Employees from a number of government departments and agencies have donated a day’s salary toward the PM-CARES fund .
While the donations, meant for COVID-19 relief, were said to be “voluntary”, government circulars show that the deductions were made directly from salaries. Those unwilling to donate were asked to submit their refusal in writing.
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Revenue Dept. notice
On Friday, the Revenue Department in the Finance Ministry sent a circular to all officials, including those on the boards for direct and indirect tax.
“It has been decided to appeal to all officers and staff to contribute their one day’s salary every month till March 2021 to the Prime Minister's Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situation (PM-CARES) Fund to aid the Government’s efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic,” the circular read.
‘Objections in writing’
“Any officer or staff having objection to it [the donation] may intimate Drawing and Disbursing Officer (DDO) in writing mentioning his/her employee code latest by 20.04.2020,” the circular added.
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The communication come as a surprise to the officers and staff of the department as, they say, typically requests for such contributions come through the employees’ association. Further, employees were never asked to give it in writing if they did not want to donate.
“No one actually asks. And one day per month for a year is 12 days. That is 40% of a monthly salary,” said one joint secretary level official, who did not want to be named. “An average employee of the Government of India gets between ₹50,000 and ₹80,000 per month. That’s one salary and maybe three dependents. So it’s tough on them,” the official said.
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“Is PM-CARES a financial requirement or a public relations stunt?” asked another senior central government official, who also did not wish to be named.
Earlier in the month, resident doctors from four government hospitals in the capital objected to the automatic deduction from their salary of the donation, demanding that it be made an opt-in system, so that only those who wished could choose to donate. Last week, both AIIMS and Safdarjung hospitals agreed to the demand.
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However, a similar situation continues at a number of central ministries. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh himself “approved a proposal” for the contribution of a day’s salary to PM-CARES from all ministry employees, including Army, Navy, Air Force and Defence Public Sector Units, according to an official statement just days after the fund was launched.
The Ministry estimated a collective donation of ₹500 crore, but added that “the employees’ contribution is voluntary and those desirous of opting out will be exempted”.
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On the same day, a Supreme Court registry circular informed staff of the decision that all gazetted officers would donate three days’ salary, while non-gazetted employees would donate two days’ salary and all group C non-clerical employees would donate a day's salary. Anyone who did not wish to contribute was given a day’s time to send an SMS to the DDO of the Supreme Court. “Non-receipt of SMS by the indicated date shall be taken as their consent to donate,” said the circular.