Report by Kamgar Ekta Committee (KEC) correspondent
On 20th February more than 500 delegates from Mumbai, Thane, Pune, Nasik and a few other places from Maharashtra participated in a meeting in Mumbai. The meeting was called to discuss mainly two demands: i) Restore OPS for all government employees and ii) Regularise all contract employees.
The meeting was jointly organized by the Central Government Employees Federation, the Central Government Employees Coordination committee, the Brihan Mumbai State Government Employees Sanghatan, and the Government-Semi Government Teaching and Non-teaching Employees’ Coordination Committee Maharashtra. Delegates from the Co-ordination Committee of Teachers’ Organizations, Bombay and those from the Municipal Workers’ organizations of Maharashtra also attended the meeting.
This meeting is being held in the background of the fact that in the recently-concluded Winter Session of the state legislature, Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had said, “The government will not revive the old pension scheme. Its reinstatement will put an additional burden of Rs. 1.10 lakh crore on the state exchequer.” This is contrary to what had been stated by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde after his party and ally BJP’s loss in the state Legislative Council polls. In the run-up to these polls, the opposition had highlighted the need for OPS; after the loss the CM said that the government will find out a “positive middle path” for teachers in favour of OPS by studying legal and financial implications.
Shri Vishwas Katkar from the Government-Semi Government Teaching and Non-teaching Employees’ Coordination Committee Maharashtra chaired the meeting. Com. Subhash Lamba, President All India State Government Employee Federation and Dr. D. L. Karad, Maharashtra State President CITU were the main speakers. Speakers representing teachers, municipal employees, Western Railway employees, pensioners’ association, also addressed the gathering.
All the speakers’ declared that their organisations would participate in the indefinite strike call of Maharashtra State government employees from 14th March 2023 till the OPS is reinstated. Municipal workers’ representatives declared that they will also participate even if the Maharashtra State government threatens them as workers delivering essential services.
Some of the speakers condemned the Prime Minister, who had reportedly declared in his speech in parliament that agreeing to OPS is equivalent to committing a sin! Some others condemned him since in parliament he pitted interests of future generations against the interests of current employees by saying that if OPS is reinstated then due to the financial burden on the government the future of our children will be ruined. By quoting statistics of funds available with the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority deposited under NPS by employees some speakers exposed the government’s falsehood. Some speakers pointed out as to how more than 10 lakh crore rupees loans given to capitalists have been waived off and an equal amount has been declared as NPAs of various public sector banks by the same governments which give call of “austerity” when working people’s livelihood is at stake.
Both the main speakers highlighted that the struggle for OPS is part of the struggle against the policies of Globalisation by Liberalisation and Privatisation of the economy. They also stressed the need to regularise all contract workers and filling up of more than seventy lakh vacancies in state and central government enterprises and departments.
An agitation program across Maharashtra with gate meetings and larger meetings was announced. Maharashtra government employees, municipal employees, teachers and other non-teaching employees seem determined to fight for their just demands.