After a successful meeting with Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, Maharashtra government employees called off a week-long strike on Monday. A union leader declared the end of the campaign to reinstate the old pension scheme.
According to Vishwas Katkar, convenor of the striking unions coordination committee, the state government has ‘in principle’ agreed to extend monetary benefits equivalent to the OPS to employees who are part of the New Pension System (NPS).
Why is there a protest against the OPS?
Since March 14, government employees have been on indefinite strike, demanding the restoration of the OPS, which was discontinued in 2005. OPS provided retired employees with a monthly pension equal to 50% of their last drawn salary. In 2004-05, the OPS was phased out and replaced by a contribution-based and market-linked NPS.
Teachers association’s support
Santosh Phasge, president of the Junior Teachers’ Federation, said all teachers’ unions have lent support to the demand for the OPS restoration. “Teachers’ unions have stated that they would not let the ongoing board examinations be affected due to the strike. But it has been decided that after the exams, all academic work including evaluation of papers will be stopped, which will affect the (declaration of) results,” he said.
Earlier, Chief Minister Shinde asked the employees to come to the discussion table. “We have set up a three-member committee to study the old pension scheme and it will give its report in three months,” he told reporters here.
Meanwhile, the state cabinet decided to give kin the option of receiving a family pension if a government employee dies while on the job.
Ex gratia of Rs 10 lakh is currently paid to the kin of a state government employee who dies while on the job under the National Pension System (NPS). There will be no ex gratia if the family pension option is chosen.
Reacting to the decision, Vishwas Katkar, convenor of the committee of 36 unions of state government employees, semi-government employees and teachers, said, “A decision has been taken about benefits under the NPS in the event of the death of an employee, but those who are alive are being denied the Old Pension Scheme.”
The Supreme Court is on strike.
The Bombay High Court, hearing an appeal against the strike, stated that citizens should not suffer.
A division bench consisting of Acting Chief Justice SV Gangapurwala and Justice Sandeep Marne was hearing an application filed by advocate Gunratan Sadavarte seeking the strike to be called off immediately.
Advocate General Birendra Saraf told the court that the strike was “illegal”. “Our anxiety is that the common citizens should not be deprived of essential services. Common citizens should not suffer. We want to know what steps the state is taking to curb this menace. What are the modalities and steps the government is taking to ensure basic amenities and essential services are made available to people,” the court said.
While remanding the case for further hearing on March 23, the bench stated that people have the right to protest, but the government must ensure that no one suffers.