India shining. In 12 PSUs, 12k staffers not paid for months NEW DELHI: For several months, Air India employees have either gone on strike or threatened to do so because the public sector airline has been delaying salaries and incentives due to financial distress. While the media has been tracking the condition of AI staffers, the plight of employees in other PSUs defaulting on timely salaries has hardly received attention. At state-run Instrumentation Ltd in Kota, Madan Lal (name changed) hasn't got his salary since December. He is among the 1,400-odd employees at the PSU who for years have been getting their pay cheques with a lag of several months. "Earlier we used to take a loan against provident fund balance but for the last two years, we are facing difficulty with that too," says Madan Lal. This when lakhs in arrears are owed to employees due to pay revisions between 1992 and 1997. The same story is playing out in other loss-making firms such as Hindustan Cables, HMT and Scooters India. There are over 12,000 such employees in at least a dozen PSUs reporting to Praful Patel's ministry of heavy industry and public enterprises, who get their salaries with a six-month lag. Unlike Air India, where the threat of a strike and the prospect of inconvenience to travellers prompt the Centre to make a special payments, for other loss-making PSUs the government has decided to pay delayed salaries as a policy. "Usually there is a three-month lag between the last date on which the salary was paid and when the government starts processing the proposal. It then goes to the cabinet for approval. So, the entire process takes nearly six months," says an official in the industry ministry. "This (delay) is (deliberately) done to put some pressure on the management and the employees to work out a revival plan and perform better," adds the official, pointing out that 16 of the 28 sick PSUs under the ministry's charge have been revived in the last few years. In 10 PSUs, the last salary paid was for September and that came after the Cabinet approved a payment of Rs 53 crore six months ago. With Holi round the corner, employees such as Madan Lal are now expecting the next pay cheque to arrive soon. The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance tried to sell government stake in some of these companies but found no takers. Even the Manmohan Singh government follows the policy of selling stake in loss-making PSUs. Last May, the government had even cleared the stake sale in Scooters India, only to put it on the backburner in the wake of elections in Uttar Pradesh. With elections getting over next month and the market sentiments improving, the decision is likely to be pushed through now. But in several other PSUs, the wait for monthly pay cheques will continue. And so will the agony for thousands of employees.