Uttar pradesh

SP promise to restore pension scheme buoys govt. employees

Samajwadi Party (SP) President Akhilesh Yadav waves towards supporters during SP-RLD joint 'Samajwadi Vijay Yatra', ahead of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, in Bulandshahr.

Samajwadi Party (SP) President Akhilesh Yadav waves towards supporters during SP-RLD joint 'Samajwadi Vijay Yatra', ahead of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, in Bulandshahr.

“Until we give him an opportunity, how will we know,” asks Asha Pandey, a teacher at a government school in Varanasi, intrigued by Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav’s election promise that he would restore the old pension system (OPS) for retired state government employees and teachers if voted to power.

Ms. Pandey feels that if government employees demanding restoration of the old pension scheme do not vote the SP this time, the issue might evaporate as the ruling BJP has indicated that it favours the continuation of the National Pension Scheme (NPS). “Nobody else is talking about it, so we must give the SP a chance [to form government and fulfil its promise],” she said.

Mr. Yadav’s promise of restoring the OPS has stirred the interest of several lakh government employees and teachers in the State who have been demanding it for many years. They feel the OPS provides them more social security than the NPS and had launched a movement for it during the Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government. The Adityanath regime has not yet presented a convincing counter to the SP’s poll promise.

Vijay Krishna Ojha, president of the Hiralal Ramnivas Inter College Teachers Union in Sant Kabir Nagar, says the SP’s promise has sent a “good message” to government employees. “It will have an impact in the election,” he said.

According to estimates given by employee unions and the SP, the OPS would benefit between 11-13 lakh employees. Dinesh Sharma, president of U.P. Teachers Federation, says the demand for restoring OPS is a “big issue” in this election. “Some people may be wearing the spectacles of religion and caste or have affiliation to the BJP, but on this particular issue, employees are united,” said Mr. Sharma.

Mr. Yadav said he had consulted financial experts on how a corpus fund could be created for implementing the OPS.

However, not everybody is convinced about the feasibility of the restoration of the earlier scheme. Purnesh Narayan Singh, president of the teachers union in Siddharth University, welcomed the SP’s move but stresses that Mr. Yadav still needs to clear people’s doubts on how he plans to execute the OPS and why he did not take any step towards it while in power from 2012 to 2017 or raise his voice in favour of the employees as the Opposition party from 2017.

“He did not come anywhere when we held the andolans (protests) under the Yogi government. No party came there. He made the announcement just before election,” said Mr. Singh.

The NPS was introduced by the Centre from 2004 and then implemented by the State government on April 1, 2005. Under the OPS, a retired employee received a defined amount as pension calculated as 50% of the salary at retirement plus other hikes and benefits. The employee gets an assured amount irrespective of how much contribution was made towards her pension over her working life. Under the NPS, the pension value depends on the corpus saved by the employee at the time of retirement and is subject to rise or fall in investment value.

“We don’t want to go to the share market. Our Class III and IV employees don’t understand the share market,” says Hari Kishore Tiwari, State president of the State Employees Joint Council, who recently extended support to the SP over the issue. Mr. Kishore says his union approached all parties but none barring the SP showed any interest. The BJP provided them no assurances, he said.

In damage control mode, the government through Chief Secretary Durga Shanker Mishra on January 28 held a review meeting with office-bearers of some employee unions and tried to convince them that the NPS was more beneficial. The amount received after retirement under the NPS was much higher and more benefits could be obtained under it by investing the amount received in other savings schemes, the government said. Moreover, the NPS had retained gratuity, leave encashment and group insurance schemes. The risk factor had been reduced under the NPS to a minimum, the government further said. While 85% of the deposited amount was invested in government security with no risk, 15% was invested through a professional fund manager, the government said. At present, the growth of the amount deposited under NPS was up to 9.5% compared to only 7.1% under the GPF, it added.

But employee unions are not convinced. “It is just like the farmers protest. The government is forcing something on them that they don’t want,” said Mr. Tiwari, stressing that he was campaigning among his colleagues to support the party which works to implement the OPS. If MPs, MLAs and other beneficiaries of pension schemes such as widows can avail a fixed amount, then why “is our pension subjected to the share market and made insecure,” asked Mr. Tiwari.

Mr. Sharma criticised the government’s approach towards the demand of the employees, who a few months back staged a massive dharna in Lucknow. “Welfare of employee is not their priority,” said Mr. Sharma, reacting to the chief secretary’s attempts to convince the employees regarding the NPS.

The NPS is totally dependent on the market, said Mr. Singh. “One cannot survive on the whims of the market. Life cannot go on like that,” he said. “For instance, I may invest in a share valued at ₹100 but three years later it might be valued at ₹10. On the other side, I may purchase a share for ₹50 and it might grow to be valued at ₹400,” he said.

Rakesh Tripath, BJP spokesperson, however, says Mr. Yadav’s poll promise is a bluff. “He is so desperate he can even talk of bringing the stars and the moon. Why didn’t the SP take any step on the OPS when they were in power? This is just an election lollipop to try and secure votes by any means,” said Mr. Tripathi.

Moreover, it was the Mulayam Singh Yadav government which had adopted the NPS in the State, he pointed out.


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Printable version | Jul 3, 2022 12:32:31 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/uttar-pradesh-assembly/sp-promise-to-restore-pension-scheme-bouys-govt-employees/article38371349.ece