Monday, September 16, 2019 16:46

CDA cant Pay for Hard Work Can Pay for Free Hajj

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Posted by on Tuesday, April 8, 2014, 10:58
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After recently claiming that the cash-starved capital’s civic agency will rein in ballooning non-development expenditure, city managers have pulled an about-face, apparently succumbing to the powerful labour union.

Hajj

Hajj

A total of 37 employees of the Capital Development Authority (CDA) will be performing Hajj this year entirely on the authority’s expense. The costs are estimated at around Rs15 million.

While the amount is relatively small, city managers — who throughout the year found it difficult to raise money to pay salaries to over 12,000 employees — appeared to have thrown full support behind the plan to fulfil staffers’ “religious and spiritual needs”, despite it being of questionable legality.

Is it even legal?

In 2011, the Supreme Court ordered the recovery of money from pilgrims who performed Hajj at state expense. The bench had also directed that criminal cases be registered against government officials involved in facilitating them. During those proceedings, Justice Sair Ali observed that there is no provision for free Hajj in Islam.

In addition, Christian employees, who make up a substantial share of the CDA’s work force, often complain that this perk is discriminatory as it is only of use for Muslim employees.

Neither of these issues has stopped the CDA, which, instead of introducing a culture of austerity by calling an end to this perk, continues to increase the number of employees sent on Hajj with every passing year. For comparison, only three employees were sent in 2009.

Meanwhile, Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) rules also seem to mean nothing to the agency, which has violated them every year since the programme started. PPRA rules require competitive bidding for any transition of over Rs200,000. The Hajj programme will cost 75 times that amount.

For reasons unknown, the services of the same private tour operator are hired every year on single tender basis.

What about the federal govt programme?

In 2010, following repeated demands from union leaders, the authority decided to separate its Hajj programme from the Religious Affairs Ministry. A decision was also taken to hire private tour operators for the CDA’s Hajj programme. As soon it this move went ahead, the number of employees selected for Hajj witnessed a sharp increase.

City managers continue to keep mum over the issue. “The CDA charter states that the CDA will only bear Hajj expenses for a maximum of three employees every year,” claimed a senior official of the authority.

What about non-Muslims?

This perk, obviously limited to Muslim staffers, has also deepened the sense of neglect and discrimination felt by nearly 2,300 Christian employees, representing 19 per cent of the staff. Most of them are on lower-cadre posts.

There is no equivalent programme to fulfil the “religious and spiritual needs” of Christian employees.

Every year, when balloting to select prospective Hajis, Christian employees lodge their protest.

“I have spent 25 years cleaning the city’s roads and markets. Under the CDA labourers’ charter, I have equal right to CDA resources and schemes [as Muslim staffers]. But they neglect us every year,” said Nazir Masih, a Christian CDA staffer.

Masih, 50, currently serves in the Sanitation Wing and is responsible for cleaning a large market.

‘But everyone else is doing it’

CDA Labour Union General Secretary Chaudhry Yasin said the money spent on the Hajj programme comes out of the employees’ welfare fund. “Almost every government department facilitates low-grade employees by sending them on Hajj at state expense. The CDA is not alone,” Yasin said.

To a question about hiring a private tour operator every year without competitive bidding, he said, it is because of the quality of service the operator provides. He then added, “This year we have enough time and the CDA will be asked to hold competitive bidding before awarding the contract.”

Yasin said he was in contact with the Christian employees’ representatives and “soon, a similar programme will be worked out for them”.

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