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November 15, 2019

Special persons face dismissal in the name of austerity


November 15, 2019

LAHORE:The Punjab government after giving 150 percent salary raise to provincial bureaucratic elite has started to lay off daily wagers without caring for special persons in the name of austerity, The News has learnt.

In protest against the decision of the Punjab government the visually-impaired are already staging a sit-in on Mall Road. The sit-in got strengthened Thursday when a group of special persons from District Pakpattan joined the protest.

As per a letter dated September 30, 2019, a copy of which is available with The News, the Punjab government has directed all Divisional Commissioners of the province and Deputy Commissioners not to hire staff on contingent basis from October 1, 2019. However, if any order has already been issued no further extension shall be given, the letter added.

The letter stated that Finance Department of the Punjab government has already circulated austerity/ economic measures to observe utmost austerity in usage of public money through prudent financial discipline, judicious reduction of the expenditure without compromising the essential organisational function. Furthermore, the government in the letter observed that contingent paid staff is being hired unnecessarily that puts burden on the government exchequer.

Irony is that Social Welfare and Bait-ul-Maal Department which sole responsibility is to care for the livelihood and rights of poor masses has started to lay off daily wagers, including handicapped, blind, deaf and dumb. Moreover, through protestors it was learnt that social welfare department is the first to act upon the government instructions. The protestors from District Pakpattan, including Qasim, Shahbaz, Younas, Sultan, Shafqat Ali, Imran, Bilal Ahmad and others (all disabled) told this scribe that the government had dismissed their services without listening to them. They said the government had risked lives of their family members. They alleged that the local administration had ousted them just to accommodate persons of their choice.

The group of disabled persons while talking to this scribe was sitting behind the sit-in of blind persons. Commenting on the situation a handicapped protestor said that “look in front of us and see visually disabled persons, look at us we are physically disabled and look at the government which is mentally disabled.

They said that when they approach the office of Secretary Social welfare or DG Social Welfare, they are not allowed to meet them saying that big bosses have strictly ordered their staff not to allow us to enter their offices. A blind person said that he visited many times office of the DG Social Welfare but no one heard his grievance even the staff mocked at him. Social Welfare Department Pakpattan Deputy Director Mirza Afzal while talking to The News termed claim of protestors rubbish saying that he is on his way to Lahore to handle the matter. He claimed that protestors were still on pay role and their services were not dismissed. He said that he is on receiving end and can only implement orders from higher authorities.

When asked referring to the letter of Punjab government that what else he has done for austerity apart from dismissing disabled persons, Deputy Director had no answer for the query. This scribe tried to contact Secretary Social Welfare Ambreen Raza but she didn’t respond despite repeated calls. The calls were also made to Deputy Director Saima Qureshi who is said to be a focal person of the department but she didn’t respond despite many calls and messages.

It is pertinent to mention here that on July 29, the Punjab government had raised by 150 percent the running basic salary of provincial bureaucratic elite. The notification benefited almost 1,700 posts, mainly occupied by PAS and PMS officers.

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