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The Union Government has created islands of prosperity for its regular employees including the ones in its public enterprises (PEs).  
Apart from insulating them against inflation through the mechanism of dearness allowance, the Government regularly ushers in new pay structures under the garb of restructuring and rationalization.
One such instance of mollycoddle on which the Cabinet would have to take a call sooner or later is the issue of regularization of weird allowances and special increments given by Airports Authority of India (AAI) to its staff over 17 years. 
AAI wants the Cabinet to resolve these as it has voiced helplessness in implementing a Government diktat to recover special increments from its staff paid since 1997!
AAI has also expressed its inability to scrap six special allowances given to its staff. These benefits are over and above the allowances with a ceiling equivalent to 50% of the basic salary prescribed by Department of Public Enterprises (DPE).
The six special perks are: general proficiency allowance given to all employees excluding air traffic controllers (ATC) and Communication Navigational and Surveillance (CNS) executives; instruction allowance given to instructors at AAI training centres; proficiency allowance given to CNS executives; stress allowance given to both ATCs and CNS executives; flying allowance given to AAI pilots of flight inspection unit and rating allowance provided to ATCs. 
In June 2012, DPE stated no allowances other than the ones specified in its memo issued in November 2008 are allowed above the 50% ceiling. The Ministry of Civil Aviation (MCA) had later asked AAI to explain why it had retained six special allowances in spite of DPE’s instructions. 
AAI justified its allowances by drawing parallel with four special allowances that DPE allows outside the 50% ceiling. These are: North-East allowance that is limited to 12.5% of the basic pay, underground mines allowance capped at 15% of the basic pay, difficult and far-flung area allowance limited to 10% of the basic pay and non-practicing allowance for medical officers limited to 25% of the basic pay. 
AAI has told MCA that for want of resolution of the issue of special allowances, performance-related pay as provided for by DPE in its November 2008 memo has not been implemented for AAI staff.  
AAI has dubbed special allowances as legacy issues that have their origin in the birth of AAI in 1995 through merger of International Airports Authority of India (IAAI) and National Airports Authority (NAA).  It believes that withdrawal of the six allowances would demotivate its employees and might trigger industrial unrest. 
After the merger, NAA executives were given one to two increments as “personal pay” and non-executives were given one increment with effect from 1st April 1996. IAAI executives, on the other hand, were given higher pay scale and non-executives one increment. 
After the wage revision with effect from 1st January 1997, the executives from both NAA and IAAI were given two increments in the revised pay scales and non-executives were provided with three increments.   
Records show that AAI board at that time took these decisions to avoid industrial unrest. It did not consult DPE on these giveaways.  
In January 2013, DPE directed MCA/AAI to recover excess payments given as additional increments from AAI staff. AAI expressed its inability to recover monetary benefits given since 1997. It also pointed out that some of the beneficiaries had retired and the employees had also paid income tax on the additional income resulting from increments. 
On 30th December 2013, MCA asked AAI to get the approval of its board of directors on regularization of special allowances and increments. After this, MCA would take AAI’s issues to the Cabinet for resolution. 
With the announcement of election dates, UPA Government would be leaving this matter as yet another headache for the new Government.  
 

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