Alleging harsh and unjust working conditions in Punjab State Civil Supplies Corporation Limited (Punsup), 10 district managers (DMs) on Tuesday proceeded on indefinite mass leave.
The managers have the additional charge of other districts and handle 15 districts. Sources say more mass leave by DMs and other staff members would follow in the coming days.
Punsup is one of the five foodgrain procurement agencies of Punjab and functions under the state food and civil supplies department. The management suspending 15 staff members in recent days is said to be the trigger behind the move. Recently, two DMs, two deputy DMs, a field officer and 10 inspectors were suspended as discrepancies were found in procurement and storage of the 1509 basmati variety during the previous kharif marketing season.
A DM, who was suspended, and proceeded on leave on Tuesday, said, “We were forced to procure the 1509 variety despite the fact that there was no system in place for that. After the rates of this variety fell in the open market, the government decided to offer MSP of Rs 1,450 per quintal and we were forced to procure it with whatever infrastructure was available. Now, the corporation has held us responsible for no fault of ours.”
These DMs also hold Punsup managing director Capt PS Shergill responsible for the “indifferent” behaviour. A joint application informing the MD of the mass leave reads, “It is hereby brought to your notice that we, the district managers/incharge, are proceeding on indefinite mass leave due to the anti-employee, harsh, adverse, unfair and totally unjust working conditions prevailing in Punsup.”
It was conveyed that they were relinquishing the charge of the respective districts with immediate effect.
The DMs alleged that they continued to be on probation despite having served for almost five years. They said their service conditions could be judged from the fact that 10 DMs were recruited in 2011 of which three had left and two were suspended; all these DMs are facing a minimum of four chargesheets.
“It is not easy working in Punsup. For subordinate staff’s fault, we are also suspended and chargsheeted; and penalty worth crores is imposed. We in supervisory capacity can’t look into each and every foodgrain stored in a number of godowns in a particular district,” said a DM, who proceeded on mass leave.
In February, these managers had met Shergill for redressal of their grievances. “Instead of hearing us, he chargesheeted us,” said a DM. They again wrote to the secretary of food and civil supplies on March 6, but “to no avail”.
In a communication to the secretary, food and civil supplies, the DMs, who proceeded on mass leave, sounded apprehensive saying the MD might dismiss them from service.
MD Shergill said, “Serious shortcomings have been found in the storage of the 1509 variety. It was to be stored separately from the regular paddy but was not done properly at a number of places. Shortage is the responsibility of DMs who are the main supervisory officers.”
He said, “Shortages of 7,600 tonnes of the 1509 variety were found, which cost around Rs 12.27 crore. We intend to refer the case to the state vigilance bureau.”