Acting tough against striking school teachers, the Edappadi K Palaniswami-led ruling All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) government on Saturday (26 January) suspended 450 teachers and government staff after many of them were remanded in judicial custody for staging demonstrations as part of their continuing statewide protest, the New Indian Express reported.
At least six top leaders of the Joint Action Council of Tamil Nadu Teachers’ Organisations and Government Employees’ Organisations (JACTTO-GEO) were arrested in Vellore and another nine frontline leaders were held by the police in Tiruvannamalai.
The state government has rejected the demands of the striking government employees and teachers outright, and asked them to return to work or face disciplinary action.
Bolstered by the advice of the Madras High Court to the striking teachers to resume work keeping students' interest in mind, the government is likely to initiate disciplinary action under 17 (b) for unauthorised absence from Monday.
D Jayakumar, the State Minister for Fisheries, and Personnel and Administrative Reforms, on Saturday (26 January) pointed out the unreasonable nature of the demands put forward by the teachers and said that meeting them will virtually leave the state exchequer with next to nothing to support the various welfare schemes run by the government.
"The staff should understand that they get higher pay than those in the private sector," he said. Jayakumar also rubbished the false propaganda over the alleged closure of 5,000 schools and merger of 3,500 schools.
Jayakumar provided data on the average salaries earned by the government staff
In a comprehensive 11-page rebuttal statement to the protesters, Jayakumar said that over 70 per cent of the state’s expenditure currently goes towards funding salaries, pensions, administration and interests leaving just 29 per cent to spend on welfare schemes.
The minister issued his statement shortly after meeting Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami, School Education Minister KA Sengottaiyan and Chief Secretary Girija Vaidyanathan.
Members from JACTTO-GEO, the supreme body of state government staff, are on strike since 22 January, demanding that the government meet their nine-point charter of demands, which includes scrapping the present Contributory Pension Scheme and implementing the Old Pension Scheme (OPS) for those who joined service on or after 1 April 2003, release of 21-month salary arrears, vis-a-vis the Seventh Pay Commission recommendations, bringing the pay of state secondary grade teachers on par with their central government counterparts, regularise the services of part-time staff and teachers working at anganwadis and appoint new teachers for LKG, UKG.
In his response, Jayakumar said Tamil Nadu has done away with the old pension scheme as it was financially untenable. He said after repeatedly considering the possibility of re-implementing the old scheme, the state has concluded that it would be impossible to repeal the new scheme.
Commenting on the demanded pay-hike, he said new revisions were introduced in the wages in 2016 as part of the Seventh Pay Commission. “Implementing the new wages, cost the government Rs 21,594 crore in 2017-18, in addition to the income generated. This cost would increase to Rs 24,000 crore,” he said.
On salary arrears, Jayakumar pointed out that the government will incur an additional expenditure of Rs 14,500 crore on implementing the recommendations of the Seventh Pay Commission, and due to this, the revenue deficit will skyrocket to Rs 21,594 crore in 2017-18, and would touch Rs 24,000 crore in 2018-19. Jayakumar also pointed out that government was meeting this additional expenditure by getting loans from outside. A new pay-hike will cost the government another Rs 20,000 crore, for which there are no resources.
JACTTO-GEO, however, has vowed to continue with the indefinite strike. They asserted that they will intensify the agitation until the “just demands” are fulfilled and the arrested leaders are released.
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