The SKM government’s honeymoon phase has been marred by some controversial decisions and alleged post poll violence. Winning the election after two decades of struggle, they deserved a smooth entry. But it was not to be.
The government’s decision to terminate all the employees under the One family One Job (OFOJ) scheme who joined after the implementation of the Model Code of Conduct did not go over very well with many beneficiaries. The State Department of Personnel had directed all departments to withhold/cancel appointments of all the beneficiaries who joined the duty while the Model Code of Conduct was in force. It had come into force in the state on March 8.
The government decision was received with mixed reactions. Self-styled social media commentators swooped down on the issue – some condemning, others supporting and the rest offering their own suggestions.
The SDF party had every reason to loathe and oppose the decision. The party workers staged a dharna in front of the District Administrative Centre. MK Subba, the new spokesperson of the SDF grabbed huge media attention with his aggressive and articulate spokesmanship. He has certainly been a good find for the SDF. The SDF would like to flaunt his skill for sure.
The dharna was followed with a protest by the concerned beneficiaries of the OFOJ scheme on June 10, asking the Department of Personnel (DoP) to immediately withdraw its notification. Non-release of salaries of OFOJ employees has been another burning issue. The leaders of the protesting employees submitted their memorandum to the Commissioner-cum-Secretary of the Department of Personnel and had an interaction with the Special Secretary of the department. Nearly 9000 employees were facing the possibility of job termination.
In a bold move, on June 20, the State Government issued another circular directing all the departmental heads to accept the appointments of the OFOJ employees in question. It says, “All the Secretaries are therefore, directed to accept the joining of the candidates who had reported for duty on or before 31.05.2019, as an interim measure, subject to thorough review of their appointments by the district level committees,” This was a massive U-turn given the stern statements that the SKM party had given earlier.
Although local political analysts have differing views, most of them concur with the fact that the SKM government’s U-turn was occasioned by the forthcoming by-polls in three constituencies – namely, Poklok-Kamrang, Shyari and Gangtok. Again, social media is bursting at its seams with comments. A senior journalist, Mita Zulca wrote on her Facebook wall, “Handing the SDF party a win on the One Family One Job issue must be a bitter pill to swallow for the ruling SKM party, which had earlier fired thousands of OJOF employees without salary. But with three bye-elections coming up, they could ill afford the daily protests that were being planned by the sacked employees.”
In the electoral context, this was a good battle to lose for SKM. Some big battles are won by losing smaller ones. It reminds one of the famous Shahrukh Khan line from Baazigar, “Kabhi kabhi jeetne ke liye kuch haarna bhi padta hai … aur haar kar jeetne waale ko baazigar kehte hai.” But one hopes that the decision is made with a greater purpose than just victory in the bypolls. Time will tell what it was all about. While we let the winners – the affected OFOJ employees celebrate, Sikkim will see who will be the ultimate Baazigar.
By Jiwan Rai, the author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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