M A I N   N E W S

For now, retire at 58 in Punjab
CM to take final call at Cabinet meet
Naveen S Garewal
Tribune News service

Chandigarh, March 31
Thousands of employees of the Punjab government who came to work today were sent back home on retirement after the government failed to take a decision on enhancing their retirement age. Senior government functionaries said Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal put off the decision saying that the matter should be referred to the Cabinet.

Around 4.45 pm all Heads of Departments received either cyclostyled circulars, SMS messages or even phone calls with instructions asking them to relieve all employees who have attained the age of 58 between January 1 and March 31, 2010. Taken unawares, most had to go home without a farewell party.

A Cabinet meeting has been scheduled for April 14 or 15, depending upon the convenience of Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal, who is currently abroad on a private visit. It is likely that the Cabinet will review the retirement age and enhance it to 60 years for all employees, it is reliably learnt.

The government panicked after the Punjab and Haryana High Court refused to grant any time to the state in implementing its order. The court had on Monday quashed the government’s decision to grant one-year extension in service selectively to those employees retiring during the current calendar year.

The government has three options after the court’s verdict. First, to make 59 as the retirement age for all employees for all times, or to raise it to 60 as has been the demand of the employees for a long time. The last was to let the retirement age remain at 58.

Even yesterday the Chief Minister had held meetings with Chief Secretary SC Aggarwal, Advocate-General Hardev Singh Mattewal, Secretary Personnel Iqbal Sidhu and others to discuss various proposals, but left the final decision to the Punjab Cabinet.

Today, too, the Chief Minister met the Advocate-General and others, but did not take any decision on the issue in the hope that the high court would grant time for implementing its order. But as the court refused to accept a request of the government to grant more time to implement the orders, over 2,000 employees across Punjab were told that they need not return to work tomorrow.

During the current year 2010-2011, 8,690 employees will retire after attaining the age of 58. This figure would increase during the next fiscal 2011-2012 to 9,472 employees. It is estimated that nearly 800 to 1,000 employees from various departments retire every month.

The increase in the retirement age would have saved the government some money as it would have deferred payment towards gratuity, provident fund, pension, etc to the tune of Rs 700 crore during the current fiscal and Rs 762 crore during 2011-2012.

It is learnt that Mattewal proposed to the Chief Minister that the age should be raised to 60 as was the case for All-India Services. This also formed part of the SAD manifesto in the 2007 elections. The Chief Minister was, however, not very keen on raising the age without a thorough debate in the Cabinet.

The Advocate-General said, “In case the Cabinet decides to enhance the age to 59 or 60 years for all employees, those who have retired can be made to re-join duty with retrospective effect from March 31.”

Mattewal said it had been decided to place the copy of the high court’s orders and all other facts before the Cabinet. “The Chief Minister wants the Cabinet to be a part of the decision rather than take an interim decision now and later impose it on the Cabinet for approval”. Once the Cabinet takes a decision, the service rules will have to be amended.

Day of chaos

Around 4.45 pm on Wednesday, all heads of departments received either cyclostyled circulars, SMSes or phone calls with instructions to relieve all employees who had attained the age of 58 between January 1 and March 31, 2010. Taken unawares, most had to go home without a farewell party





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