Rapped by the Punjab and Haryana high court for withholding the post-retirement dues unjustifiably, the Parkash Singh Badal government in Punjab has released leave-encashment, gratuity, general provident fund, and group insurance benefits to more than 8,000 former employees, finally.
The “cash-strapped” Badal government was shaken out of its slumber after justice Rajiv Narain Raina of the Punjab and Haryana high court stated in a recent order that it had created an alarming situation by failing to release pension for months and years together, leading to a barrage of “cancerous litigation”. The government swung into action and started clearing retirement dues pending for the past one year after the court directed chief secretary Sarvesh Kaushal to take stock of the situation and submit an affidavit about an action plan to do it within time.
Submitted on May 23, the affidavit claimed that the government gave priority to releasing these benefits in the letter and spirit of the court’s observations. “All leave-encashment, gratuity, GPF, and group insurance bills received in the Punjab treasuries till May 15 and amounting to Rs 323 crore had been paid,” the chief secretary submitted.
Punjab admitted to 350 unresolved pension cases in the high court, citing disciplinary proceedings, criminal cases, missing or incomplete service record, non-submission of no-due certificates for “holding up treasury bills for a short while for prioritising the other liabilities of the welfare state”. Official records suggest that of these more than 8,000 cases, more than 4,000 were of leave encashment, nearly 3,000 of gratuity, almost 1,000 of PF and 400-odd related to general insurance. In the eight-page affidavit, the chief secretary submitted that he felt “motivated to have a more focused re-look on the tenets of a welfare state”.
As the HC told the government that “pensioners are not mendicants roving with begging bowls for their penny,” the chief secretary submitted: “The employees of the state are like feathers in a bird’s wings, who by their hard and coordinated effort take it forward to new heights in achieving public services delivery.”
Kaushal submitted that the employees earn their retirement benefits and related dues not only as a right under service rules but also with a token of appreciation from the state for having devoted the most productive part of their lives to public causes.
“Punjab meets all its prescribed financial health indicators and there is no doubt about its abilities to discharge its liabilities, which is a continuous process dependent upon dynamic features as stated above,” Kaushal’s affidavit, which the high court has taken on record, reads.
The chief secretary promised to pay full attention to settling the cases that remain pending.