Mamata Banerjee
Mamata Banerjee
Photo: PTI

West Bengal is reeling under the COVID-19 crisis with rising number of cases, which is well past 2000 and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has lashed out at the BJP led Centre for not giving the state adequate funds.

Nonetheless, the Banerjee government has decided to role out an ad hoc bonus and festival advance of Rs 400 crore. This will be for the year 2020-2021.

“The state has decided to give Rs 4,200 for festival bonus. For festival advance, we are giving Rs 10,000 this time. 10 lakh government employees, university and casual employees are included. We are spending a total of Rs 400 crore. We are showing humanity,” said Banerjee.

This announcement is set to benefit 10 lakh government employees of Panchayat and Municipal bodies, university and school employees as well as contractual and casual employees. This festival benefit will also be extended to pensioners in the form of ex-gratia of Rs 2,200 in respect of those pensioners whose pension is upto Rs 29,700. Ex-gratia in 2019-20 was Rs 2,100 and pension ceiling was Rs 26,000. In addition to this, the bonus and festival advance is extended to employees of the state undertakings and autonomous bodies or boards.

The festival advance for employees is being increased from Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000. The eligibility for the festival bonus is being increased from Rs 34,250 to Rs 41,000. The ad hoc bonus will be Rs 4200 which is an increase from Rs 4000 in 2019. In addition to this, the salary ceiling which is eligible for bonuses is also increased from Rs 30,000 to Rs 34,250.

This comes at a time when the country wide lockdown is still in place. The question is, are Eid celebrations in mid-May a factor that has prompted the state administration to take this step? The BJP government will look at this as minority appeasement by the Trinamool Congress(TMC) government, while Banerjee is likely to retort saying that Durga Puja celebrations in October are also being factored in.

The other way to look at this is that Mamata is trying hard to retain her turf in the corridors of power as the BJP threatens to unseat the TMC in the 2021 Assembly elections. Health infrastructure in the state is still a concern with preparedness for the rising cases and deaths reported from the State. Banerjee has however chosen to put aside important issues and focus on keeping government employees happy.

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