Kerala: Asha Balagopal, Finance Minister's Wife, Leads Hunger Strike for Pending Salary Arrears
Kerala: Asha Balagopal, Finance Minister's Wife, Leads Hunger Strike for Pending Salary Arrears

Kochi: Protests have erupted following Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's recent announcement that 39 months' worth of arrears for college teachers under the 7th UGC pay revision have been cleared. The demonstrations, led by Asha Balagopal, the wife of Finance Minister K N Balagopal, took place outside the State Secretariat on December 2. The protest brought attention to the persisting concerns regarding pending salary arrears and the revised Dearness Allowance (DA), which have been lingering for 48 months.

Asha Balagopal, an Assistant Professor at Mahatma Gandhi College, Thiruvananthapuram, actively participated in a one-day hunger strike organized by the All Kerala Private College Teachers’ Association (AKPCTA), an affiliate of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPM]. The association presented nine demands, with a primary focus on the immediate release of withheld DA for college teachers and the full implementation of benefits under the 7th Pay Revision.

The protest was fueled by conflicting statements from Finance Minister Balagopal, who previously asserted that the State Government had disbursed Rs 750 crores to college teachers as part of the UGC pay revision, blaming non-reimbursement by the Union Government. However, reports suggest discrepancies in this claim.

Expressing confusion over the statements made by the Chief Minister and Finance Minister, the AKPCTA president highlighted a lack of disbursed arrears for teachers from 2016 to 2019. The association is demanding the payment of DA aligned with State Government employees’ benefits and seeks an increase to 25 per cent, pointing out the discrepancy compared to other Government employees. In response, the Kerala Private College Teachers’ Association (KPCTA), aligned with the Congress, contested the AKPCTA’s comparison. They argued that college teachers operate under the UGC scheme and should have their DA set at 46 per cent of their basic salary, in line with recent Union Government increments.

The situation raises questions about the Government’s transparency and handling of the arrears issue, particularly amid conflicting statements from top officials and the participation of the Finance Minister’s wife in protests against the ruling CPM-led Government.

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