Maharashtra govt employees turn down proposal of review committee by Shinde-led govt

17 lakh employees of the state government are on strike for restoration of OPS. Shinde had appealed to the employees to resume work and formed a three-member committee to review the Old Pension Scheme

Via Twitter
Via Twitter

Santoshee Gulabkali Mishra

Approximately 17 lakh employees of the Maharashtra government have continued their strike demanding restoration of the Old Pension Scheme (OPS) in the state. Before the strike commenced Chief  Minister Eknath Shinde  and Devendra  Fadnavis, the Deputy Chief Minister of the state, had appealed to the employees to not go on the strike. Shinde proposed a review on the OPS and has formed a committee which will review and submit the report within three months. On March 14, 2023 approximately 17 lakh state government and semi government employees started an indefinite strike raising their pending demand of restoration of the OPS . Sumitra Tote of the Maharashtra Nursing Association said its branches in 30 districts are participating in the strike.

However, Vishwas Katkar, the convenor of nearly 35 committees of state government employees, semi-government employees, paramedics, sanitation workers and teachers, rejected even the proposal by the government of a review committee to evaluate the OPS.

Katkar explained in length the merits of the OPS and demerits of the New Pension Scheme (NPS). He said, "Suppose an employee with the government draws a salary of Rs.32,000 and retires after 15-years. According to the NPS the pension would be between Rs 1800-2000 whereas in the OPS it can be somewhere near Rs 16,000 a month. This is a huge difference for an employee who has worked for almost two decades. We are asking the state government to restore the Old Pension Scheme. It is very unjust to the employees who are focused and dedicated to the government and welfare of people."

Katkar stressed that the Shinde-led government should understand the importance of the Old Pension Scheme and unless it is approved none of the employees will resume work.

Following the strike and agitation the state-run hospitals, schools and other essential government institutions are partly impacted in the state. However, Katkar claims that they are available with the high-rank officials on phones and are managing the essential services. "We have asked the employees from medical and education departments to remain available on  need basis. We have no intention of making the public should suffer . The top officials have been told about the availability of the staff in hospitals and educational services, "added Katkar.

"We have initiated a state-wide  protest and agitation. The employees from various districts of Maharashtra have joined the strike with us. State-wise about 17 lakh employees are part of this strike. However, many couldn't join on the first day. They were on leave. Now approximately 37,000 have cancelled their holidays to be part of this protest and demand against the government."

Shinde had also announced a panel comprising senior bureaucrats to look into the demand of state government employees to revert to the Old Pension Scheme.

"When the government agrees to review our demand of restoration of the Old Pension Scheme it indicates they too understand the need . We have rejected even the committee proposal today set up by the government .This Scheme was operational immediately after Independence till 2005. Then the state government didn't face any financial set backs. Why are they saying it now ? Come what may  we will not bend down to the government in this matter , " added Katkar.

Katkar claims that the New Pension Scheme is difficult for employees.  It doesn't give surety of the amount for the pensioner. The share market is so uncertain - how does a retired person  manage with such a small pension?"

Meanwhile a lawyer has approached the Bombay High Court against the indefinite strike by State Government Employees.

The matter was mentioned before the bench of Acting Chief Justice SV Gangapurwala and Sandeep Marne by Advocate Gunratan Sadavarte in a 2014 PIL. The bench has agreed to hear the matter on Friday this week.

 Sadavarte said, “We don’t know whether demands are illegitimate or not. The government has constituted a committee and employees should allow the report to come out. The strike is illegal and against the Maharashtra Essential Services Maintenance Act, 2023 (MESMA). Due to the indefinite strike mid-day meals are not reaching the children and patients are suffering. This is my contention.”

The application seeks directions for immediate withdrawal of the strike and action against the striking government employees. Sadavarte has also sought a list of striking unions and employees and also a list of those affected by the strike, including patients.

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