In an embarrassment to the government ahead of Assembly elections, about eight lakh employees and those working in aided institutions launched an indefinite strike, demanding pay revision, across Karnataka on March 1. This had an impact on several essential services. Last-minute parleys with Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai late on February 28 night had failed to yield a breakthrough.
While office-bearers of Karnataka State Government Employees’ Association conveyed their decision to the government, Mr. Bommai is expected to meet the office-bearers in the evening after his return from Chamarajanagar, sources in the Chief Minister’s Office said.
In Bengaluru, garbage collection was carried out from 6 a.m. to 8.30 a.m. in all BBMP zones, but later the collection was stopped by pourakarmikas and garbage collection workers. All BBMP offices were closed on March 1.
Which services in Karnataka are affected
- Government and aided educational institutions shut with teachers joining the strike
- Preparatory examinations of class 10
- Outpatient services in government hospitals shut
- Only emergency services made available in government hospitals
- Waste management, revenue services in local bodies affected partially
- Secretariat services to shut down completely
Health services hit across Karnataka
Health sector has been affected by the strike as Out Patient Departments (OPD) have been shut down in all government hospitals across Karnataka. A total of 4,800 doctors under the Health Department, including those in administrative posts like medical officers, are taking part in the strike.
However, emergency cases like accidents, deliveries and also services like chemotherapy and dialysis, have not been affected. Doctors attending to emergencies are wearing black badges as a sign of protest.
While in some speciality hospitals, such as Vani Vilas hospital, pregnant women coming for regular follow-up were attended to, those visiting K.C. General Hospital and Victoria Hospital for OPD services were turned away. In some hospitals, scheduled surgeries have been postponed.
With permanent pourakarmikas joining the strike, garbage collection has been affected in several parts of Bengaluru, and in other urban local bodies across the State. Essential civic services in Bengaluru, including primary health care centres, issuing birth and death certificates, tax payment and work related to elections, are expected to be affected in all the BBMP zones.
“Around 10,000 employees in various city corporations in Karnataka, including BBMP employees, will extend support to the strike,” Karnataka City Corporation Employees’ Association president A. Amruthraj said.
The Government Primary School Teachers’ Association, Government High School Teachers’ Association, Government Pre-University College Lecturers’ Association and Karnataka Government College Teachers’ Associations have extended support to the strike. As a result, government and aided schools and colleges remain closed. The strike is expected to have an impact on the preparatory examinations for class 10.
Transport not affected
While Karnataka State Road Transport Employees’ League, one of the Road Transport Corporation employees’ unions, will stage a protest at Freedom Park in Bengaluru demanding salary on par with government employees, KSRTC and BMTC bus services and Namma Metro services will be available as usual.
Though employees in electricity supply companies are extending support to scrapping of NPS, services will not be affected.
Various universities, including Visvesvaraya Technological University and Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences, will conduct semester exams for under-graduate (UG) and post-graduate (PG) courses.
Sub-registrar offices closed
All sub-registrar offices across the city remained closed on Wednesday. At the Byatarayanapura Sub-registrar Office, an elderly couple C. K. Anjanappa and Latha had been caught unawares by the strike and had made the trip to execute a gift deed. “There was no clarity that all offices will be shut down. We unnecessarily made the trip to the Sub-registrar office only to be greeted by downed shutters,” Mr. Anjanappa said.
Talks with CM failed to make headway
The decision to go ahead with the strike was taken at midnight after a meeting with Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai failed to yield a breakthrough. Though the association president C.S. Shadakshari said that the government was positive towards their demands, the employees had decided to go ahead with the strike since the government had not offered any concrete answers to their demands.
In general, employees have been seeking a 40% fitment to their basic pay with retrospective effect from July 1, 2022 as the term of the 6th Pay Commission ended on that date. Besides, they are asking for scrapping of National Pension Scheme in favour of the Old Pension Scheme, which the government is not ready to even negotiate.
On February 28 morning, Mr. Bommai had stated that his government would ask the 7th Pay Commission to immediately submit an interim report on which the State Government could act upon, and also pointed out that the necessary money had been kept aside in the budget.
The opposition Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) have extended support to the demands of employees, and announced that they will implement their demands if they are voted to power.