“Even if there are 250 officers in a state like Rajasthan, how much are you actually saving? Rs 5 crore? Add all the IPS and IFS officers’ salaries, and you are not talking more than Rs 10-12 crore.”
An IAS Association office-bearer said senior officers constituted a fraction of staff in both the central government and the states.
“It is the Army, railways and the Central Armed Police Forces on which the government spends a large chunk of its resources… But deferring the salary of senior officers makes for better optics,” the officer said. “However, since it is just deferment, and not a salary cut, it is OK.”
An IFS officer agreed. “This seems like mere optics. The government is incurring expenses of thousands and thousands of crores due to Covid-19… How are they going to change anything by saving even Rs 20 crore?”
‘Our work has gone up manifold’
The officers pointed out that several associations had come forward to donate thousands and lakhs of rupees to the PM’s Covid-19 fund, which made the cuts seem “unnecessary”.
“We came out ourselves and donated one day’s salaries or more for the fund. Now everyone is wondering what the point is,” the IFS officer quoted above said.
“Is there a financial emergency in the country that the governments are adopting such extreme measures? If there is, then they should come out clean.”
A retired IAS officer who has been re-employed by the government said it was unlikely that such a step had ever been taken in India’s history. “During wars or other emergencies also, such a step was never taken…But again, this is a situation which is as unprecedented as it gets.”
Vikas Yadav, a retired IAS officer of the UP cadre, echoed the claim. “I don’t remember the government taking such a drastic step before, but since civil servants are the most privileged of government staff, such a situation warrants extreme steps.”
An IPS officer from Delhi said the salary cuts had come at a time when government staff across the board was “working tirelessly to contain the spread of the disease”. The officer said they were scared other state and union territory governments across the country may take similar steps.
“Look at police… Our work has gone up manifold since the outbreak,” said the police officer. “Then why are the salaries being cut or deferred? This is bound to have a negative impact on the morale of thousands of officers and staff working in these tough times.”