Mani seeks to clear legislators’ doubts

The Opposition walked out of the Kerala Assembly on Wednesday angered by Finance Minister K.M. Mani’s alleged disinclination to disclose all the implications of the government’s decisions to introduce contributory pension scheme for those joining government service on and after April 1, 2013.

The walkout came when Mr. Mani was clearing the doubts of one MLA after another on the new pension scheme the government had already announced. The Speaker had permitted a 30-minute discussion on the subject under Rule 49 of the legislative procedures following a notice given by former Minister and CPI MLA C. Divakaran.

Mr. Mani said the new scheme would not in any way change the statutory pension scheme covering all government employees in service now, or affect the pension being received by those who were already on the pensioners’ list.

This would be applicable only for those entering government service on or after April 1, 2013.

Listing figures

He said the government would deposit 10 per cent and the employee another 10 per cent of his or her monthly salary in the scheme.

The State government had written to the Union government to permit depositing this amount in a pension fund of the employees’ choice. Responding to a query from Janata Dal (Secular) MLA Jameela Prakasham, the Minister said that the new system would also have the family pension component. In the event of the employee’s death, his or her family would get a pension that would depend of the amount that had come into the individual pension account during the period of service.

Mr. Divakaran, initiating the discussion, said the government was taking away a right the employee had been enjoying since 1957. The security of statutory pension had been the biggest attraction of government service, he said, citing Supreme Court judgment holding that it should be seen as the right of the employee. CPI(M) MLA T.V. Rajesh said the change to the new pension scheme would discourage capable youngsters from joining government service.

From the side of the ruling front, MLAs Shafi Parambil, P.C. Vishnunath and P. Ubaidulla spoke of the need for removing all apprehensions of the employees and others about the new pension system. Former Finance Minister and CPI(M) MLA T.M. Thomas Isaac said that the government, through the change to the new system, would be saving four-fifth of the pension expenses. Mr. Mani disputed this interpretation of the scheme, prompting Leader of the Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan to announce the walkout.