Besides bearing the brunt of militancy and frequent protest strikes for over two decades, Jammu and Kashmir economy is facing a new enemy within – its striking government employees.
Government employees in the state too have frequently on strike every now and then over the past several years.
The state --- which faces huge fiscal deficit and completely dependent on the Centre’s grants --- loses between Rs 40-50 crore per day due to strikes of employees.
“We have 4.5 lakh government employees in the state and the wage bill per annum comes to around Rs 6,500 crore. Due to employees’ strikes, around Rs 50 crore is incurred as losses per day to the state exchequer,” said Nisar Ali, a reputed economist and senior professor at Kashmir University’s Economics department.
Ali said not only mandays are lost but also lead to inordinate delay in government work, which also translates into monetary losses. “It’s not only loses incurred due to the strikes of employees but also the delay in work in offices. The deferred work is done in the same office hours later as no extra time is contributed by the employees to finish the job,” Ali added.
The state government and employees have locked horns with each other over a number of demands (see box) but so far nothing has fructified between the two. A five-day strike call, starting on Tuesday, has been given by employees after the the government and Joint Consultative Committee (JCC) failed to reach any agreement. The JCC, a confederation of several employees’ unions across the state, is spearheading the employees’ agitation.
The five-day strike of employees will cost the state exchequer more than Rs 300 crore. Since January, the state employees held six days of strikes till date. The number of strikes held up to 13 March will be 11, which will incur loses of around Rs 550 crore.
“We will not hold any meeting with the government till it came up with something concrete,” said JCC chief spokesman Farooq Ahmad. “In the past they have not lived up to their word and breached deadline set by them. We cannot budge this time,” he added.
The employees are planning to organize a massive rally on March 13, which protesting employees will march from old secretariat to Lal Chowk in Srinagar. “Next plan of action by the employees will be given in that date,” said Ahmad.
The employees from Kargil, Leh and Jammu will join protests and will march on March 13, added Ahmad.