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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Govt may order retirement of 35-plus, offer 30-60 to employees

Khursheed Alam let off yet again, 30 employees sent to Srinagar Central Jail

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Apr 10: On lightning orders from Ministry of Finance, Heads of Departments (HODs) have submitted a list of all those employees to the government who have completed 35 years of their service. Even as the process of their forcible retirement from service is now underway, Omar Abdullah’s coalition government is likely to address the agitating employees’ demand of extending the age of retirement by offering them a fresh ceiling---60 years of age or 30 years of service, whichever is earlier. Meanwhile, on 6th consecutive day of the shutdown of offices, sponsored by Joint Consultative Committee (JCC), authorities today arrested 30 of the employees on strike, though the most wanted Employees Joint Action Committee (EJAC) chief, Khursheed Alam, has been yet again detained and later sent back to his home.

Highly placed sources in the coalition government told Early Times that a Cabinet sub-committee, comprising five Ministers, which met and briefed Chief Minister about the latest obtaining situation on Thursday, sounded unanimous over the need to restore the government’s credibility with certain “harsh initiatives”. Immediately after the meeting ended, Ministry of Finance flashed a circular to all HODs, excluding Police, asking them to furnish a list of all the employees who had completed 35 years of government service. Sources said that the HODs compiled lists of their respective departments and submitted the same to Commissioner-Secretary of Finance Department, Sudhanshu Pandey, within 24 hours. According to these sources, Government was mooting forcible retirement of all these employees who were reportedly a few thousands in number.

Sources said that the state government was likely to address the demand of raising the age of retirement from 58 to 60 years while offering the trade union leaders a fresh proposal. Under this scheme, all the government and semi-government employees would reach superannuation on the day of completing 60 years of age or 30 years of continuous service, whichever earlier. This was being considered to allay the apprehensions of over half-a-million unemployed youth who have been bitterly critical of the government’s intention of raising the age of retirement at the cost of their job opportunities. People at large have been viewing the employee’s demand with its co-relation to the fact that almost all of the prominent trade union leaders were in the age group of 57-58 years and thus supposed to retire in the next few months.

As regards the release of pay arrears, Government would soon send a political delegation, comprising representatives of all mainstream political parties, to New Delhi where it would approach Prime Minister as well as Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission and Chairman of 13th Finance Commission to seek special grant of Rs 4200 Crore on account of liquidating the employees’ salary arrears.

On the 6th consecutive day of near-total shutdown of government establishments in Jammu and Kashmir, authorities today detained 25 employees in Bandipore and 35 more in the summer capital of Srinagar. Later this evening, all the 25, detained in Bandipore, and five more detained in Srinagar, were let off. Remaining 30 of the detainees were released from Police Stations of Kothibagh and Ram Munshi Bagh in Srinagar.

Sources said that the five trade union activists, picked up from Civil Lines of Srinagar and later let off by Police on the telephonic orders of a Minister, included the most wanted EJAC President, Khursheed Alam. Earlier too, Alam had been detained for a few hours but subsequently dropped back at his residence. He has set up a “strike control room” at headquarters of CAPD quarters where the trade union leaders have been holding news conference and threatening to make the government bow before them.

The agitating employees’ threats have worked till date as the government has not shown competence to enforce the draconian ESMA it invoked with fanfare at Jammu earlier this week. Today’s reports, gathered from independent sources at different district headquarters, said that shutdown was complete in the sense that nobody from the common masses was seen visiting any office with the hope of getting a work done. Reports said that attendance was slightly up as compared to five previous days of the strike but most of the officers remained closeted with DCs and Divisional Commissioner.

These reports said that little impact of the strike appeared to be on emergency services, including power, water and health services. Though less than five percent schools functioned, remaining 95 percent remained locked for the whole day like on the last five days.

Police foiled attempts of the striking employees to assemble and put up a mass show of strength and solidarity at Sher-e-Kashmir Park. Officials said that in all 35 of the trade union activists and striking employees were taken into custody and detained at three different Police Stations in Civil Lines. Five of them, including EJAC chief, Khursheed Alam, were later let off, reportedly on the telephonic orders of a Cabinet Minister. Officials said that remaining 30 detainees were lodged at Srinagar Central Jail. While as the trade union leaders insisted that more than 50 of their striking colleagues sustained injuries in Police action, officials maintained that less than ten people were believed to have sustained just minor injuries.

Speaking at a rally, before he was taken into temporary custody, EJAC chief Khursheed Alam said that the alliance of trade unions would not engage into any dialogue process with the state until ESMA was fully revoked, all the detained activists released and a written offer came from the government. He said that JCC would consider the government’s offer of dialogue only after receiving a formal invite.


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