In an effort to pacify striking transport corporation workers, the Tamil Nadu government on Wednesday announced that Rs 750 crore would be released this week towards retirement benefits, with Chief Minister K Palaniswami urging the agitators to withdraw the seven-day-old agitation. Making a statement in the state assembly, he said the amount would be given before Pongal festival (January 14) and it would benefit those who retired up to November 30, 2017. Settlement of pending dues is one of the key demands of the striking workers. Palaniswami recalled the state government's various sops, including diesel subsidy and financial assistance of Rs 5,138.57 crore, given between 2011 and 2017, to the state- run transport corporations, whose poor financial health has been cited as a reason for the pending dues. "I am happy to announce that the Amma (late chief minister J Jayalalithaa) government will provide Rs 750 crore towards pending (dues) for those who retired up to November 30, 2017.
This will be provided before Pongal festival," he said. With the said amount, the government had so far disbursed Rs 2,147.39 crore towards retirement benefits for the transport employees, he said. In 2017-18, the AIADMK government had given Rs 291.99 crore to serving employees toward DA arrears, the chief minister said. "Therefore, with most of the demands of the transport corporation staff being accepted, the workers should immediately withdraw their strike in the interest of the people and return to work," he appealed. The employees owing allegiance to 17 trade unions, including those affiliated to the DMK and the Left, are on an indefinite strike since January 4 after talks related to wage agreement issues with the government failed. While the government has offered an increase in the wages by 2.44 times, the unions are demanding a 2.57-time hike. The strike has affected commuters across the state.