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Defence canteen employees enter 65th day of indefinite strike
The employees of the Unit Run Canteens (URCs) under the Defence services’ Canteen Stores Department (CSD) have been on strike for 65 days running now.
On a nationwide indefinite strike since December 3, the 20,000 URC employees demand the implementation of the recommendations of the Comptroler and Auditor General (CAG) and Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
The two bodies had made observations and recommendations regarding the audit and functioning of the CSD depots and the URCs. One of the many recommendations suggests that the URC employees be paid according to the 6th central pay commission recommendations.
Bharat Bhushan Khulbe, general secretary of the All India Defence Civilian Canteen Employees Union (AIDCCEU) said that representatives of the ministry of defence have so far offered them an increase in pay, but that is not what they are looking for.
“We want the implementation of all the PAC and CAG recommendations. We won’t back down and will take to the streets. We will even gherao the defence minister’s residence if need be,” said Khulbe. At the time of writing, there was no response to TOI’s questions from the MoD officials.
A December 2011 report of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) points out that the URC employees are being paid according to the recommendations of the 5th Central Pay Commission (CPC), but their salaries do not include other allowances like DA and HRA.
“The committee recommend that their case may be considered sympathetically and on humanitarian grounds. There is no cogent reason why the benefits of the 6th CPC should be denied to the employees of the URCs when they were given the benefits of the 5th CPC,” says the PAC report. The CSD function as the wholesale suppliers for URCs, which are the retail units catering to the end-consumer.
The ministry has so far argued that the URC employees are not government employees since they are paid out of a non-public fund. This brings us to the tip of a deep, murky iceberg that has been the standoff between the CAG and the MoD.
There are presently 4,500 URCs in the country, according to the AIDCCEU. The main point of contention so far has been the transfer 50% of CSD profits to what is called the “non-public fund”, used for welfare of service personnel and their families.
The CAG has argued that since these are transferred from the (Consolidated Fund of India) CFI, it should be allowed access for audit of these funds.
“During 2002-03 to 2008-09, a sum of Rs 601.88 crore was appropriated from the CFI being 50 per cent of the net trade surplus. Out of this 63.05 crore was distributed to various beneficiaries. The balance amount of 538.83 crore was shared by services which were transferred to the Non Public Fund despite substantial amount of government funds being transferred to these Non-Public Funds, access continues to be denied to audit and therefore we are unable to provide assurance on the proper utilization of these funds,” says the CAG report on the performance audit of the CSD Canteens. The report was presented in the Lok Sabha in August 2010.
“Some URC employees get paid as little as three to seven thousand rupees a month. The MoD has filed fake affidavits that say that URC employees are not paid out of the CFI,” says advocate Arvind Kumar Shukla, legal advisor to the AIDCCEU.
PAC recommendations: Highlights
URC employees be paid according to the 6th central pay commission recommendations.
URCs be subject to statutory audit by the CAG.
Quantitative Discounts not be used to as an instrument to transfer funds from CFI to non-Public fund.
MoD sanction regular and ad-hoc Grants in aid transparently on the basis of detailed proposals.