The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Jaya reforms pill turns bitter

Chennai, June 29: Jayalalithaa has launched tough economic reforms and assured her people there will be “no more bitter pills”; despite this, she is bracing for a backlash.

Over 12 lakh state government employees, including school teachers, have decided to go on an indefinite strike from July 2 after Friday’s meeting with the chief minister and state officials failed to break the deadlock.

Mindful that liquidity is tight, Jayalalithaa had offered a Rs 552-crore package that partially addressed the employees’ demands. The package included a full cash payment of an additional 3 per cent dearness allowance from July 1 along with the earlier instalment of 4 per cent DA. The latter was also to be paid fully in cash as against the earlier decision of impounding one per cent of the DA into the general provident fund from Tuesday.

Jayalalithaa addressed another grouse by overturning the decision to pay half of the gratuity payment to staff retiring from April 1 this year in cash, with the rest to be paid in interest-bearing small-saving scrips that could be encashed later. Government employees will now be paid fully in cash.

The new gratuity payment will cost an additional Rs 260.13 crore this year.

But the government has kept mum on some of the other major demands. These include withdrawing pension reforms like raising the number of years of service needed to qualify for pension from 30 to 33 years and payment of 60 per cent of pay arrears, allowances and pension which had been impounded by the previous DMK regime in 1998.

Employees also want the Centre’s Fifth Pay Commission recommendations for state staff to be implemented.

Representatives of the joint action committee of government employees and teachers’ unions said Jayalalithaa’s offer was not satisfactory.

They said the DA decision was only an implementation of an announcement made in the budget. Even that had been deferred by three months as the budget said the additional DA would be paid with effect from April 1. The employees said they remained firm on plans for an indefinite strike.

After the discussions, Jayalalithaa said her government had to increase various levies “as a fallout of the bad fiscal management of the DMK government”. Hence, it was all the more necessary for government staff to appreciate the difficulties and withdraw their strike, she added.

The chief minister added that the package being offered was the “maximum possible now”.

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