M A I N   N E W S

Eye on youth, Punjab keeps 58 as retirement age 
Naveen S Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 3
The confusion surrounding the retirement age of Punjab government employees is finally over. The state cabinet today refused to approve the proposal to raise the age limit from the present 58 to 60.

While the decision would be hailed by youth, it has dashed the hopes of thousands of employees aspiring for a two-year job extension, as had been promised by the ruling SAD-BJP combine in its poll manifesto.

Prior to the cabinet meeting today, several ministers called on Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and managed to persuade him for a rethink over the proposal, which, as per them, was “against the interests of the state”.

Not only was the retirement-age-at-60 demand dropped, the cabinet also approved raising of maximum age limit for induction into government service from 35 to 37, both decisions clearly aimed at appeasing the youth. And going a step further, the Cabinet told various departments to submit a comprehensive proposal on priority for recruitment of essential staff. With this, youth can hope for more openings in the near future.

It is learnt that after the agenda (with a proposal to increase retirement age) was made known to the cabinet late last night, several senior ministers, including Manpreet Singh Badal (Finance), today met the Chief Minister, asking him not to approve the proposal. They argued that increasing the retirement age would not only increase state’s financial liability, but would also obstruct induction of youth with fresh ideas into the state’s machinery.

Health Minister Lakshmi Kanta Chawla was, however, in favour of enhancing the retirement age for doctors. She said it took medical students much longer to complete their education and specialisation, as compared to ordinary graduates and, therefore, they got fewer years in service. But the cabinet did not accept her proposal either.

It is learnt that after the government had decided to go ahead with the enhancement in age, it used its agencies to get a feedback on the move. The feedback received by the ministers and the agencies was not in favour of any increase in the retirement age. This was conveyed to the Chief Minister this morning.

Also, an argument against the increase in age was that the move would benefit less than 20,000 employees who would be retiring during the current and next calendar years. Barring those who benefit, over 4 lakh other government employees were opposed to the move. The annoyance on part of the younger employees could cost the government heavily in the next elections.

The Chief Minister was apparently convinced by the argument put forward by the Finance Minister, who said that by increasing the retirement age to 60, the government would put off paying Rs 700 crore this year and Rs 762 crore next year (towards pension, provident fund and gratuity) for some time. But this would mean at least two more increments for employees who have already reached the top of their scales. The government would have to pay much more towards pensions, etc, to them for the next 20 or more years — a losing proposition compared to the deferment in payments of Rs 1,500 crore for the next two years.

Many unions and associations had got active against the move to raise retirement age and had started a SMS campaign that read, “The decision of the Punjab government to hold an emergency cabinet meeting on the issue of enhancing retirement age is a retrograde step, which will deprive thousands of youth of government jobs.” 

n Barring 20,000 employees who would be retiring during the current and next calendar years, over 4 lakh other employees were opposed to the move

n Annoyance on part of the younger employees, whose promotion avenues would have been hit, could have cost the government dear in the next elections

n Manpreet Badal’s argument that increasing the age to 60 would mean at least two more increments for employees who have already reached the top of their scales worked





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