Demanding the reinstatement of the old pension plan (OPS), thousands of state government workers besieged the city’s main ring road, causing great inconvenience to commuters. The police had to use water cannons to disperse them.
Various employee unions had launched a call to demonstrate in Shimla. Union members started gathering in the city in the morning, while the government stopped buses in Chakkar, Jutogh and Boileauganj.
Determined to have their demand accepted and implemented before the legislative elections, the demonstrators spared no effort to put pressure on the administration by obstructing the national road at the 103 tunnels where they were intercepted by the police. Water cannons and a riot van had been deployed to stop them.
Employees who joined the civil service on or after January 1, 2004 are covered by the NPS. The new pension scheme is a contributory scheme in which the government and employees contribute equally to the pension fund, while under the old pension scheme, employees with 20 years of service received 50% of the last salary received under form of pension.
Commuters, mostly elderly people and school children, had to bear the brunt of the cold and foggy weather when restive unions besieged the road. “I walked 3 km to reach the bus stop,” said Kartar Singh, a commuter.
Akshit Sharma, a student, and his brother were stuck in a traffic jam near the 103 tunnels for more than four hours. The police had parked buses to prevent the employees from advancing, but they broke down the barricades.
Police threw canes at protesters on the main road near the station as they attempted to march towards the Vidhan Sabha. However, they managed to reach the premises of Vidhan Sabha and shouted slogans.
Urban Development Minister Suresh Bhardwaj tried to appease the agitated employees, but to no avail.
Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur said his government has always talked to employees with an open mind. He said the previous Congress government accepted the central government’s proposal for PAHO in 2003. Rather, it was the first government in the country to do so, he said. “Not once, but many times, have I said that the government is ready to listen to their demands, but agitation is not the solution,” he said.
He called on workers to abandon the path of agitation.