Central government employees and pensioners observe “Call Attention Day” today to highlight their demands

Published : February 01, 2021 12:06 IST

S.C. Bajpai (left), Director General, Ordnance Factories, handing over an indigenously produced assault rifle to Director General, CRPF, R.R. Bhatnagar for user trials at a function in the presence of Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in New Delhi in September 2017. Photo: V. Sudershan Photo: V. Sudershan

On February 1, even as Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presents her third Union Budget, a sizeable section of Central government employees and pensioners, including defence civilian employees, are observing the day as “Call Attention Day” and holding demonstrations throughout the country in support of their 13 demands.

The “Call Attention Day” has been given by the National Joint Council of Action (NJCA), an umbrella body of Central government employees which represents a workforce of over 3.2 million employees, including those employed in industrial establishments under the Railways, Defence, postal, atomic energy, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and other departments, and around six million pensioners.

Stating that the Central government employees kept the government machinery running during the entire COVID-19 lockdown period, the NJCA has put forth 13 demands: rescinding the government’s avowed intention to corporatise railway production units and the 41 ordnance factories which come under the Ordnance Factories Board; an end to the implementation of the GOCO (government owned-company operated) model at the eight Army Base workshops; stopping the privatisation and outsourcing of permanent and perennial jobs; immediate release of three instalments of dearness allowance/dearness relief owed to Central government employees and pensioners for the months of January and July 2020 and January 2021; implementing the assurances given by the Group of Ministers over the 7th Central Pay Commission demands, including the minimum pay end fitment factor; withdrawing the New Pension Scheme (which has thus far been rejected by the government) in tandem with the restoration of the guaranteed defined pension under CCS (Pension) Rules, 1973.

The NJCA is also demanding the regularisation of absence of employees who were absent at the height of the COVID-I9 pandemic; payment of compensation to Central government employees who died after contracting COVID-19; compassionate appointment of wards of those Central government employees who either succumbed or were medically invalidated from service; and the reimbursement of the actual amount charged by the Central government health scheme empanelled hospitals for the treatment of the COVID-19 infection.

In a letter addressed to the Chairman of the National Council–Joint Consultative Machinery (NC-JCM), the body that, among other things, fosters a harmonious relationship between the government and its employees, the employee side of the NC-JCM ( as opposed to the government side),  has stated that the government has failed to address the various issues that have been agitating the minds of Central government employees and pensioners, including freezing the dearness allowance/dearness relief without a valid reason for 18 months.

The NJCA has the strong backing of the Central trade unions, which have accused the Modi government of using the COVID-19 pandemic situation as a ruse to usher in numerous unilateral decisions that are inimical to the well-being of the working classes. The trade unions have highlighted the government’s decision, in violation of all previous agreements, to corporatise the 41 Ordnance Factories and the railway production units and to allow private participation in activities across the board in the railways and defence production sector units. The trade unions include the All India Trade Union Congress, Indian National Trade Union Congress, Hind Mazdoor Sabha, Centre of Indian Trade Unions, The All India United Trade Union Centre, Trade Union Coordination Centre, Self-Employed Women's Association, All India Central Council of Trade Unions and the Labour Progressive Federation.

The trade unions have accused the NDA government of abolishing thousands of posts and perpetuating an indirect ban on recruitment. The unions claim that over 5 lakh posts are lying vacant in all the Central government departments. They also aver that the four Labour Codes passed recently by Parliament affects equally all the Central government employees across the gamut of industrial establishments be they the railways, defence, atomic energy or ISRO. According to the unions, the “Fixed Term Employment” clause in the The Industrial Relations Code, 2020 (IR code), which was passed by Parliament last December amid criticism and protests from the opposition parties and trade unions, was “anti-worker” and would result in “a legalisation of casualisation of jobs”. It would result in taking away reservations in Central government jobs for the socially and economically downtrodden youths of the country.

Talking to Frontline, representatives of the All India Defence Employees Federation, the Indian National Defence Workers Federation and the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh were unilateral in their stand that “the Modi Government was not keen on settling any of the demands of the Central government employees and defence civilian employees”. C. Srikumar, general secretary of the All India Defence Employees Federation, said that besides the arbitrary decision of the government to corporatise the ordnance factories and implement the GOCO model in Army Base workshops, defence civilian employees were also agitated over the abolition of posts in the Military Engineering Service, Navy and Directorate General of Quality Assurance (DGQA), the restructuring of the DGQA, and the closure of repair depots and station workshops.