How often do you find a government employee who doesn't want a hike in dearness allowance (DA)? But Kolkata resident Hiralal Burman is an exception - he refuses to accept his increased allowance to protest the poor DA hike for workers under the 100-day rural jobs scheme.
Burman, an assistant accounts officer in the Kolkata branch of the Indian Audits and Accounts department, had shot off a letter to the Comptroller and Auditor General of India last year after the central government decided to raise the dearness allowance by seven percent in July 2011.
"I don't want the seven percent increased DA. It is a small token of protest from an Indian against the indifference the union government has shown towards workers in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA)," Burman told IANS.
While after the hike, he gets around Rs.1,600 in DA, he says workers in West Bengal used to get Rs.130 as variable dearness alloance (VDA) under MGNREGA and since April have been getting Rs.136 - a meagre increase of Rs.6.
He feels though central and state government employees get compensated whenever there is a rise in price of essentials, labourers under the scheme suffer as the VDA hike under MGNREGA is nominal.
Burman, a government employee for 17 years, has been doing voluntary service in several districts with the aim of improving the living standards of the underprivileged.
"First of all, poor people who look up to the 100 days employment scheme are not getting full 100 days of work. On top of that, the VDA hike for them is very meagre. The hiked VDA in no way can be compared with the ever-increasing inflation," said Burman, who is in his mid-40s.
Ironically, despite his protests, he continues to receive the hiked amount of DA as there is no law to deduct the increased sum from the salary.
"Even after so many months I continue to get an increased DA. I have informed senior officials, but they have told me there is no specific law to deduct the increased sum. I hope after this news comes up, something concrete will happen," he said.
Earlier too he has declined to take honorariums for working extra hours.
"Twice I have declined honorariums/special pay offered for working extra hours. I felt that the salary I receive is enough for me; so I refused those honorariums," he said.
Burman has made it a habit of visiting the rural parts of the state every Sunday and help illiterate villagers in getting their dues under government schemes and policies.
"There are lots of pro-people policies for the poor, but the problem is most villagers are illiterate and don't know how to take advantage of these schemes. So I help them by writing applications and other official chores."
Burman, a commerce graduate, has been working among the poor and the marginalised for the last 10-12 years.