20th, August, The Kashmir Radar: Lowest paid, least paid, meagerly paid or whatever you may like to call them, they are probably the lowest paid employees in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir with such a busy and tight work schedule that they barely find any time for their loved ones.
Gram Rozgar Sahayak’s, well received as GRS are working for the implementation of central flagship programme- MGNREGA in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and have been recruited for the task by the Department of Rural Development Jammu and Kashmir on the same pattern as their counterparts in others states and Union Territories of India.
Who are Gram Rozgar Sahayak’s.?
They are the people who help the unemployed to get employment in the rural areas, they are the ones who work in the harshest and toughest conditions to get the work done in good time, they are the ones who help the government in compiling the statistics pertaining to population, unemployment, addition and deletion in electoral rolls, they are the ones who educated the rural population about the disadvantages of open defecation and helped them in building toilets, they are the ones who helped the goverment in providing home’s to the homeless in rural areas.
The concrete lanes you tread upon, the smaller bridges which connect your Hamlet to the another, the clean drinking water you get would have never been possible without the person who we introduced to you in the opening paragraphs.
Now, coming to what they earn after doing all this is something which doesn’t deem fit to be called a “salary.” Technically they call it “honourarium” but originally they are the wages and the amount is Rs. 6,700.
Yes you heard it right, 6,700 it is.
Now the question is, who appointed them, what are their qualifications and why do they continue to work on such meagre wages.?
In the year 2005, recruitment notifications started getting published in local dailies, inviting applications from graduates and post graduates to work (after appointment) for a period of one year on contractual basis. Hundreds of unemployed youth applied for the notified vacancies, applicants were shortlisted based on the merit they had while calculating their academic merit and in the ratio of 5:1 they were called for an interview at the district level, as was the routine those days.
It is pertinent to mention that no written tests were conducted by any recruiting agency including the Jammu and Kashmir Services Selection Board (JKSSB) during those times.
Finally out of five shortlisted candidates from a Halqa (a cluster of two to three villages), only one candidate was selected. The one who performed better in the interview before the selection panel.
Sequentially, the process was completed in all the districts of Jammu and Kashmir and soon the selected ones started proving their worth and then Ministers of the elected governments who looked after the department of Rural Development received praises, applause and awards from the central goverment for better implementation of MGNREGA in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Now, a very important question which deserves attention and an answer from them (GRS’s ) is that, why didn’t they leave the department if their contract ended just after a year, as mentioned in their appointment orders.?
They were young, energetic and able to make fortunes for them, if their department had not extended their contract and asked them to continue their services without any requirement of ‘official extension‘ of their services.
They stayed and worked even harder till all their abilities, all their energies and all the precious time they had slipped out of their hands like grains of sand.
The sad state of affairs is that almost all of them have crossed the upper age limit now, hence rendering them literally ineligible to apply for any goverment job advertised by the recruiting agencies despite being highly qualified with some of them having Ph.d, M.phil, MA, MSc etcetera.
In the past as well as in present times, they continue to fight for their genuine demands wherein they seek salary hike and subsequent absorption in the department.
They were betrayed by the previous regimes and they continue to face humiliation at the hands of present dispensation.
In the year 2022 when the whole world is battling inflation, the prices of commodities is soaring like anything, these GRS’s are left with no option but to survive on the meagre amount of Rs. 6,700 which fetches them nothing but tears.
Shoaib Gani is a blogger and writes for various local and national dailies, he can be reached at email@example.com