New Delhi–Accusing the Left-affiliated trade unions of “manufacturing a protest on non-existent issues”, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday asked if they had any real issues or was the “bandh” (strike) a part of the strategy of the Left political organisations to organise a symbolic unrest to ensure that they were not wiped out from the political map of the country.

He said the strength of the Left parties had been significantly eroded in West Bengal and Tripura and that in the recent past, the political environment in Kerala was also building against them.

His remarks come in the backdrop of the 48-hour nationwide strike called by different trade unions on Tuesday-Wednesday in protest against alleged anti-labour policies of the Central government.

Jaitley said in less than five years that it had been in power, the NDA government had taken more measures for the welfare of workers than any other government. He said the Left-leaning trade unions were politicising the trade union movement to “manufacture a protest on non-existent issues”.

“No government in the past has taken, within such a short period, so many continuous pro-worker decisions in order to ensure that the advantage of a better quality of life is ensured to them as a result of the economic development of the country,” the Finance Minister said in a Facebook post.

“…The government has desisted from taking any decision which hurts the interest of the employees… It is for the workmen in the country to seriously analyse what the present government has done for them and compare it with the relatively blank record of several earlier governments,” he said.

Listing the various measures taken by the Narendra Modi-led government in the interest of workers, Jaitley said not only the minimum wage entitlement for both unskilled agricultural labour and the construction labour was significantly hiked, and the calculation ceiling for bonus for workers was also doubled from Rs 3,500 to Rs 7,000 per month.

He said the Seventh Pay Commission significantly raised the salary of government employees.

“Previous government had taken years before implementing the same. The present government implemented the recommendations of the Seventh Pay Commission immediately and additionally improved upon certain terms relating to perquisites. The recommendations have also been improved in the case of armed forces and other para-military and security forces,” Jaitley said.

“The OROP (One Rank One Pension) for retired employees of the defence forces, which was pending for over four decades, was resolved at the earliest.”

He said the maternity leave benefit was also increased from 12 weeks to 26 weeks for two surviving children, and the gratuity payment ceiling for a worker was enhanced from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 20 lakh.

“A minimum guaranteed pension has been fixed at Rs 1,000 per month. For all categories of Anganwadi and Asha workers, there has been a substantial raise of honorarium by the Central government. In the event of death of a worker while in service, the minimum assured insurance of Rs 2.5 lakh and a maximum benefit of Rs 6 lakh has been ensured,” Jaitley said.

The Minister said the government also increased its own contribution share under the National Pension System from 10 per cent to 14 per cent, while the employees continue to pay 10 per cent.

“Additionally, the 60 per cent cumulative amount that a retired employee can withdraw has been entirely exempted from income-tax payment,” he said. (IANS)