West Bengal is reeling under the Covid-19 crises with rising cases, which is well past 2,000 and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has lashed out at the BJP-led Centre for not giving the state adequate funds. Nonetheless, Mamata govt has decided to role out an ad hoc bonus and festival advance of Rs400 crore. This will be for the 2020-2021.
“The state has decided to give Rs4,200 for festival bonus. For festival advance, we are giving Rs10,000 this time. 10 lakh government employees and university, casual employees are included. We are spending a total is Rs400 crore. We are showing humanity,” said Mamata.
The announcement will benefit 10 lakh government employees of panchayat and municipal bodies, university and school employees as well as contractual and casual employees. The fest benefit will also be extended to pensioners in the form of ex-gratia of Rs2,200 in respect of those pensioners whose pension is up to Rs29,700. Ex-gratia in 2019-20 was Rs2,100 and pension ceiling was Rs26,000. In addition, the bonus and fest advance is extended to employees of the state undertakings and autonomous bodies or boards.
The festival advance for employees is being increased from Rs8,000 to Rs10,000. Those eligible for the bonus is being increased from Rs34,250 to Rs41,000. The ad hoc bonus will be Rs4,200, which is an increase from Rs4,000 in 2019. Further, the salary ceiling to be eligible for bonuses is also increased from Rs30,000 to Rs34,250.
This comes at a time when the countrywide 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 will look at this as minority appeasement by the Trinamool Congress (TMC)-led government, while Mamata is likely to retort saying Durga Puja celebrations in October are also being factored in.
The other way to look at it is, Mamata is trying hard to retain her turf in the corridors of power as BJP threatens to unseat the TMC in the 2021 Assembly poll. Health infrastructure in the state is still a concern, with preparedness for the rising cases and deaths. Mamata has chosen to put aside important issues for a moment and focus on keeping government employees happy.