A strike by nearly half a million government employees in Jammu and Kashmir

A strike by nearly half a million government employees in Jammu and Kashmir seeking money in arrears and a higher retirement age paralysed the state administration for the third day Thursday, with teachers also joining the protest.

About 450,000 employees went on strike Tuesday demanding payment of arrears they say the government owes them because of higher salary scales announced by the Sixth Pay Commission. They also want the retirement age to be hiked from 58 to 60.

Even as the authorities grappled with a crippled administration, teachers employed by the state added to the woes by striking work in solidarity, forcing the closure of all government schools.

Education Minister Peerzada Muhammad Syed warned of "stern action" against the teachers, calling their strike "irresponsible" and "callous".

"We cannot allow the teachers to play with the careers of our children. The government has taken serious note of their strike. Stern action will be taken against them," Syed said Thursday.

Except for essential services like healthcare, all government departments have remained closed for three days in the valley.

Ordinary people expressed disgust over the government employees’ strike.

"It is a cruel joke on the common man. I have to submit a permanent resident certificate for my son within this week, and the district office from where such a certificate is issued is closed. What am I supposed to do now?" asked Muhammad Jabbar, 58, Shangus in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district.

The total annual wage bill of the state government is Rs.4,000 crore before the implementation of the latest Pay Commission recommendations.

"The government needs financial support from the central government to pay the arrears. We have taken up the matter with the central government. This will take some time. The arrears cannot be paid overnight," an officer of the state finance department said.

"The enhancement of retirement age from 58 to 60 will result in stoppage of recruitments in government departments for two years, which will add to the problems of thousands of qualified, unemployed youth.
"All these factors have to be seriously weighed before a decision is taken on this issue," the officer said.

The striking employees claim that the government had last year promised that both demands would be soon met.

"We have decided to continue the struggle for our just cause. Unless the government meets our demands, we shall announce a detailed agitational programme March 15," a striking employee said.

Source : Zeenews