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Employees want to use collective mob strength to bring down government to its knees

By NS Venkataraman* 
It is reported that   the trade unions and associations  working  amongst 28 lakh  employees of government of India including the railways and public sector undertakings and more than three crore employees and teachers working with the state governments have   decided to go on an   indefinite strike from 1st May, 2024  demanding the restoration of what is known as old pension scheme (OPS). 
In other words, these organised class of government employees want to use their collective mob strength to bring down the government to its   knees  and   get whatever they want,   unmindful about the problems faced by the government in acceding to their demand.
By no stretch of imagination, one can think that the government employees in India are under paid or left in wants.   Particularly after the implementation of the 7th pay commission in 2016, the salaries and benefits for employees of government of India have gone up substantially and such pay hike pattern was also followed by all state governments in due course. Today,  the government employees in India including teachers working in government schools and colleges should be considered as belonging to middle income group and certainly not lower income group.
The fundamental question is whether these well paid government employees are justified in forming themselves as trade unions and claiming trade union rights.  Karl Marx,  the great benefactor of working class who lived in 19th century and gave the clarion  call that the “workers have nothing to lose except the chain”  would be turning in his grave,   to  view the present conditions in India,  where highly paid   government employees exploit the trade union concept evolved by Karl Marx, for their self centred   desires, unconcerned about the plight of millions of unorganised class in India belonging to lower income group.
At one time, In Karl Marx period,  the issue was oppressed class against the capitalist class.   Now, the issue in India is organised class against unorganised class.
The government employees insist that they would go on an indefinite  strike,  if the government would not revert back to the old pension scheme as against the new pension scheme. The subject of old and new pension scheme have been extensively debated in various forums in recent years and the consensus view is that both old pension scheme and the new pension scheme have their own merits  and it is totally wrong to say that new pension scheme have no specific advantages to the employees.
In any case, without going into this question of evaluating the merits and demerits of new pension scheme and old pension scheme, the issue  relates to the affordability for the government in accepting the demand for  old pension scheme by the government employees.
Several learned,  discerning   and independent economists  have pointed out that return to the old pension scheme would have extremely high impact on the finances of the government and reduce the funds available for capital expenditures for implementation of development programmes  by the government.
Reserve Bank of India  has indicated that  the  collective reversion to old pension scheme by all state  governments would impose a fiscal burden of 4.5 times that of the new pension scheme (NPS), which would be an unacceptable situation.
It is necessary to keep in view that significant population of India still belongs to lower income group and out of this,  unacceptable level consist of those  who are below poverty level.  In such circumstances,  there is a compulsive need for government of India and state governments to allot and spend funds for welfare  and poverty alleviation schemes.
While the government employees belong to organised class,  there are several millions of people in India  who belong to unorganised class living on daily wages or self employed without economic and social   security. The needs of such lower income population should be prioritised  much more than in meeting the desires  of the government employees who are already well paid.
The  widespread perception in India is that government employees are viewed as privileged class enjoying not only  good salary and perks but also getting  some sort of security in jobs.  As a matter of fact, the aspiration of most section of youth in India is to get a government job  and stay in the government job life long. 
Certainly, when  reacting to the massive indefinite strike proposal of the government employees from 1st May, the unorganised class of people would only view the government employees in the same way that workers viewed capitalists during Karl Marx days.
Finally, the government employees should be aware of the fact that as they serve in the government, they have a duty to be conscious of the need of the fellow countrymen and discharge their duties and responsibilities keeping the welfare of the society in view. Already enjoying reasonable pay packet, going to the extent of resorting to indefinite strike   by government employees, can be legitimately considered as an act  against the people of India.
---
*Trustee, Nandini Voice For The  Deprived, Chennai

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