The 30-odd employees of the Punjab State Cooperative Handloom Federation Limited (Weavco) have not received salaries for at least eight months, with some of them going unpaid for more than a year, even as the state government’s move to merge this loss-making institution into Markfed has been pending for more than a year in the chief minister’s office.
Once a top institution managing 1,000 cooperative societies in the handloom sector across the state in the 1970s, Weavco has shrunk to just 34 employees, all now heavily indebted due to non-payment of salaries.
Gajay Singh, a Class-4 employee (packer), has not received his salary for 10 months. Talking to HT, he said: “This is a black Diwali for us as many of my colleagues are under heavy debt. I am not even able to get my son admitted to college.”
An accountant in Weavco said he had withdrawn Rs 6 lakh from his provident fund so far, having failed to get his salary for 14 months.
Another employee, Bahadur Singh, deployed at one of the sick showrooms of Weavco, has gone without salary for 11 months. He has to repay a debt of Rs 2 lakh. His colleague, Ravinder Mohan, has no money to pay the admission fee of his son, who got selected for a BTech course in a college.
“It was after several protests and the chief minister’s review meeting that the government took a decision in August last year to merge Weavco into Markfed,” said Kulvir Singh, a clerk, who has been leading the employees’ protests.
The file pertaining to the merger decision, which was taken at the chief minister’s level more than a year ago, is lying with the financial commissioner, cooperation, SK Sandhu, who is also the principal secretary to the CM.
Sandhu, when contacted, said the delay was caused by his efforts to revive the institution.
“It is a matter of days now as the merger is the last resort,” he said, when asked when the government would go ahead with the step.
Sandhu also confirmed that financial irregularities were also pointed out by the employees that resulted in the decline of this cooperative institution, which faces an accumulated loss of Rs 717 crore till March 31, 2014.
Weavco also faces the liability of bad loans amounting to Rs 87 lakh that were granted to 104 cooperative societies 15 years ago.
There were 160 regular employees in 2003-04, of whom several had taken voluntary retirement and many were retrenched, with 34 now remaining.
Neither Sandhu nor the state’s registrar for cooperatives, AS Miglani, were able to explain the failure to disburse salaries.
Miglani told HT that the final decision on the fate of the employees lay with SK Sandhu.