Staff soft-pedalling on Kerala government’s call to make contributions to Ockhi fund

The state government’s call to contribute at least two days’ salary towards the Chief Minister’s Ockhi relief fund received a lukewarm response from the employees.

Published: 03rd January 2018 02:31 AM  |   Last Updated: 03rd January 2018 09:40 AM   |  A+A-

The new year has brought in fresh hopes to the fishermen, who have been affected by the cyclone Ockhi. A group of fishermen arranging their nets for the job at Chellanam harbour in Kochi | K Shijith

Express News Service

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The state government’s call to contribute at least two days’ salary towards the Chief Minister’s Ockhi relief fund received a lukewarm response from the employees.With a large number of employees contributing less than `500 and some of them even a nominal amount as a mark of protest against the government’s unilateral decision to deduct two days’ salary, the proposal met with an indifferent approach.

There have been reports that some of the employees have put even ‘zero’ and as low as `15 in their salary bill towards the relief fund.Employees belonging to various departments told ‘Express’ they were stunned to see a majority of the employees contributing amounts ranging from `100 to `200. In certain schools, teachers had collectively decided to pay only `200 each.A doctor with the Government Victoria Hospital, Kollam, shocked everyone when he put the figure ‘zero’ in his salary bill as contribution.

“The government employees are entitled to get salary on the first day of the month without fail. They are also entitled for one instalment of DA every six month, pay revision every five years, medical reimbursement facility even for dependents and `10 lakh as assistance in case of an accidental death. On retirement, they will get a good amount as pension, and pension for the dependent in case of his/her death. Still, they have little concern for the people who feed them,” a government employee said.But there are exceptions too. Chathu Muthovottu Meethal, from Nochad Kaithakkal in  Koyilandi taluk, contributed `1,500 from his meagre pension. When he came to meet the tahasildar, he also had added an amount he sourced from his friend Kunhiramanunni towards the fund.

However, the employees’ unions have a different take. T Sreekumar, general secretary, Kerala Secretariat Association, told Express that employees could be expressing their displeasure over the government’s unilateral decision.“The government has lost empathy for its employees. They may be reciprocating it with a knee-jerk reaction to the government’s call,” he said.Biju Kuttan, general secretary of the pro-CPM Kerala Secretariat Employees Association said the response of employees was not satisfactory.

“The employees should have contributed more generously to the relief fund. As of now, the response from the employees is disturbing,” he said.About the lukewarm response from the employees, Finance Secretary Manoj Joshi told ‘Express’ the government’s call to contribute two days’ salary was not mandatory.

“The employees could opt for the amount they wish. There is no pressure on them to pay more,” he said.
Asked how much contribution it had received so far, he said as the salary would be disbursed up to January 5. The exact amount received would be known only after that, he said.

Fishermen meet puts forth charter of demands

T’Puram: Trade unions and organisations active in the fisheries sector on Tuesday demanded urgent measures for the identification of the bodies of 37 fishermen who died in the Ockhi disaster. The meeting convened by the Latin Archdiocese of Thiruvananthapuram urged the government to undertake DNA test to identify the bodies recovered from the sea and kept in mortuaries. The meeting also urged the government to provide the families of missing fishermen the same financial assistance given to the kin of the dead fishermen. Funds collected for Ockhi disaster relief should be spent exclusively for coastal area development. The Central and state budgets should feature adequate funding for fisheries development. There should not be a repetition of 2004 when tsunami funds were diverted for other purposes, the meeting said. The delegates also decided to hold a national fish workers’ conference in Thiruvananthapuram highlighting the issues faced by the sector.

Body of Ockhi victim identified

T’Puram: One more body of cyclone victim kept at Thiruvananthapuram Medical College has been identified. Vilfred, 58, son of Sanusilos at Thuthoor, in Kanyakumari, has been identified through DNA test. The body was brought to Thiruvananthapuram Medical College in an unidentifiable condition and has since been kept at the mortuary. His relatives will collect the body from the hospital on Wednesday. The MCH received 19 bodies of cyclone victims so far,  of which 2 bodies are yet to be identified.

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