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Disparities and protests

Abdul Rahman Malik

The people of Pakistan have experienced a strange history of protests and their economical repercussion on individuals and the country as a whole. The protests are taken out by the political parties, civil society for the human rights or demanding justice for any injustice with any person or any brutal murder and the employees protesting for their salary raise, allowances, structure, bonuses, privatisation of govt enterprises and regularization issues. Even excessive regulation issues irk the employees to adopt the way of protests if such laws and regulations might endanger their jobs. The protests include traffic jams, hunger strikes, long marches, sit-ins, protest demos. The angry mobs take to streets and record their protests in favour of their genuine demands. Such protests have so far been very successful and the government is compelled to bow down before these employees unions, civil society and political workers and disperse the protesters after dialogue process because the use of force will further aggravate the situation and turn the scene into a battleground if the situation is mishandled by law enforcement agencies. This leads to “wheel jams”, “pen down” protest demos and hunger strikes putting governments under immense pressure leaving no other option except the acceptance of their demands to peacefully disperse violent mobs who engulf the Executive Office and try to cross the Red Zones. The protests become more extreme when religious parties take to roads against any religious or blasphemy issue.
It is pertinent to mention here that mostly the top bureaucrats of PAS, PSP, OMG, PMS, EX-PCS, PSS, IRS and others consider themselves superior creatures that is because they pass such exam that is branded as Central Superior Services (CSS) at Federal level and Provincial Management Service (PMS) at provincial level. If we take the example of the Education and Health departments, the secretary level bureaucrats feel that they are experts in policy making for these key social sector departments but the fact is that these departments could be run smoothly by the Executive Officers from the Health and Education since they understand the technical terms and needs of the departments more effectively than these civil servants who can handle office and revenue related tasks. It is ironic that there is no quota of gazetted officers from school education, college education and health departments to be posted as Secretaries, Additional Secretaries and Section Officers. Even government confers special allowances and perks upon employees of President House, PM House, Senate, National Assembly, Governor House, CM house and Secretariat employee such as Utility allowances, Pay bonuses, House Rent and other privileges which are not provided to any employee serving at Divisional, District and Tehseel level. The perks such as time scale increments are offered to one department while another department is deprived of such perks.
Our respective Judiciary enjoys high pay packages and they should also pass ruling to bring the pay package in the same stage in lieu of grades to address the anomalies. It means if any grade 17 officer of any department taking a salary, the same should be offered to another department employee of the same grade in order to escape the violent protests and pen down strikes. It is also worthy to mention here that the pay packages of the employees of corporate enterprises such as PIA, OGDCL, SSGC, SNGPL, and PPL etc are five times higher with fringe benefits such as unlimited health facilities, free education and scholarships and overtime facilities that are rare in other departments. Even over time facility is not available to Executive Bureaucrats. Such high-level disparities warrant the Government that it should address the variance in the pay packages of Pure Government Employees, Project Based Positions and Corporate Employees so that anomalies could be resolved. For Example, an officer of BPS-17 in BISP draws 200000 per month on deputation basis since he is entitled to draw a project allowance of 75000 plus his own pay and a DSM BPS-17 draws 250000 in PPHI (health Project) and there are several cases of such project-based Positions.
Since it is unjust to favour some employees working in Federal and Provincial Secretariats i.e President House, PM House, Senate , National Assembly , Governor House , CM House, Provincial Assemblies Secretariats while deprive those who are also governed under the same Civil Servant rules , though , they don’t have any specified cadre except SUG (Services Unified Grade) or Non-Administrative Cadres. The policy of posting, transfer, promotion and regularization must be revised and a quota with ratio of 60:40 should be approved in each concerned department where 60% should be from the same departments such as Education, Health, Energy, Forest, Agriculture, Revenue etc and 40% quota should be allocated for the civil servants since the officers from the department will resolve the issues on a priority basis and will provide relief to the concerned employees. The promotion cases must be dealt on an annual basis to avoid the disappointment of employees that it affects their output. The civil services reforms are the need of the hour so that administrative imbalance could be fixed and protests of deprived employees could be averted by providing them with their due right of promotion, confirmation, regularization etc. I recall the case of some teachers who were appointed through recruitment tests conducted by Professional Testing Services such as NTS, Sindh University, Sukkur IBA and other agencies in a transparent manner by Sindh Government but after completion of their contract, they are protesting for their confirmation since govt is bound to regulate the services of such teachers and headmasters who are rendering their services professionally. Is it justified that teachers and IBA headmasters should protest for their rights on the streets of Karachi while Police baton charges such teachers and may use tear gas and water cannons to disperse them? Finally, it’s pertinent to add that unless the disparities are addressed, protests will continue unabated.
— The writer is freelance columnist, based in Sindh.