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Maharashtra employees call off strike after reaching 'in principle' agreement with govt on OPS

The breakthrough came after a meeting with the protesting Maharashtra government employees and Chief Minister Eknath Shinde on Monday.

Raju Kumar Edited By: Raju Kumar @rajudelhi123 Mumbai Published on: March 20, 2023 18:25 IST
Week-long strike ends
Image Source : PTI Week-long strike ends

Maharashtra government employees on Monday called off a week-long strike after a successful meeting between their representatives and Chief Minister Eknath Shinde. A union leader announced the end of the agitation to restore the old pension scheme. 

The state government has 'in principle' agreed to extend monetary benefits equivalent to the OPS to employees who are part of the New Pension System (NPS), said Vishwas Katkar, the striking unions coordination committee's convenor. 

Why is protest against OPS?

The government employees were on an indefinite strike since March 14 demanding restoration of the OPS, which was discontinued in 2005. Under OPS a retired employee got monthly pension equivalent to 50 per cent his/her last drawn salary. The OPS was replaced by contribution-based and market-linked NPS in 2004-05.

Teachers association's support
Santosh Phasge, president of the Junior Teachers' Federation, said all teachers' unions have lent support to the demand for the OPS restoration. "Teachers' unions have stated that they would not let the ongoing board examinations be affected due to the strike. But it has been decided that after the exams, all academic work including evaluation of papers will be stopped, which will affect the (declaration of) results," he said. 

Earlier, Chief Minister Shinde asked the employees to come to the discussion table. "We have set up a three-member committee to study the old pension scheme and it will give its report in three months," he told reporters here.

The state cabinet, meanwhile, decided to provide the option of availing of family pension to the kin if a government employee dies while in service.

At present, under the National Pension System (NPS), ex gratia of Rs 10 lakh is paid to the kin of a state government employee in case of death while in service. If the family pension option is taken, no ex gratia would be paid. 

Reacting to the decision, Vishwas Katkar, convenor of the committee of 36 unions of state government employees, semi-government employees and teachers, said, "A decision has been taken about benefits under the NPS in the event of the death of an employee, but those who are alive are being denied the Old Pension Scheme.”

High Court on strike
Hearing a plea against the strike, the Bombay High Court said citizens should not suffer.

A division bench of Acting Chief Justice SV Gangapurwala and Justice Sandeep Marne was hearing an application filed by advocate Gunratan Sadavarte seeking immediate withdrawal of the strike.

Advocate General Birendra Saraf told the court that the strike was “illegal”. "Our anxiety is that the common citizens should not be deprived of essential services. Common citizens should not suffer. We want to know what steps the state is taking to curb this menace. What are the modalities and steps the government is taking to ensure basic amenities and essential services are made available to people,” the court said.

The bench while posting the matter for further hearing on March 23 noted that people have the right to protest but the government has to ensure steps are taken so that no one suffers.

Also read- Maharashtra: Strike for Old Pension Scheme may delay evaluation of state Board Exam

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