80-year-old men call a meeting of
70-year-old men to decide the retirement age of some 60-year-old people. This
is what’s happening in India. My state of Kerala recently raised the retirement
age to 60 for people working in the state’s PSUs. There were immediate protests
from the Congress which recently elected an 80-year-old man as their president
and the BJP which worships a 72-year-old Prime Minister who is all set for
another term in the next election when he will be 74.
There is a
serious unemployment problem in Kerala and hence hampering the opportunities of
the youth for employment by raising the retirement age of existing staff is
unjust. That is the argument. But Kerala’s life expectancy is 77 and why should
one retire at 56? Instead of asking people to retire, the government should
discover/create new job opportunities for the youth.
If politicians can continue to work at the age of 80, why can’t the common man too? Karunanidhi was in office at the age of 87. So was Jyoti Basu. Joe Biden is 79. 91-year-old Rupert Murdoch continues to rule the media. 92-year-old Warren Buffet is the chairperson of Berkshire Hathaway. We can cite umpteen such examples. Kerala’s Chief Minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, is 77. A significant number of Kerala’s MLAs are above 70. But when it comes to you and me, these oldies will decide when we should stop working.
Now the flip
side. Quite many of the government employees in Kerala don’t deserve to be in
office at all. They have no work to do or they don’t do their work. You go to a
government office to get your job done and they will harass you every way
possible until you bribe them and their clerks and their peons and their
simple case of the state’s government and government-aided schools. These
schools hardly have students. There are two such schools in my village: one
primary and the other high school. Both together have about 30 students and half
as many staff. These staff are paid by the government and they get handsome pay
packets. I teach in a school in the nearby town and the school is purely
private. The school is funded totally by the fees paid by the students. There
are 2300 students and over 100 teachers. It’s an efficient system in spite of
the fact that the staff are paid far, far less than their government
Why do we need government institutions at all, I often wonder. There’s hardly any work done there.