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Himachal Pradesh: Govt Employees’ March for Old Pension Plan to Continue Despite ban on Protests

Ronak Chhabra |
The nine-day long padyatra by government employees will conclude in Shimla with a protest before the State Assembly on March 3 despite a gag order.
The foot march had begun earlier this month on February 23 from CM Thakur's home district Mandi. Image Courtesy - NPYKM/Facebook

The foot march had begun earlier this month on February 23 from CM Thakur's home district Mandi. Image Courtesy - NPYKM/Facebook

The march to seek restoration of the Old Pension Scheme in Himachal Pradesh would continue, leader of a state government employees’ union claimed on Saturday, a day after the Jai Ram Thakur-led government issued a gag order, banning all strikes and demonstrations in its departments during the ongoing Vidhan Sabha session.

The nine-day long padyatra, that had begun earlier this month on February 23 from CM Thakur’s home district Mandi, will “not be stopped,” Bharat Sharma, state general secretary, New Pension Yojana Karamchari Mahasangh (NPYKM) – Himachal Pradesh unit, told Newsclick in a telephone interview on Saturday.

Presided by its leader Pradeep Kumar, NPYKM is spearheading the ongoing movement in the state against the New Pension Scheme (NPS), which has over the years received flak from government employees across the country. It was reportedly enforced in Himachal Pradesh in 2006 by the then Virbhadra Singh-led government after a notification for the NPS was issued by the BJP-led Union government in 2003.

“The padyatra will conclude in Shimla on March 3, as per the plan. The government employees will gherao the Vidhan Sabha (state assembly),” Sharma said. He added that the foot march, that had begun with 11 union members, is being joined by government employees in different districts.

“Around one lakh government employees will stage a protest at the state assembly on March 3,” he claimed.

The latest statement by the NPYKM leader has come in the wake of the Himachal Pradesh government issuing instructions to its officials on Friday to immediately suspend or remove from service any employee who indulges in any form of strike, demonstration, or boycott of work. Issued by Under Secretary (Personnel) Balbir Singh, the three-page instruction has been forwarded by the chief secretary Ram Subhag Singh to all administrative secretaries, divisional commissioners, heads of departments, and deputy commissioners for strict compliance.

The instructions stated: “If any employee or group/ association of employees, under any nomenclature, indulge in any form of strike/demonstration/boycott of work or give notice conveying their intention to do so, the same be viewed seriously and stringent disciplinary action initiated forthwith for contravention of Rule 3 and 7 of CCS (Conduct) Rules, 1964 and the salary/ wages/ emoluments of such employees for the day/ days in question should also not be released.”

It added, “The defaulters indulging in unlawful activities should be immediately placed under suspension or removed from service.”

The instructions further stated that participation in such activities by government servants would amount to conduct that is unbecoming of a government servant and would constitute a good and sufficient reason to proceed against them under the Rule-11 of the Central Civil Services (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rules, 1965.

The order, barring government employees from staging protest, has come amidst the ongoing budget session of the 13th assembly of Himachal Pradesh government. This is the last budget session as state Assembly elections are scheduled to take place in November this year.

The instruction added that during the period the Assembly Session is in progress, and there is general ban on leave, and the government servants are required to assist in transaction of legislative business, the said activities are not short of gross indiscipline, insubordination, and dereliction of official duties.

For many years now, the state government employees have been in talks with the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government over the replacement of NPS with the old scheme, said Sharma of  NPYKM on Saturday. Notably, last year, the state government also constituted a committee to look into the demands and grievances of its employees who are covered under NPS. 

“As elections are scheduled this year, it is our last chance to push the government to accept our demands. We wanted to put maximum pressure on the government during the Budget Session,” Sharma said.

On the gag order issued by the Himachal Pradesh government, Sharma added that it would not deter the employees from participating in the protest march. “Today is its third day. We will be marching in Bilaspur district. We are receiving full support from the government employees,” he said.

In run up to the polls, Opposition parties too have come out in support of the protesting government employees. On Thursday, the Leader of Opposition and former Congress Minister, Mukesh Agnihotri,  vowed to restore the old pension scheme if the party came to power in the state.

Newsclick had earlier reported on why the NPS was flayed by the government employees who fear that the exposure of the retirement funds, under the new scheme, to the vagaries of share market would eventually defeat the purpose of securing their old-age period

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