After 11 days of strike that crippled the state machinery in Jammu and Kashmir, two government employee unions on Wednesday called off the stir as Chief Minister Omar Abdullah assured them to fulfil their demands within three months.
With the decision, about 4.50 lakh state government employees on stir demanding release of wage arrears and raise in retirement age from 58 to 60, are expected to resume duty on Thursday While Employees Joint Action Committee spearheading the agitation called it off, Joint Consultative Committee has suspended the strike for five days. The two bodies have over 4.50 lakh employees as their members. "After the appeal of chief minister that demands of arrears would be fulfilled within 2 to 3 months and orders issued by the high court, we have called off the strike in the interest of public," Spokesperson of EJAC Abdul Gafoor Dar said.
The announcement came a day after Jammu and Kashmir Secretariat Employees Association (JKCSEA), a body with over 3,000 members, called off the stir. However, JCC leader Khursheed Aslam said, "we have suspended the agitation for five days and appealed to employees to join their duties on Thursday. Strike has been suspended in view of the fresh assurances by the chief minister to solve employees problems and his offer for talks." Omar had yesterday said, "Government is always open to talks and talks can only happen after employees call of theirstrike"
Omar had said, "we have agreed to pay them arrears, but it will take government 2-3 months to prepare a road map". About raising retirement age, he had said it required wider political consultations because of its ramifications. The unions demanded that chief minister revoke ESMA and release all employees to facilitate talks. The government had invoked the measure after a few days of strike that began on April 3. Meanwhile, sweepers and para-medical staff in government-run hospitals resumed duties today itself.
They had called off strike last night, hours after the High Court expressed concern over the "disturbing situation" created bythe agitation. Other employees would report for duty tomorrow as today was a holiday on account of the Baisakhi festival, sourcessaid. The court had directed the government to take legal action against strikers while observing that "it was not a fundamental right to go on stir".
Meanwhile, CPI-M state secretary M Y Tarigami expressed disagreement with the court directive. "The right to dissent and voluntary protest are inalienable rights of the people in a democratic polity which are enshrined in the Constitution," Tarigami said in astatement. "If such rights are stifled either by courts or by executive, it will only encourage the forces that stand for autocracy or violence," Tarigami said.