Srinagar: The last time officials of the Directorate of Information and Public Relations went on strike was in October 2017 while Mehbooba Mufti was the Chief Minister and Chowdhary Zulfkar Ali was the Minister for Information. The three-day-long strike had ended only after the Chief Minister withdrew the portfolio of the Minister for Information. Almost four years later, in an entirely different political and administrative environment, the whole of the directorate in Srinagar, barring senior officers, have gone on strike. They have blamed the ‘arbitrary’ decisions of Rahul Pandey, the Director of Information & PR for the situation forcing them to go on strike.
They have sought the intervention of Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha in the matter. This is the first joint strike of the officials of any department in Jammu and Kashmir since the reorganization of the State into Union Territory in August 2019. The strike also comes as a test for the employees’ unity and the government’s response to agitations. The officials have said that they are suspending the circulation of the government’s press handouts and advertisements. This is a massive affront to the government which is highly sensitive about its image and runs its PR machinery seamlessly for unprecedented coverage in the press.
Sources say that Principal Secretary for Information Department, Rohit Kansal was meeting representatives of the officials to sort out the issue. Any outcome of the meeting was not known till the time of filing this story.
The main grouse of employees is withholding salary of around 50 of them on orders of Director Pandey, a UP cadre IAS officer who is on deputation to Jammu and Kashmir.
“The Director is treating us like absconders”, the Employees Union spokesman said in a statement. The last time also the officials had gone on strike on almost similar grounds. The Minister, Chowdhary Zulfkar Ali, had shifted a Deputy Director. Officials went on strike citing this and a series of other issues.
The Minister refused to budge. Officials also refused to call off the strike. Three days later Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, on October 24, 2017, divested Minister Zulfkar Ali of the Information portfolio. He, however, had continued as Minister of other departments he held at that time. The Editors Guild of Kashmir, led by the then media baron Fayyaz Ahmed Kaloo, his newspaper Greater Kashmir and a number of other media outlets had rallied behind the agitation employees of the Information Department.
STATEMENT OF EMPLOYEES UNION
- Employees of Information department boycott work against Director’s arbitrary orders
- Halt advertisement distribution, news bulletin
The employees of the Information department today boycotted their work and staged demonstrations against arbitory salary halt orders issued by Director Information and PR, Rahul Panday.
Terming the orders as unjustified, the employees said that Director has issued orders to stop salaries of 52 employees of Kashmir Division without any justified reason.
Protesting against the orders, employees locked all units, including PR and Advertisement sections, Cultural Unit, Field Publicity and establishment section.
Amid “ we want Justice” slogans, employees demanded immediate revocation of order. The protesting employees also demanded convening of DPC which has not been held since 2017, thus jeopardizing the career of employees, despite their round the clock work for the government.
While talking to media, Vice President Employees Union, Bilal Ahmad said that the employees have been working around the clock every year, despite all this we are being treated like absconders.
“We have a work schedule of 15 hours, we have employees who have been deputed to Sonamarg for union minister Nitin Gadkari’s event. They left Srinagar at around 5;30 in the morning and will return late in the evening. Still we are underpaid, he said adding that salaries of 52 employees have been halted for unknown reasons.”
The employees while protesting at Rambagh office said that we have halted all the work of the Information division Kashmir until the order is revoked and our salaries be released. As such there will be no advertising services also.
The employees have appealed to the Lt Governor Manoj Sinha and Commissioner Secretary Information to look into the matter and ensure order be revoked and salaries be released at an earliest. They demanded that their all genuine demands including holding of DPC is convened at an earliest , otherwise they would continue their pen down strike at all Divisional and district headquarters.