Uttarakhand government is preparing a roadmap to integrate two major water-controlling departments, Jal Nigam and Jal Sanshthan. However, the proposed merger seems to have opened a can of worms for the government as the employees' unions in both the departments have raised several contentious issues, including delays in payment of their salaries.
The merger of two divisions will carve out a new department, to be called Payjal evam swachta vibhaag.
Top government sources told TOI that the work on finalizing the blueprint for the merger has begun and it would be submitted to the chief minister for final approval. As per the plan, a total OF 97 divisions of water in Uttarakhand will be trimmed down to 75 units.
"Ideally, the two departments must be synced for offering better services to consumers and in overall expansion of the water supply network in cities and in the hilly region," said Rakesh Sharma, additional chief secretary.
He added, "The need to combine both the departments was felt to streamline operations and for an overhauling of the entire system."
Although he admitted that unifying the two divisions remains a Herculean task for the state. Many in the state government agree that the road ahead for the integration is fraught with many problems.
The biggest roadblock in the merger is stiff resistance offered by the employees of the two departments, who demand clarity on the actual roadmap.
"There is no clarity on how the transition will take place. No one has a clue as to how many employees will be needed in the new set-up and how assets will be combined. Our unions have raised these issues in front of the state but there are no definitive answers," said Prashant Kumar Semwal, general secretary, Uttarakhand diploma engineers' association of Jal Sansthan.
For the employees of the two departments, the most contentious issues are related to delay in payment of their salaries and doubts on retention of their seniorities post-merger.
Criticizing the grandstanding of the state government on the merger, A K Chaturvedi, president, adhikari-karmchari sanyukt samnvaya samiti, Jal Nigam, said, "The state government is not showing any inclination towards the issue of merger whereas we are withholding ourselves from going on protest and statewide agitation, respecting the sentiments of the CM and our department head."
He added that the Jal Nigam staff will meet the CM on January 23 and set a three-month deadline for the merger.
The staff of both the departments want to be heard before the merger blueprint is finalized. However, they claimed that the committee set up last year for the purpose has not had a meeting with them so far.
"We will go on state-level agitation against the integration if it is planned without consulting us and resolving the issues we have. Before presenting a clear roadmap to us, the state government cannot think of integration," they said.
Jal Nigam has 3,462 employees primarily responsible for infrastructure works whereas Jal Sansthan has a total of 4,267 employees responsible for maintenance of water and sewer lines.
The employees have set a demand of around Rs 265.69 crore from state government after the merger for clearing their salaries and other expenditures of the new department.
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