It’s Catch 22 ! (Retirement Age row)

TO RETIRE OR NOT TO RETIRE, DECISION IS NOT THAT EASY !

For last several years, government employees’ retirement issue has snowballed into a full-size controversy. The dilemma has on one hand created confusion among the ranks of government employees and on the other hand put dignified existence of thousands of young and qualified people at stake. By and large, we relate retirement age with increase in life expectancy and availability of enough experienced human resource. But unfortunately the matter has got many other dimensions also, political compulsions and financial constraints being some of them. Certainly, during last more than five decades life expectancy in Jammu and Kashmir has increased considerably. Earlier, at fifty people would feel contented with their life, preferring spiritual voyage over materialistic urge. But now with increase in life expectancy materialism has entirely taken over our traditional quest for spirituality.
In past keeping life expectancy factor and limited human resource aspect into consideration, retirement age limit of government employees was justifiably increased from fifty five years to fifty eight. By then a better equation was maintained by a rational increase of three years. Present proposed increase of two years cannot be justified as easily since many other aspects, like ever increasing unemployment and availability of young, energetic and well versed human resource cannot be ignored completely. Our social system with regard to public service sector at present is going through a critical changeover phase where energetic and more qualified crop of young generation armed with improved knowledge and experience is pitched against aging but vigorous lot of experienced people. This virtual faceoff cannot be brushed aside so easily, instead it requires enough motivation and introspection on part of the government, before taking any final decision regarding retirement age row. Undoubtedly, life expectancy stands in favor of would-be retirees but knowledge, energy and enthusiasm of prospective employees and above all the unemployment factor will give them a tough fight.
It sounds odd to describe this whole episode as antagonism between would-be retirees and potential government workforce. But facts are facts. Behind the thick curtain of uncertainty there stands a well organized group of high ranking officials, real benefactors of proposed retirement age policy, working overtime to sway the government policy regarding the matter. At times they clandestinely instigate and encourage lower and middle rank employees to influence the retirement policy. Available records of government employees reveal a big chunk of high ranking officers and officials along with other humble government employees are retiring in near future, so their covert efforts have created a pressure group to influence the issue. Though, issues resolved under pressure and impact of bullying are never justified and can never have desired effects but it appears that clandestine factor is having its impact. Many observers in favor of increase in age limit put forward a unique hypothesis in support of their argument—government’s inability to liquidate financial liabilities of large number of retiring employees. Prolonging liquidation of committed financial burden along with added load of huge salary bills and piling unemployment does not fit well in the long-term policies of legitimate governments. This situation of ambiguity almost negates the government’s innovative policy of hiring bright manpower with many added conditions and provisions of service conduct and financial discipline.
It seems present government is in a catch-22 situation, where it cannot afford to do away with its long-term loyalists so easily and deny accountability to more than half a million educated but jobless younger generation armed with better qualification and knowledge. Having comparatively younger leader at the helm of affairs makes the whole retirement issue more complex. Young chief ministers cannot letdown and leave in lurch a much bigger chunk of young and energetic people at the cost of few materialistic loyalists. The best option for present administration is to deliberate upon the issue in more objective manner, be upfront, and decide the issue without any pressure or veiled influence in the best interest of the state and its people. I wish present retirement age dispute typically influenced by materialistic attitude and an underlying sense of discontentment of few will derive its strength from real life poetry;

“Afsoos Duniya kansie na loog samsaar saethie

pato lakan vatche te kum kum mazaar vatie “

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