‘The government is decorating the cart but the horse is hungry.’
SRINAGAR — Deprived of their retirement benefits including gratuity and leave benefits, the retired Jammu and Kashmir State Road Transport Corporation (JKSRTC) employees have been running from pillar to post to get relief.
Farooq Ahmad Sheikh, who served as a driver for the corporation for more than three decades, is still without post-retirement benefits. Sheikh retired in 2019. Since then, he’s been waiting for the release of gratuity and other post-retirement benefits. He is one of the 300 retired employees who have been waiting for two years for the release of their funds.
“The government is denying us our hard-earned money. It is our right,” Sheikh said. He said that the employees of the corporation have been singled out. “When the employees of other departments retire, they aren’t denied these benefits. Why us,” he asked.
Another retired employee, Muhammad Altaf, said that the demands of the former employees are never heard. He said that some of the employees who retired post-2019 are living a miserable life. “The Corporation gives us silly reasons for not releasing our post-retirement funds,” he said.
Many such employees had to defer the marriages of their children. “They don’t have enough money to meet their daily requirements, let alone marrying their children,” Altaf said.
Retired and in-service employees said that the corporation is spending crores of rupees on the purchase of new vehicles but the employees have been left to fend for themselves.
The Finance Manager of the corporation, Muhammad Shafi, said that there are more than 2000 in-service employees who are without salaries for the past five months. But, at the same time, the corporation is buying new vehicles worth crores of rupees.
Shafi said the department is in economic turmoil. The financial health of the department has worsened for the last few years. “There’s no serious revenue generation. The only source of income is the transportation of passengers and goods. Four to five people are dependent on the money that is made by one transport vehicle which is not sufficient,” he said.
The government support for the corporation was 30 crores in 2010 but since then the wage bills have increased and the amount given to the department remains the same. Shafi said the department is “politically victimized” and as a result, the employees have to suffer.
Meanwhile, the Jammu and Kashmir Civil Society Forum led by former EJAC president Abdul Qayoom Wani said the pathetic economic condition of the employees— who have served society and pillars of the government for decades, and are being deprived of the post-retirement benefits— is bizarre. “After serving for decades, they should be given their hard-earned money to manage their livelihood.” He said the government is decorating the cart but the horse is hungry.
Wani said that the corporation is faced with a number of issues including outsourcing of crew in SRTC for newly procured busses and trucks. He said it is a first step towards the privatization of SRTC which will hit the unemployed youth of J&K and the government is unmoved while the corporation is in a mess.
The Managing Director of the corporation, Angrez Singh Rana, told Mounatin Ink that the department does not have enough money to pay the salaries and post retirement funds.
He said that the government is working on it. “The government has agreed to release ten crore rupees. The process of paying the salaries and post-retirement funds has begun. In a phased manner, we will release the funds,” he said.
Basit Parray is a trainee staff writer at the Mountain Ink. He is a bachelor's student of Journalism & Mass Communication at the Cluster University, Srinagar.