The Kerala government on Wednesday said it will bring an ordinance to override the High Court stay on the deferment of a portion of the salary of government employees due to the adverse economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, NDTV reported. The Pinarayi Vijayan-led government will bring a special order to authorise itself to make such a decision in the case of disasters.
“We don’t have a choice,” Kerala Finance Minister TM Thomas Isaac said. “We just don’t have enough revenues. Central government transfers are just not sufficient to pay all salaries, let alone pensions. Unlike other states, Kerala government is not cutting salaries, we are deferring payments.”
On Tuesday, the Kerala High Court had ordered a two-month stay on the state’s decision to defer six days’ salaries of government employees for five months. The court said this could, prima facie, amount to a denial of the right to property, adding that every individual has the right to receive a salary.
Isaac said the state has found a legal solution and will pass an ordinance allowing it to defer up to 25% of the salary in the event of a disaster. “We accept what the court said and through this ordinance, we have the legal basis now to defer payments, but not to cut them,” he added. “The state government can take a decision on giving back the deferred amount within six months.”
The move to deduct the salaries of employees will save around Rs 2,500 crore, the minister said. He also said other states had ordered 30% salary cuts. “The then UDF government had attempted to cut salaries in 2000, paying only the basic salary,” he added. “But after protests they had to revoke it. We are not cutting salaries. And what has the central government done? They have gone ahead and cut the dearness allowance. Is that not part of salary? And here BJP is opposing state decision.”
Isaac said the Centre must support states to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. “Why this attitude towards state governments,” he asked. “When everyone knows that revenues have disappeared, expenditures are rising, the central government is forcing states to cut salaries and expenditures. States and local bodies are on the frontlines. They should be taken into confidence and supported.”
Kerala has so far recorded 485 cases of the coronavirus and four deaths. The state has been praised for flattening the curve of new Covid-19 cases.