Staff strike paralyses Kashmir government

Srinagar/Jammu: Work in government offices across Jammu and Kashmir was paralysed today as employees struck work Tuesday demanding an increase in the retirement age and regularization of adhoc/daily wage workers.

A majority of the state’s 450,000 employees joined the strike and only some middle and senior level officers attended their offices.

In Srinagar, police used water canon and batons in the Exhibition Road area to disperse hundreds of agitating employees.

“Several of our peaceful protestors were arrested by the police,” an agitating state employee said.

“The state government is backing out of a written agreement with us but we will not allow this to happen.

“We will hold a peaceful demonstration outside the civil secretariat in Srinagar on May 7 and if our demands are not met till then, we will observe strike on May 8 and May 9,” said Abdul Qayoom Wani, leader of Employees’ Joint Consultative Committee (JCC).

In Jammu, the leaders of the striking employees also said the government was befooling them by first agreeing to their demands and then backing out on its promise.

“The government has fooled us by not keeping its promise,” said JAC leader Ram Kumar.

“Today’s (Tuesday) strike was complete and if the government does not agree to our demands, we will go for two days’ strike on May 8-9,” he said.

The employees are demanding an increase in the retirement age from 58 to 60 years, regularising the services of daily wagers and adhoc employees working since 1994 and framing a policy for regularising temporary employees besides other demands like removal of grade anomalies.

The demand for raising the retirement age for the state government employees has become a ticklish issue as those opposed to the move assert it would result in a two-year moratorium on government employment. This, they point out, would add to the swelling numbers of unemployed youths in the state.

However, those favouring the move maintain that once the retirement age is raised and superannuation is halted for two years, the state government would save millions of rupees that could be used for creating more jobs and speeding up the pace of development in the state.

The state government has already constituted a high level committee headed by Finance Minister Abdur Rahim Rather to make recommendations on the employees’ demands. The committee is yet to submit its recommendations to the state cabinet for its final consideration.

State Chief Secretary Madhav Lal said the employees have no reason to go on strike as their demands are under active consideration of the government.

IANS

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