'Eker por ek subida sarkari chakureder' (there are facilities galore for government servants) was the headline of a story published on the back page of the last Thursday's issue of a mass-circulated vernacular daily. In fact the perks and privileges that have been granted to the public servants in recent years are unprecedented.
'Allah sarkari karmocharider chappar fere deyechhen' (Allah has given the government servants beyond their expectation) should be an instant reaction after going through the content of the newspaper report in question. The highly attractive perks and privileges have created a sort of craze among the educated youths these days.
The report carried a long list of benefits that have been extended since 2015 when a new pay scale was put into effect hiking the salaries and other fringe benefits for government servants twofold. Following the hike in salaries, other benefits, fiscal or otherwise, started coming one after another. The facilities included promotion to higher posts even without vacancy, interest-free car loans, low interest-bearing housing loan and special pension facility for public servants who had withdrawn their pension money in full following their retirement. Beyond these facilities, the bureaucracy has recently managed a legal instrument in favour of government servants accused of criminal offence.
The immediate past session of the Jatiya Sangsad (parliament) passed the Government Servants Act-2018 making it mandatory for the authorities concerned to take prior permission from the government while arresting any government servant. Many jurists and rights organisations have described the law discriminatory as all others, including the people's representatives, do not enjoy such protection.
A number of financial institutions have already started disbursement of housing loans to government servants at subsidised interest rates of 5.0 per cent. Lately, the government has expanded the facility further. From now on in the event of death of a loan-receiving public servant the government would exempt the family of the deceased from paying both principal and interest, if there is any. The same provision would also apply in the case of any government servant becoming crippled in an accident.
The generosity demonstrated by the government in the case of its officials and employees is not beyond question. The basic question one might feel tempted to ask whether the public servants deserve the benefits that are being extended to them. The hard truth is that they have been pampered by the incumbent government. The reason could be anybody's guess.
There should be no reason for the members of the public or the taxpayers who pay for the maintenance of the behemoth called government to feel satisfied with the performance of the public servants. Most of them still are as inefficient and corrupt as they were before. The incumbent finance minister's expectation that higher pay would make the government servants less corrupt is yet to be verified. Rather, people who visit government offices frequently allege that the rate of speed money there has gone up in line with the hike in perks and privileges.
While extending all possible facilities to the public servants the government appears to be oblivious of the benefits that the taxpayers deserve at the state level. The government should feel the need for ensuring benefits to the taxpayers, particularly when they become old. At least, it should try sincerely to make available some minimum health benefits at subsidised rates to the taxpayers in their old age.
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