Photo by BL SONI
Photo by BL SONI

Mumbai: The state cabinet seems to be divided over the strike call given by 17 lakh government employees. While Shiv Sena minister Diwakar Raote demanded strict action against the striking employees, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) minister Vinod Tawde opposed him. He rallied behind the employees and advocated their demands.

The government has declared the strike illegal and said sections of the Maharashtra Essential Services Maintenance Act (MESMA) will be applicable to employees. Meanwhile, the Maharashtra Rajya Sarkari Karmachari Madhyavarti Sanghatna (MRSKMS) claimed the first day of the strike was 100 per cent successful. All government-aided schools, colleges, and corporations remained shut.

In a cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Monday, the strike and its ramifications on essential services, especially on hospitals, was discussed at length.  Ministers expressed concern over the suspended services in public hospitals. A minister informed the cabinet all critical surgeries at Sir JJ Hospital had been postponed for the next three days and none of  the nursing staff had reported for duty.

According to an insider, Minister for State Transport Raote intervened in the discussion, demanding strict action against such employees. “Minister for school education Tawde opposed Raote’s demand and said employees had the right to protest and if action would be taken against them, the administration would collapse,” the insider informed.

Raote, speaking to select media at Mantralaya on Tuesday evening, said it was not the right time to stall the state administration. “We are passing through a difficult phase. There is the Maratha agitation and incidents of violence have occurred during the protests. A bandh has also has been called by the Maratha Kranti Morcha on August 9, while there are warnings of agitation from Dhangar and Muslim communities. In such a situation, if 17 lakh government employees call for a strike and stall the government, how can we spare them? They must be punished,” he insisted.

He added, “I suggested to CM Fadnavis all ministers be present in Mantralaya for a whole day, review the strike and transfer all striking employees. Sadly, this suggestion was only accepted by a few.”

MRSKMS president Milind Sardeshmukh claimed the strike was a success. “Ninety-six per cent employees participated in the strike and most government offices remained shut on the first day of the strike. Even in Mantralaya, many offices remained shut.”

However, senior officials were present in Mantralaya as the Gazetted Officers’ Organisation has withdrawn from the strike.

The employees are on strike for arrears in pay scale, implementation of the recommendations of the Seventh Pay Commission and increase the age of retirement from 58 to 60. The General Administration Department (GAD) issued a Government Resolution (GR) late on Monday evening, assuring the pay commission’s recommendations would be implemented from January 2019. However, organisations claimed the GR is insufficient and government had cheated employees.

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