Mumbai: Around 1.8 million Maharashtra government employees in various departments, schools, colleges, hospitals and other sectors on Tuesday started an indefinite strike to press for a return of the Old Pension Scheme.
Facing its biggest challenge, the 9-month old government of Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis has warned of action against the striking employees while offering an olive branch to discuss and consider their demand after taking into account the financial implications.
However, the striking unions are adamant and declared that they want an immediate announcement on OPS - which was discontinued in 2005.
"We are collecting the figures, but a majority of the state government employees across departments have joined the strike and will continue till we succeed," Government Employees Unions Steering Committee Convenor Vishwas Katkar told media persons.
The OPS was replaced by a new pension scheme in which the pension amount was deducted from the employees' salaries, unlike the previous version.
Explaining the effect, Katkar said that in OPS, the employees use to get 50 per cent of the basic salary as pension, but in the new scheme, the amount is barely 25 per cent of the basic pay.
As the Class I and II employees are not part of the strike, there is only a partial impact on the normal working of various departments.
However, the strike has hit various government schools, colleges with teaching and non-teaching staff staying away, paramedics and nurses in hospitals, plus Class III and IV cadres remained off work.
The working was also affected in government offices in urban and rural centres and districts as a majority of the civic employees are also joining the agitation for OPS.
Nevertheless, in certain major cities like Mumbai, where the civic employees are keeping off the strike, the impact would be minimal, though they have expressed solidarity with their striking fraternity.
Chief Secretary M.K. Srivastava on Monday directed all Divisional Commissioners and Collectors to take appropriate measures to avoid any inconvenience to the common people.
Shinde said that the government will constitute an administrative committee of top officers to study the OPS demands and it would submit its report within a given time-frame, but the employees unions insist it should be accepted as a policy.
The clamour for the OPS started ahead of the state budget session with a series of protests, processions, marches across the state to revert to the previous scheme.
The move gained momentum after at least half a dozen states - Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal and Punjab - announced their plans to revert to the OPS last month.
Rebutting the state government's arguments that it would hit the state's already stressed financial situation, Katkar and other leaders said that if it is not affecting the economy of other states, then how could it affect Maharashtra.
He argued that since most employees shall retire only after another 10-12 years, the state government can systematically plan the OPS implementation without any adverse financial impact.
For all the latest News, Opinions and Views, download ummid.com App.
Select Language To Read in Urdu, Hindi, Marathi or Arabic.