Pro-Left Kerala government employees' strike losing steam

Thiruvananthapuram, Jan 11 (IANS) The indefinite strike launched by the pro-Left employees of the government and teachers that began Tuesday appears to have lost steam with state government offices Friday reporting higher attendance than previous days.

The strike was called after the Kerala government stood firm by its decision to implement the contributory pension scheme for fresh recruits in government service starting next fiscal. Employees have been on strike since Tuesday.

Official statistics of attendance at the state secretariat here shows that of its more than 3,000 employees, over 2,000 reported for work Friday.

"The strike appears to have lost steam, because all of us know that not reporting for work on Friday would mean loss of salary for Saturday and Sunday too, both state government holidays," said a government official who did not wish to be identified.

In an ugly incident at a government school Friday morning in Thrissur district, striking teachers used what has come to be called "itch powder" in classrooms. When children came in contact with the powder, their bodies itched unusually hard, and doctors had to be called to treat them.

Thursday, a similar substance was used in a school in Palakkad district.

Feeder organisations of the Communist Party of India-Marxist, its youth and student wings, took out protest marches across the state in solidarity with the striking, Left-leaning government employees.

Kerala, West Bengal and Tripura are the only states yet to implement the contributory pension scheme in the country.

Skirmishes were reported between striking employees and those who had arrived to report for work Friday too.

Protestors marched towards the secretariat, and were joined by top leaders of the Left parties.

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