Maharashtra govt employees strike for old pension scheme continues on day 2; hospitals worst hit – Free Press Journal

 Lakhs of Maharashtra government employees on Wednesday continued their strike on a second day to demand restoration of the Old Pension Scheme (OPS), with the hospitals being the worst hit due to the agitation.
The employees rejected the appeal made by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde a day before to withdraw the strike and hold discussions with the government.
On Monday, Shinde had also announced the constitution of a committee of senior retired bureaucrats to look into the demand that the OPS be restored.
Vishwas Katkar, the convenor of a committee of nearly 35 unions of state government, semi-government employees and teachers, said employees across 36 districts joined the ongoing strike.
On Tuesday, employees of civic bodies in rural areas had joined the strike, he added.
Katkar said the state government employees had agitated over the same issue in 2018, following which a committee was formed. But its report was not followed up, he said, adding that another strike on the issue had taken place in 2022.
As the strike entered a second day, doctors at government hospitals struggled as most of the nursing staff participated in the strike.
Leader of Opposition in the Maharashtra Assembly Ajit Pawar said the health machinery has collapsed while other essential services are also affected.
Speaking in the Legislative Assembly, Pawar asked the government to intervene to end the stir.
“In the last two days of the strike, the health machinery has completely collapsed. The incidence of H3N2 flu is rising and the strike is impacting common citizens. At one hospital, more than 150 surgeries are pending. The process of panchnama (spot inspection) of (crop losses) following the recent unseasonal rains has stopped,” he said.
Sumitra Tote of the Maharashtra Nursing Association said its branches in 30 districts are participating in the strike.
Hospitals are trying to fill the gap by hiring outside nurses and roping in trainee nurses, medical interns and students, a source said.
As the nurses, ward boys and cleaning staff of the Government Medical College and Hospital and Nagpur Municipal Corporation Hospital, major hospitals in Vidarbha, continued the strike, services were affected with planned surgeries being postponed.
Surgeries were also postponed at the Government Medical College Hospital in Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar (formerly Aurangabad) which serves a hub to eight districts in Marathwada.
The administration of Sassoon General Hospital, Pune, said it appealed to the nurses and other medical staff who were on strike to resume work. In response to the appeal, 60 to 65 percent of Class 4 employees resumed work, said Dr Sanjeev Thakur, the dean.
On Tuesday 99 percent of nurses were on strike, but after an appeal by the administration, 10 percent of them resumed work, he said. Emergency surgeries and other medical services are not affected as they have done proper planning, Dr Thakur added.
In the Assembly, Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said the OPS was scrapped on October 31, 2005, when late Vilasrao Deshmukh (of Congress) was the chief minister and Jayant Patil (present state NCP chief) was the finance minister.
Government employees should get adequate pension benefits, and a committee of three retired senior officials — Subodh Kumar, Sudhir Shrivastava and K P Bakshi — has been formed to study the issue, he said.
The opposition should urge the striking employees to withdraw the strike, Fadnavis said.
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