The prolonged 214-day strike by state government employees demanding the implementation of the exact clauses of the 6th Pay Commission recommendation with retrospective effect from January 2006 as in the case of Central government employees has thankfully for everybody else in the state, concluded. It is perfectly legitimate for the state government employees to want salaries and benefits at a par with their Central government counterparts, but they did not seem to realise that this is not a guarantee. The 6th Pay Commission looked into matters of a hike in Central government employees only and it was up to the individual state governments to also hike the salaries of their employees in identical manner or else in modified versions. The report of the 13th Finance Commission on whose awards revenue-poor states like Manipur solely depend to foot their own salary bills, clearly mentioned that while it would include provisions for a hike in salaries in the pattern of the 6th Pay Commission recommendations, the question of paying arrears would be solely the prerogative of the individual state government depending on their own means and resources. In other words, the award did not include funds for payment of arrears from January 2006, which for Manipur was estimated to have come to about Rs. 200 crore
It is true some north eastern states like Arunachal Pradesh decided to adopt the 6th Pay Commission recommendations verbatim, and also to pay arrears from January 2006 to the last rupee by borrowing Rs. 300 crore, but it is another matter if this is a prudent decision. By contrast, according to media reports, the Meghalaya government prepared its own Pay Commission recommendations using the pattern set by the Central Pay commission, but after making adjustments that fitted with the needs and means of the state. This is also why the state employees would now be paid as per the recommendations of the 4th State Pay Commission. We are of the opinion that in future, it would be more appropriate for the Manipur government to follow this latter approach. It must know what is in hand and learn to spend within its means. This process of drawing up a balance sheet to decide what is within the state’s means and what is not, must be made transparent, and once this transparency is ensured, the employees must understand what should be their reasonable entitlements.
Our sigh of relief at the news of the end of the employees strike for arrears is on another count. For all the while that the prolonged cease work strike lasted, the message had seemed to be, government employees would even opt Manipur to be reverted back to the status of a Union Territory or even a Part-C state so that they would be Central government employees and thus can enjoy Central salary equivalents. It had seemed qualities like pride and self esteem, dignity of individual identity, freedom of autonomous administrative decision making etc were being bargained away. But let whatever has happened be put away and behind. Let even those accusations from including the chief minister, Okram Ibobi, which the in summary said state government employees should be at least half as passionate about the work they do as they are about the salaries they want, not leave a residue of bitterness, although there would be very few who would not agree the message contained in the statement is extremely relevant. The counter allegation that the government should also end the culture of making fresh and redundant recruitments just for the sake of the crores of rupees of bribe money that would be generated, should be paid heed to earnestly. The 214 days standoff which resulted in virtually no administration for the period should teach both the government and its employees to evolve new cultures in both governance and attitude to work. Let the dies non principle of no work no pay be further extended to also mean government servants getting only as much as the worth of the service they put in. These are incidentally almost natural and intuitive principles in practice in the private sector, so why should they be seen as violation of rights in the case of government employees who are paid public money. This is to say, introduce accountability in governance process as well as government service delivery by introducing penalties for non performers and rewards for performers, in direct as well as indirect ways.