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Near-unanimity in Cabinet on raising retirement age
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 6
There is near-unanimity in the Punjab Council of Ministers, which discussed various demands of employees today, to enhance the retirement age from 58 to 60 years, increase the medical allowance and regularise the services of ad hoc employees.

However, there is hesitation among Ministers as far as giving of the promotional scale on the completion of four, nine and 14 years of service is concerned. The reason is the big financial liability involved in implementing such a decision.

Sources said there was a strong pressure on the government from PCS officers as well as other state-cadre officers to enhance the retirement age. They have been arguing that if IAS and IFS officers can serve up to 60 years, why should they not be treated on a par with them. The state government is aware of the fact that in the Assembly elections, PCS officers posted in the field as Subdivisional Magistrates will be the returning officers of the constituencies in their jurisdiction.

The sources said the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, would make an announcement in this regard in the Assembly on September 15. “ As it will be a policy decision, it will not be appropriate to make such an announcement outside the House when a notification for holding the session has already been issued by the Governor”, said a senior officer.

However, to take full political advantage of the issues concerning employees, the council, which met under the chairmanship of Capt Amarinder Singh, set up a cabinet subcommittee under the Deputy Chief Minister, Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, to hold meetings with representatives of the employees regarding their demands. The subcommittee has been asked to submit its report in a week.

“There will be no political benefit to the government in case it announces the acceptance of demands unilaterally. Holding of negotiations with the representatives of the employees will certainly pay political dividends”, said a Minister.

The next meeting of the council will be held on September 14 where the report of the subcommittee will be discussed and approved. The session of the Assembly will begin in the afternoon on September 14. However, no other business will be transacted on that day except paying tributes to deceased political leaders and other eminent persons.

Despite strong opposition from senior officers concerned, the council gave one-year extension to Mr Surinder Singh Ghuman as Managing Director of PUNSUP. His case was supported in the council by Capt Amarinder Singh, Mrs Bhattal and Mr Lal Singh. Usually, an IAS or senior PCS officer is posted as MD of PUNSUP.

The council also approved the draft of the Punjab State Vigilance Commission Bill 2006, prepared on the basis of the ordinance that came into force on August 25. The sources said that bowing to pressure from IPS officers, the state government has made a mandatory provision in the Bill to appoint a senior IPS officer as Chief Director of the Vigilance Bureau. In the ordinance, the post was kept open for the posting of an IAS officer of the level of Principal Secretary. A provision has also been made for the assured appointment of an Additional Secretary (Government of India) level IPS officer as a member of the Chief Vigilance Commission, Punjab.

The council also approved amendments to the Punjab Regional and Town Planning and Development Act, 1995 (Punjab Act No.11 of 1995).

The government claimed that the objective of the proposed amendments was to reduce the time taken to prepare the master plans for towns and ensure efficiency and administrative convenience. The proposed amendments include a provision for the Chief Minister to be the chairman of PUDA and the Minister in charge as co-chairman, keeping in view the importance of PUDA and the administrative convenience.

The council also approved an amendment to Rule 19(1) of the Punjab State Legal Services Authorities Rules, 1996, enhancing the upper limit of the annual income of a person from Rs 30,000 to Rs 50,000 entitling him to legal services if the case is before a court other than the Supreme Court.



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