As the number of cases of novel coronavirus in India continue to rise exponentially, Assam’s Dima Hasao district has made it to the spotlight for an entirely different reason altogether. Roughly 500 employees of the Public Health Engineering (PHE) department are taking social media by storm is a new movement, Beton Deu (or give salary). For ten long months, these agitating employees have been demanding the release of their salaries, but to no avail. When Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 25 announced a nationwide lockdown, the alarm bells rang for these Government employees, many of whom were surviving on “debt”. Talking to Inside Northeast, Bipul Long says, “In ten months, I have not been paid salary because of technical issues, and now, the situation is even more dire because of the lockdown. No rice and lentils we can afford because of non-payment. The known shops are closed. We are in great suffering, and we just hope that the salaries will be released at the earliest to ease our woes.” Now, like a light at the end of a tunnel, a social media campaign was kickstarted for their cause. Primarily focused on bringing attention to their problem via the vast platform of social media, it has seen the participation of scores holding up placards with the sign: beton deu/give salary.
Member of the Council and Congressman Daniel Langthasa, the man behind the concept of using social media to highlight a very pertinent issue, explains that the motive behind the campaign is to ensure that the people ‘speak up.’ And the initial signs, he says, are reassuring. “The social media movement is going well so far and people are finally raising their voices to speak up, something that was missing in the past”, he told Inside Northeast in a telephonic conversation earlier today. Stating that the 10 months’ delay in getting salaries is “not acceptable”, the young Congress leader says that he came to know about the situation after the PHE employees reached out to him. “Many had called me complaining about the lockdown after it was imposed. They were earlier passing their days in debt, but now, even shopkeepers are not handing out their goods without cash, which poses a problem as everyone does not have robust savings.” This, Daniel explains, led to the conceptualization of an initiative that would put “social media pressure” on the administration to open their eyes to the plight of these 500-odd employees. Yes, you read right, there are are 538 employees in the PHE blocks in Haflong, Maibang, and Umrangso, who have not been paid from the Government’s coffers for ten months.
Read Also:[Govt JOB] Assam Plain Tribes Development Corp (APTDC) Recruitment-2020 :: Apply Now Their woes began when the salary payment system was shifted online, says Daniel, shedding further light on the issue. Other departments also suffered the same fate — that of non payment of salaries. “Not only in PHE, other departments were also stricken by the same malaise since the online salary system was introduced last year. All these years, the department has not maintained the rolls well, and they have not been regularized and money was being dispersed by the DDOs. There were some clerical mistakes as well because of which the system did not immediately recognize the Government employees serving in Dima Hasao. LP teachers numbering around 500 were also deprived of salaries for a long time.” In the meantime, the PWD department has released salaries to its employees 3-4 months ago, and the education department has also released a large chunk of the salaries, but the PHE department is yet to do so. “There have been dharnas, the employees met the top-ranked Ministers — including the CM — but to no avail. So, we felt that their condition, especially in these trying and testing times, needs to be brought to the forefront through the form of an awareness campaign. Initially, it was hoped that this social media protest would reach the eyes and ears of the local MLAs and the CEM.” The campaign now seems to have paid dividends. Amid the continuation of the social media campaign, the Chief Minister, who recently visited the district to take stock of the COVID-19 preparedness, has now been alerted to the voices of these deprived Government officials which have risen to a cacophony. “The CM has communicated that it (the issue) will be resolved in a few days. Our idea is let’s keep on doing this, and I cannot tell you how many people have joined our campaign as I have not been tagged in all the posts. Even at 11 PM last night, people were joining and sharing pictures”, adds Langthasa.