Contractors’ faction calls off strike, other one continues
Finance Minister, Altaf Bukhari, Tuesday fulfilled the demand of protesting contractors and deferred the newly-introduced Pay and Accounts Office (PAO) system till March 31.
The protesting contractors were seeking that the old bills should be cleared before government switches to the PAO system. The system was introduced by the former finance minister Haseeb Drabu.
Bukhari’s decision to defer the PAO system by 15 days has divided the contractors with a group calling off the strike and the other faction continuing with the protests seeking all the “pending bills should be cleared”.
The contractors under the banner of J&K Contractors Coordination Committee (JKCCC) have decided to call off the strike from Wednesday and unlock all the offices including the Engineering Complex. The JKCCC had locked the Engineering complex on February 27 and since then the complex which houses offices of four chief engineers continues to remain closed for 14 days.
“We met the new Finance Minister Altaf Bukhari in Jammu today evening. He assured that all the bills will be cleared. So we have decided to call off the strike and unlock all the offices. But we will not take part in any bidding process or any other official work till the bills are not cleared. We will see if the promise made with us today by Bukhari will be fulfilled. We have called off the strike after Finance Minister’s promise,” he said.
However, another group of contractors under the banner J&K Central Contractors Coordination Committee (JKCCCC) said they would continue the strike. “We are a separate group and we have decided to continue the strike. Those who have called off the strike are a group of few contractors and they had locked the engineering complex,” said, JKCCC president Mohammad Akbar Pal.
JKCCCC general secretary Farooq Ahmad Dar said they won’t call off the strike till all the pending bills of Rs 750 crore are cleared. “The government should assure us that all these bills will be cleared in a phased manner. Then only we will call off our strike,” he said.
Dar said that the government should clear the bills before it introduces the new system. “We are not against the new system…we want its deferment for few months,” he said.