LAHORE: Instead of increasing facilities for the police force in acknowledgment of the services being rendered by police personnel as frontline soldiers in the fight against deadly coronavirus, the provincial government has inflicted a huge cut of Rs3 billion on the Punjab police budget.
As per an official source, the government has slashed Rs400 million from the funds allocated for fuel, Rs77 million from cost of investigation, Rs41m stationary, Rs120m electricity bills and Rs250m even from the grant meant for provision of financial assistance to the families of the deceased police officials.
He said the “shocking” development came at a time when the virus had claimed lives of four police officials, while 650 others tested positive in Punjab so far.
“If the cut is aimed at diverting the slashed amount to fund the government’s anti-Corona initiatives, no one deserved the funding more than police as it has so far reported highest number of positive cases among the government departments in Punjab”, commented brother of a police constable who died of Covid-19 in Lahore recently.
He said lower-rank police employees were the most vulnerable to the virus, along with doctors and paramedics, for having a close physical interaction with the public. Out of the tested police personnel so far, 10pc were found to be suffering from Covid-19, he added. The drastic budget cut would only leave police handicapped in the fight against the pandemic, he deplored.
A senior official privy to the development told Dawn that the cut was unjustified as Punjab police department had already got just Rs180 million out of Rs250 million allocated for cost of investigation, while originally required amount was Rs2.3 billion.
He regretted the operational budget of Punjab police had been decreasing with each passing year, making it difficult for the force to fund its day-to-day operations.
He said the police’s share in the total provincial budget had decreased from 9 per cent in 2011-12 to 5pc in 2019-20.
“In its budget, the salary component is increasing, while operational component is declining as only 15pc of the total budget is reserved for its operations”, the official lamented.
At the start of financial year 2019-20, he said, Rs117 billion budget had been allocated for the Punjab police. Of the amount, Rs100 billion was reserved for salaries, while Rs17 billion was to be released for the department’s operational expenditures.
“To our utter shock, only Rs14 billion were released, slapping a drastic cut of Rs3 billion in the operational expenditures”, he said.
Out of the available Rs114 billion, Rs100 billion would go in salaries, Rs4.5 billion for fuel, while around Rs1billion for electricity bills.
Similarly, he said, an amount of Rs4 billion would be left to meet the basic requirements of other units of the police, including special branch, elite force, counter terrorism department, traffic, special protection unit, training etc. The remaining amount would be used for other heads of the Punjab police, the police official said.
“The worst aspect of the measure is that the funds meant for the officers who had died during the service have also been reduced drastically”, the official said.
He said the salaries of the Punjab police employees (from constables to the inspector general) remained frozen since 2009. Resultantly, the officers of other departments were drawing more salary than the police officers in the same rank, he added.
“In 2019, the current government had agreed to defreeze police allowances and the fixed daily allowance (FDA) from 2008 to the value of year 2013”, the officer said.
However, the finance department issued 80pc of the increased amount in August 2019 and promised to release the remaining 20pc in January 2020. “But the already approved 20 FDA has fallen a victim to the bureaucratic red tape, despite the approval of Punjab chief minister”, the official said.
The official complaining of discrimination against police said, when a committee comprising law and finance ministers had discussed the de-freezing of police allowances in 2019, no increase in the district administration officers’ was considered. But when recommendations of the committee were presented before the full cabinet, the executive allowance (1.5 of the running pay) for BS-17 and above PAS/PMS officers was included as an ex-agenda item and surprisingly it was also got approved.
“This allowance created a big difference in their salaries, resultantly PAS/PMS officers are getting almost double salary than the police officers in the same rank”, he said.
He said the chief minister had agreed in principle to extend executive allowance to the police officers too but the bureaucracy proposed formation of another committee to further delay the process. “The glaring discrimination would only discourage the police force”, he regretted.
Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2020