Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has said that a decision on the demand to raise the retirement age of Government employees would require a consensus that is evolved between the service organizations and all sections of the youth in the State.

He was speaking after inaugurating the 26th State Convention of the Kerala Gazetted Officers’ Union (KGOU) here on Sunday.

Mr. Chandy pointed out that while nearly 25,000 persons on an average were being employed every year, a huge section of nearly 40 lakh people, mostly those belonging to the younger generations, continue to await employment opportunities. “An increase in the retirement age would be seen as the prime cause for the scarce opportunities that exists for the large number of unemployed youth. Our society does not have the strength to withstand the sentiments and angst of the large number of affected persons. Representatives of the youth sections must be encouraged to participate in extensive discussions on the matter. Their opinions and viewpoints should be deemed considerable importance while arriving at a consensus in the issue,” he said.

He, however, added that the demand for increasing the pension age was “not a closed chapter”. “Although I am personally of the view that the current retirement age of 55 years is not in tune with the existing circumstances, the various factors that surround the issue cannot be overlooked. Efforts will be made to evolve a consensus by incorporating the viewpoints of all sections that are influenced. However, an unfair and one-sided decision made on the matter would never ensure the well-being of the State.”

Addressing the conference, Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president Ramesh Chennithala said that a political consensus in the State was required for addressing the issue of raising the retirement age. “The demand for increasing the pension age is justifiable. Many other states had implemented an increase in pension age, owing to the increase in life expectancy of the people. At the same time, the problems faced by those unemployed should also be considered. The Government should toe an impartial line in order to arrive at what was best for the public,” he said.

He pointed out that the Government had the responsibility to strengthen the civil service sector prior to implementing the Right to Service Act. “The State Government cannot afford to turn a blind eye towards the various problems that are being faced by those in the sector. The long-standing demands of the employees must be addressed at the earliest. Such measures would ultimately lend greater efficiency during implementing the initiatives of the State leadership that are intended to ensure the welfare of the public.

Mr. Chennithala also said that the government employees have been the victims of the inefficiency and wrong decisions of the previous LDF Government during the previous five years. Political interests used to influence the decisions of the Government. Punishment transfers and other forms of ill-treatment had been meted out against those who strived for democratic actions, he said.

KGOU president P.K. Jacob presided over the inaugural function.

Revenue Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan, Rural Development Minister K.C. Joseph, Excise Minister K. Babu, Shashi Tharoor, Anto Antony, M.P.s, Joseph Vazhakkan M.L.A., District panchayat president Radha V. Nair, Kottayam Municipal chairman Sunny Kalloor, District Congress Committee president Kurian Joy, vice president Tomy Kallani, KPCC secretaries Lathika Subhash, Josy Sebastian, INTUC district president Thomas Kalladan, KGOU general secretary C. Rajan Pillai and State Employees and Teachers Organisations (SETO) chairman Kottathala Mohanan were present on the occasion.