Mumbai, Aug 7 (IANS) The functioning of government offices across Maharashtra was hit on Tuesday as around 17 lakh state employees launched a three-day strike over their pending demands, including implementation of the 7th Pay Commission report.
This, despite the fact that the state government on Monday night adopted a tough stand and invoked the MESMA (Maharashtra Essential Services Maintenance Act). It warned of strict disciplinary action and salary cuts against those who failed to report for duty.
Simultaneously, it also announced the payment of pending Dearness Allowance (DA) for 14 months to 150,000 gazetted officers with the August salaries, who withdrew from the three-day agitation.
The strike’s impact was felt in the offices of all government departments, which remained largely deserted, virtually paralysing all routine work, with barely five per cent attendance in the Mantralaya, the state government seat at Nariman Point.
Besides, work in government schools, colleges, technical institutes, hospitals, health centres in urban and rural centres was also affected, hitting the poor and senior citizen patients hard.
Most government-run hospitals, including the Sir J. J. Group of Hospitals in Mumbai and other cities, postponed all scheduled surgeries and only performed emergency procedures in the absence of doctors, nursing, other paramedic and support staff.
An official of the Maharashtra State Employees Organisation (MSEO) said that all employees from Mantralaya right up to the taluka levels across all government departments joined the strike.
“We had served the notice for strike on July 16. But since there was no response from the government, we went ahead with the agitation. It has been a 100 per cent success,” MSEO President Milind Sardeshmukh claimed.
Maharashtra Government Employees Union General Secretary Avinash Daund questioned why the government was delaying the issue when an announcement to implement the 7th Pay Commission has already been made as well and the budgetary provision for it made.
At several places in Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, Aurangabad and other important cities, the employees held protest marches or dharnas while raising slogans and asking the state government to immediately concede their demands.
The MSEO has accused the state government of sitting on its demands, including the implementation of the Pay Commission report, which was to be made effective from January 1, 2016.
However, later it dilly-dallied that it was awaiting the K.P. Bakshi Committee report on the matter as implementing the Pay Commission recommendations will entail an additional burden of Rs 21,000 crore on the debt-hit state.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had earlier said the government would implement the 7th Pay Commission report from January 2019 and a budgetary provision of Rs 10,000 crore was made in the last state Budget.
However, the employees’ organizations apprehend that in case the general elections are announced by then, the model code of conduct would be enforced and their wait could drag on much longer.
The other major demands of the striking staff include implementation of a five-day week in all government offices, increasing retirement age from 58 to 60 and filling up over 200,000 vacancies.
The unions made it clear that they will not settle for “mere assurances” but only direct action from the government, since the strike was deferred several times in the past few years on such promises.