Says he will not initiate further talks

Reiterating that he will not initiate any further discussions with the representatives of the unions of government employees and teachers, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has said the strike has no support from the employees at large.

The unions are on an indefinite strike demanding withdrawal of the contributory pension scheme.

Addressing the delegates at the State conference of the Kerala State Service Pensioners’ Association (KSSPA) here on Saturday, Mr. Chandy said though he had no hesitation in holding talks with the representatives of the striking unions, he would not initiate discussions with them. But Mr. Chandy said he would not mind talking to them if they approached him. The contributory pension would in no way affect the present employees and the statutory pensioners, he said. The Left parties supporting the strike would regret their action.

Comparing the current protest to the anti-computer agitation of the past, the Chief Minister said the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)] and its feeder organisations, including the Centre of Indian Trade Unions, were now utilising the latest developments in the Information Technology.

The contributory pension scheme was introduced in the State to cut back the huge financial burden imposed by on the State exchequer by the pension payment, Mr. Chandy said. The pension payment recorded a four-fold increase over the past decade from Rs.2,000 crore to Rs.8,200 crore. The pension burden would exceed Rs.8 lakh crore by 2040. The huge liability could not be borne by the government, as the number of pensioners was on the rise, he added.

He also said it would take 65 years for the State to experience the desired results of the contributory pension scheme. The finance management of the State government would be on the right track, as the pension liability would come down to 10 per cent of the State’s total revenue then as against 50 per cent now.

Congress’s campaign

Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president Ramesh Chennithala said the staggering financial liability from pension payment would deprive the State of funds required for development. The contributory pension scheme was implemented to avert such an outcome, he said, while inaugurating the KSSPA State meeting earlier in the morning. The Congress would organise ‘people’s gathering’ at the district headquarters on January 14 to mobilise public outrage against the strike that was turning violent. He also alleged that the CPI(M) was resorting to violence in the guise of support for the strike.

Poor participation of people in the programmes and agitations being organised by the CPI(M) was an indication of the erosion of the party mass base, he stated. Health Minister V.S. Sivakumar, Rural Development Minister K.C. Joseph, Minister of State for Home Mullappally Ramachandran, K. Sudhakaran, MP, and K. Muraleedharan, MLA, participated in the conference.