Massive Statewide Govt Lockdown Cripples Jammu & Kashmir

Massive Statewide Govt Lockdown Cripples Jammu & Kashmir

6 October 2013
Firstpost
Sumeer Yasir

Srinagar: A twenty seven-year-old resident of South Kashmir’s Anantnag town Majid Rashid Gilkar’s, dream of a lavish job in a gulf country is in jeopardy. On Monday, when he arrived in Srinagar from Delhi, after traveling more than 1000 kilometers to get his certificates from the collector’s office, he found the entire system under lock down. “I went to office of the Tehsilder it was empty. Hundred of people were waiting for their work to be done. The employees were having tea in the canteen, but refused to do the work.” He told Firstpost. Around 4.5 lakh employees, out of around of 6 lakh state government employees are on strike. They are demanding the release of arrears under the 6th pay commission, enhancement in retirement age from 58 to 60, increase in housing and rental allowance, regularization of contract workers and ad-hocs; demands they say were already agreed to by the state government, and signed under a “collective consensus” agreement on 15 September 2011. Representational image: CNN-IBN Representational image: CNN-IBN The ongoing strike by government employees has caused serious inconvenience to the Kashmiri people, who in turn, are asking the government to take tough action. However, the government has failed to do anything apart from issuing a few warnings. This has led to serious resentment against the Omar Abdullah government, whose coalition partners Congress have already thrown their lot in with the striking employees. The latest “Lock Out” call given by the ‘Joint Consultative Committee (JCC), an umbrella organization of various employees union with a membership of around 4.5 lakhs began on Friday. The spokesperson for the group, Rauf Ahmad Bhat, told Firstpost that the protest would continue, adding that although the state government had accepted all its demands, the non implementation of the government’s promises had left employees with no option but to protest. He also said that instead of trying to initiate a dialogue, the government took almost all the leaders of JCC into police custody. A man hunt was launched by the government after their talks with the employees leadership failed, leading to the arrest of JCC leaders. The state government passed an order, drawing the attention of various administrative functionaries and the law enforcing agencies towards the provisions of the Essential Services (Maintenance) Ordinance, 2001 and SRO-1 of 2000. Government jobs are the only source of employment in Jammu and Kashmir. The private sector is almost non existential. Most of the private players after their much publicized entry into the state have either shut their shops within a year of operation, or failed to setup in Kashmir at all. The reason attributed to this is the active conflict still going on in valley. Strikes and curfews are common almost daily occurrence. On the other hand the government also seems to be helpless. The total income the state government receives from all sources is nearly 6,500 crore, while the government pays its employees a sum of around Rs 16,500 crore by way of salary. The pensioners take 2,000 crore, and electricity theft amounts to another 2,000 crore a year. Earlier this week the state government decided to act tough against its employees but failed to do anything that convinced its employees to stop agitating. According to reports, in 2013 alone, such strikes have affected routine life more than two dozen times and have crippled the already fragile state economy. After 2003, particularly, the number of strikes has increased multifold. Not surprisingly most of the leaders of the JCC are affiliated to various political parties in the state, although they never expressly say so. Chief Secretary of the Jammu and Kashmir government, Muhammad Iqbal Khanday, recently said that he was dismayed over the “obstinacy exhibited by employees” union leaders regarding the implementation of their demands. He said that government has announced that the principle of “no work, no pay” would be invoked against striking government employees. However this decision has not been implemented owing to pressure from the principle opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), along with the BJP. Both the opposition parties have created ruckus in the state assembly over the issue. The chief secretary also says that despite the best intentions of the government to meet most of the demands of the employees, the leaders of the union had shown “unwarranted rigidity and announced the strike.” The government on Saturday said it was not against the employees but wanted a consensus in the Legislative Assembly on the matter. “Either to reject the demand for enhancing the retirement age to 60 years or to accept it. We need the guidance of this House on the matter,” Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather said in the Legislative Assembly. The Minister said government has acceded to most of the demands of the employees.