Festival advance only for lower level staff

CHENNAI, NOV. 1. Bowing to pressure from staff unions, the State Government, despite a severe financial crisis, today decided to release festival advance. But the advance of Rs. 1,000 each would be given only to 1.8 lakh lower-level employees.

The Finance Department has issued an order sanctioning Deepawali advance for Group D staff members who include office assistants. About Rs. 10 crores has been earmarked for disbursal of the advance.

Till this year, the Government was giving the advance a month ahead of Deepawali to all its 10 lakh employees. This year the cash-strapped Government could not mobilise Rs. 50 crores and held up the advance.

However, in the face of mounting pressure from the staff unions which threatened to go on a strike, the government has decided to extend the gesture to a ``limited and most deserving section of the employees''.

Faced with an unprecedented financial crisis, the Government is holding up payments for contractors to disburse salaries and pensions, which swallow up 94 per cent of the tax revenue.

According to official sources, an estimated Rs. 1,800 crores due to contractors is yet to be cleared, and consequently, several key development projects are hanging fire. The cash reserves have been completely depleted and the government's outstanding debt has crossed Rs. 29,000 crores. It is now paying salaries only by availing itself of overdraft facilities of the Reserve Bank and using the State's share of tax revenues given by the Centre. ``If the Centre fails to give the tax share on time, the Government will not be able to pay salaries to its staff,'' the sources say.

While the Group D Employees Association has thanked the Government for disbursal of the advance, members of the Tamil Nadu Government Staff Association held a demonstration at Chepauk there demanding immediate payment of the festival advance to all sections and also a two per cent dearness allowance fixed by the Centre.

The Tamil Nadu Government Employees Union has opposed the decision to grant festival advance only to Group D employees. It appealed for similar disbursal to all other employees as the amount is recoverable in 10 monthly instalments.

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