Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Govt besieged

Scores of association of government employees having resorted to strikes, cease work and even indefinite hunger strike, all in support of their respective demands which pushed the government into the edge. Be it Nagaland In-service Doctors’ Association(NIDA) or All Nagaland Ad hoc Teachers Group-2015 and recently nursed under the aegis of Department Recruited Aggrieved Nurse (DRAN) 2021. There had also been several other employees associations who had resorted to various forms of protests. The strikes were essentially demands in the form of ultimatum served on the government either for service benefits or regularisation etc. NIDA had demanded on extension of superannuation from the present 60 to 65 in lieu of the announcement made by the prime minister Narendra Modi on May 31,2016 by which superannuation age of all doctors in Central Health Service has been enhanced to 65 years . Central government sources disclosed that the extension of superannuation will benefit about 4,000 doctors. The state government may or may not be supportive of the demand for increasing superannuation but its hands are tied. The government very well understands that increasing the superannuation of government doctors would open a Pandora’s box when government employees under various departments would also make their demands. Currently, the superannuation of government employees in the state is 60 years of age or 35 years of service or whichever is earlier. NIDA’s argument was that there is shortage of doctors and with many government doctors on the verge of retirement, the shortage will become more acute. Further NIDA contended that with the medical college at Kohima to become operational, many of the current doctors who have wide experience in the clinical field would be needed . The government may have been convinced with the argument but it was unwilling to face more demands from other employees who would also be demanding increase of superannuation age. In order to get over a lose-lose situation, the government decided to bridge the gap between increasing superannuation and retirement by deciding that those doctors who retire will be immediately absorbed through ‘ re-employment’ at superannuation till 62 years. NIDA was adamant that it was not willing to accept anything lesser than increase of superannuation from 60 to 62. When it became clear that NIDA strike would eventually paralyse the health services, the government invoked Section 3 (1) of the Nagaland Essential Services (Maintenance) Act, 1978 (ESMA). Other government employees association like All Nagaland Ad hoc Teachers Group-2015 and Department Recruited Aggrieved Nurse (DRAN) 2021 have also been demanding regularisation of services to which the government seemed unable to do so. The appointments were not through normal recruitment process but in consideration of the urgency during covid-19 pandemic.Even the contractual doctors appointed during covid-19 pandemic have gone on strike since they have not been paid salary for over three months. Again, All Nagaland Ad hoc Teachers Group-2015 also struck work in demanding regularisation of service for over one thousand adhoc teachers. The appointments were adhoc and on the strength of recommendations from ministers and bureaucrats. The same response was made when staff nurses under the aegis of DRAN 2015 who were appointed during covid-19 pandemic also demanded regularisation of services. The lesson is that the government has only itself to blame for the situation it finds itself today.

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