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Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde on Tuesday urged state employees, who have gone on an indefinite strike seeking restoration of the Old Pension Scheme (OPS), to call off their agitation, stressing that the government was positive and sympathetic to their demand.
Speaking in Parliament, Shinde said an extreme step can be taken when there is no room for discussion, but in this case the government is ready to hold talks with the agitating workers as any decision on the pension scheme will have financial implications.
“I ask them (government workers) to hold a discussion and withdraw the strike. They must think and discuss the issue with the government and withdraw the strike in light of the problems people are facing,” he said.
Lakhs of government employees in the state went on an indefinite strike from Tuesday to seek restoration of OPS, a defined benefit pension scheme that offers 50 percent of the last drawn salary, hampering the functioning of various services and facilities in hospitals.
He said there is plenty of time for workers who have joined post-2005, when the National Social Security Scheme (NPS) was introduced to replace the OPS, to retire.
“You can decide to go on strike whenever you want. But it is not necessary to go on strike today. We also told them (workers’ unions) that those who will quit before a decision is taken (by the government on OPS) will get full benefits,” the CM said.
The new pension system was implemented in the state on November 1, 2005.
Shinde said his government is committed to ensuring that workers get a dignified and secure life after retirement.
“But it is necessary to consider all the options available before the Old Pension Fund is implemented, and this has been presented to all employees,” he said.
The CM said after a meeting with employee unions on Monday that it has been decided to form a committee to study the new and old pension scheme. The committee will submit its report in the next three months.
“The government will take a sympathetic view (of the workers’ demand for OPS). There are financial implications of any decision we take and that must be thought through carefully. The government has not taken any negative view (of the demand) and a solution will only come through dialogue,” he said.