With the government firm on its decision to implement the contributory pension scheme, pro-LDF and pro-BJP State employees and teachers in the State began an indefinite strike from Monday midnight.
Pro-LDF employees of the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB), Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) and the Kerala Water Authority (KWA) too have decided to go on a one-day strike on Tuesday in solidarity with their State service counterparts.
Coming as it does amidst the ongoing private bus workers’ strike, Kerala is likely to experience a hartal-like situation on Tuesday. The Kerala and Mahatma Gandhi universities have postponed all examinations scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday in view of the strike.
The government has already invoked the ‘dies non’ (no work, no pay) provision to tackle the indefinite strike and instructed all heads of departments and offices not to grant leave to employees, including gazetted officers, other than for specific reasons enumerated in the ‘dies non’ order. It has also asked the officers concerned to make alternative arrangements to ensure that government work did not suffer during the strike period.
In an open letter, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said there was no option but to implement the contributory pension scheme and warned the strike-bound employees that they would regret their action.
Information and Public Relations Minister K.C. Joseph said the State’s development would get hit for want of adequate capital investment. The government, he said, was spending 80.61 per cent of its revenue on payment of salaries and pensions. From Rs.1,838 crore in 2001-02, the State’s pension burden had ballooned to Rs.8,178 crore by 2012-13.
At present, the number of employees and pensioners was almost equal at a little over five lakh each. In 10 years, the number of pensioners would be 25 per cent more than that of employees, Mr. Joseph said.
However, the pro-CPI(M) Action Council of State Employees and Teachers, the pro-CPI Teachers’ Service Organisations’ Action council, and the pro-BJP Federation of Employees and Teachers’ Organisations (FETO), spearheading the agitation, termed the figures fictitious and claimed that the actual expenditure on salaries and pensions came to only 59.45 per cent of the State’s gross revenue.