Islamabad - There is a mismatch between the rental ceiling allowance of government employees and the house rents in Islamabad. Incompatible rise in rents and rental allowance has been a bad combination for government servants.

The government had increased house rental ceiling (HRC) by 35 percent with effect from October 1, 2014 after a long and deep hibernation. But within a few months, the rents in the federal capital have gone sky-high and this increase in HRC has badly failed to redress the financial woes of the government employees working in various departments of the federal government. Many officials, especially teachers, are yet to obtain the allowance on the basis of increase and are getting the old set amount.

It was an eye-wash looking at the level of inflation in rents of properties, term government employees. It was rather like out of frying pan into the fire because the most house owners of the private houses have increased the rent up to 70 percent and demand the occupants (government servants) to pay the difference from their own pockets, the government officials complain.

“When the ceiling allowance was Rs 14,110 per month, the house owner fixed the rent at Rs 22,000 per month. Now the government has increased the ceiling to Rs 19,049, the owner correspondingly has increased the rent to Rs 30,000 per month,” explained Amjad Awan, an assistant professor at H-8 college. “In both the situations, I am paying the difference of the rent from my own pocket,” he added.

It means if the government announces an increase in the house rental ceiling up to 100 percent, the landlord would ask the difference be paid by the government servant which means whatever the ceiling rate the government announces, this would rarely help government servants bear up the economic pressure.

It has been learnt that this predicament has expelled many white-collar officials and low-paid employees out of the downtown into slums and ghettoes in the rural areas. They are compelled to live in far-flung areas and slums of the city because over the past few decades, rents have gone up faster in Islamabad than anywhere else in the country.

Rents are rising sharply and the government did not launch any effort to tackle the shortage of affordable housing. The government servants spend 50 percent in addition to HRC on the payment of rent. The government servants in lower grades, who already have tight budgets, have cut down expenditure on food and healthcare to pay the difference of rent.

The average two-bedroom portion of a house in sector I-10,  that is perhaps the most thickly populated and highly polluted sectors in the town, starts from Rs 30,000 and in sector I-8 the same portion is available for rent at Rs 50,000 a month.

But in contrast to the market rents, under the revised house rental ceiling, a peon can hire a house up to Rs 3,254 rent, an electrician of BPS-6 up to Rs 5,083 rent, a clerk of BPS-9 can get accommodation of Rs 7,594, a head clerk can have the house of Rs 11,455 rent, a school teacher of BPS-16 can hire a house of Rs 14,391 rent while an assistant professor of BPS-18 can hire a house with his ceiling of Rs 19,049. Besides, the mismatch between the house rents and the rental allowance and the procedure of payments, according to which the house owners are directly paid the rents by the government, are also quite worrisome for the employees and put them into a blackmailing position by the owners.

The government employees believe that they should be empowered by the government in making the choice of a house and in the processes of striking a deal. Moreover, the rental allowance should be paid directly to the employees that would put the employees into a better bargaining position.

“The increase in HRC is nothing but a peanut because it has failed in deescalating the financial problems of the government employees,” remarked Farzana Akram, a schoolteacher while narrating the woes of the government employees. “The government should form a policy of giving amount reserved for HRC along with pay so that the employees become independent and decide their matters without the hostile involvement of the landlords,” she proposed.