Hundreds of agriculture technocrats retired from Agriculture and Horticulture department as well as on duty Agriculture Technocrats and horticulture officials have been deprived from their rightful dues. They are not being given their pensions and salaries according to the recommendations of the 6th Pay commission from January 1, 2016 while the Punjab government has implemented the 6th pay commission in 2021. They said that if the department doesn’t listen to them then they will approach the HC.
Most of the retired officials said that they are getting Rs 20,000 to Rs 25,000 less pension per month and dues of lakhs of rupees in the form of gratuity and other funds, which also be revised at the the pay commission, are not cleared by the government even after their retirements.
“Several people who retired this year are also getting their pensions as per the old salary while their salaries should have been as per the 6th pay commission last year only and then their pensions were to be calculated,” said Jagtar Singh Brar, who retired last year as Joint Director and is now President of Agriculture Technocrats (retired) Punjab, adding that “I am getting Rs 25,000 less pension per month.
Varinderjit Bhandhari, who retired as Deputy Director of Punjab Agriculture department, said that they are not only forced to get pension on their old salaries but the department is also harassing them and by levying recoveries of over a decade-old increments. While the department is arguing that they were given in excess, but here too, the department is violating the guidelines of the Supreme Court, I have added.
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“The SC order states that recovery cannot be charged from retired employees, or employees who are due to retire within a year of the order of recovery, but here the department is levying recoveries of 10 to 15 years old cases of alleged wrong increments, violating the court order,” said Sukhbir Singh Sandhu, general secretary Agriculture Technocrats Action Committee (AGTAC).
Brar added that if the department doesn’t release their dues, they will approach the court and then the government would be liable to pay them interest on the pending dues. Sandhu said that agriculture technocrats on duty in districts such as Patiala, Fatehgarh Sahib, Pathankot and at Chandigarh headquarter have not been provided the revised salaries but the remaining districts are getting paid revised salaries from November last year.
Pay parity issue
Agricultural technocrats are also struggling to get pay parity with veterinary officials restored as they were at par with veterinary officials since 1.1.1986. But the parity in pay scales between agriculture/horticulture officials and veterinary officials remained effective until 1995.
And then through a notification in 1998, the state government lowered the pay scales of agriculture officials.
Following which, AGRI technocrats opposed it and then an “Anomaly Committee” was constituted and agriculture officials also approached the HC. Both committee and court had recommended revision of pay scale. Even the court directed the date of implementation of the revised pay scale from December 1, 2011 to ‘due dates’, which referred to the dates from where the anomaly was created ie January 1, 1996 to,” Sandhu said.
“We demand that the pay scales of the agriculture officials (Agriculture Development Officer, Agriculture Officer and Chief Agriculture Officer) and officials of the Department of Horticulture which remained at par with veterinary officials since 1.1.1986, be retained. But still there is no parity and at the entry level a Vet officer is getting Rs 47,600 and an ADO is getting Rs 44,900,” said Sandhu, adding that Punjab is mainly an agricultural state but the government is ignoring the department from all aspects.