The Tamil Nadu Government Employees Association (TNGEA) began an indefinite road-roko and jail bharo protest across the state from February 1 to insist on their long-pending demands. Thousands of government employees continue to court arrest while the government feigns ignorance of their demands.
Major demands of the employees include the regularisation of around 3.5 lakh non-standard and special time pay scale workers, the withdrawal of action against 7,800 employees and the cancellation of the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) for around six lakh employees.
The employees have been hitting the roads for the past three days in the thousands even while the government has not lent them its ear. The TNGEA has resolved to continue the struggle until the government assures them that their demands would be met.
THOUSANDS COURT ARREST
The association decided to push for its demands after holding a massive conference in Madurai in January. The employees, including those who have retired from service, are being punished for participating in a week-long protest in January 2019. The charges framed against them include attempt to murder, preventing judges form performing their duties and blocking an ambulance.
“No government would file such false charges against its own employees for participating in democratic protests. All these cases were filed against us after the withdrawal of the protests. We have initiated the ongoing indefinite struggle after the government turned a blind eye to us for the past two years,” M. Anbarasu, president of the TNGEA, told NewsClick.
The road rokos are witnessing massive participation from aggrieved government employees. The detained protesters resorted to sit-in protests in many parts of the state, condemning the “indifferent” attitude of the government in dealing with the protests.
“Around 7,800 employees have been booked under different charges by the state government out of which 5,000 employees were denied promotions and increments for participating in the 2019 protest. The anger among the government employees is running high as the state has been misleading the people by saying it has incurred high expenses due to our salaries and pensions,” Anbarasu added.
‘GOVT UTILISING CPS, GPF FUNDS’
The employees unions have been accusing the state government of utilising funds of the employees contribution for the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) and general provident fund (GPF). These amounts, worth more than several thousand crores, are being projected as state money and being shown as state funds. They are then used to avail loans from the RBI, the association alleged.
“Each time in the assembly the government boasts of being burdened by the salary and pensions of its employees. But, in fact, the government is utilising their money for other purposes. The contribution (CPF) from employees appointed after 2003 comes roughly to Rs 30,000 crores aside from the contribution under GPF. The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) government is using this amount to avail loans for implementing welfare schemes,” alleged Anbarasu.
The employees have demanded that the CPS be scrapped, citing discrepancies as compared to the National Pension System (NPS). In the event of their death the employees under CPS receive a one-time settlement instead of pension. The NPS has benefits of pension, gratuity and a family pension, while the CPS in Tamil Nadu has no such benefits, the association alleged.
The demand for scrapping the CPS and restoration of the old pension scheme has also gathered momentum.
REGULARISE 3.5 LAKH EMPLOYEES, FILL UP 4.5 LAKH VACANCIES
More than 3.5 lakh employees in the Mid-Day meals scheme and Anganwadi workers are denied retirement benefits since they are not incorporated as regular time-scale employees. The denial of pension and social welfare measures to them have persisted for several years.
“The employees must be paid a minimum pension after serving for 10 years. However, the Anganwadi. Mid-Day meal and other scheme workers are denied such rights. After retiring they are sent home empty-handed, which is an injustice after decades of service,” Anbarasu said.
The number of vacancies in various state government departments amount to 4.5 lakhs. With unemployment on the rise, various political parties and youth organisations have been demanding that the government fills up the vacancies, but to no avail.
The government has been mulling the option of contractualisation of workers across many departments.
‘MINISTERS, AIADMK LEADERS NOT HEARING PLEAS’
The employees association office bearers have been trying to meet the chief minister, the council of ministers and leaders of all political parties to submit their charter of demands.
“We went to the offices of all the political parties to submit our demands. We were made to wait for several hours in the AIADMK headquarters, only to return empty-handed. The deputy CM also returned our memorandum even after his personal staffers had accepted them. Such is the attitude of the AIADMK government and its leaders which has strengthened the protests of the employees,” said Anbarasu.