Rajasthan: Gehlot defends old pension scheme as a social security measure

There had been unrest among the labour and employees’ unions against the National Pension System, as its amount was very low

December 17, 2022 09:35 pm | Updated 09:35 pm IST - JAIPUR

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot addresses a press conference on completion of 4 years his government, in Jaipur on December 17, 2022.

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot addresses a press conference on completion of 4 years his government, in Jaipur on December 17, 2022. | Photo Credit: PTI

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Saturday defended his government’s move to restore the old pension scheme (OPS) for the government employees, saying it was an important social security measure, which would protect the retired officials in their old age. Mr. Gehlot said the employees with the OPS coverage had contributed immensely to the nation’s development.

The Central agencies had started criticising the OPS after the results of the Assembly election in Himachal Pradesh were announced, as the restoration of the OPS was a major issue in the poll campaign, Mr. Gehlot said at a press conference here, on the completion of four years of the Congress government in the State.

While affirming that the State governments were empowered to take a decision on the pensions payable out of the Consolidated Fund of the State, Mr. Gehlot said the Central government and the Pension Fund Regulatory Development Authority (PFRDA) had refused to refund the accumulated corpus of Rajasthan, deposited under the National Pension System (NPS) introduced in 2004.

“We will fight it out... The Centre cannot withhold the corpus indefinitely. We will certainly give the OPS benefit to the government employees who joined the service on or after January 1, 2004. In fact, the OPS payment has already been approved for 238 superannuated employees,” Mr. Gehlot said.

With the OPS becoming a new political battleground between the non-BJP ruled States and the Centre, Himachal Pradesh is the latest State after Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Punjab, which has decided to replace NPS with the OPS. Mr. Gehlot said Prime Minister Narendra Modi was against the OPS since the beginning and the BJP had rejected the Himachal leadership’s plea to allow its implementation before the election.

Decision on sound legal footing

Mr. Gehlot said the State government was within its power to take a decision on the pensions as per Entry 42 in the State List, under the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution. The decision for bringing back the OPS was based on a sound legal footing, as the Legislature of a State had the exclusive power under Article 246 of the Constitution to make laws with respect to any of the matters enumerated in the State List, he added.

The Chief Minister said the standing committee appointed after a debate in the Lok Sabha on the PFRDA, had reported about unrest among the labour and employees’ unions against the NPS, as its amount was very low. The CAG report in 2018 had termed the NPS unsuccessful in providing social and economic security, while the PFRDA had stated recently that about ₹1,600 crore invested in the stock market from the employees’ contribution were on the verge of being lost, he said.

Mr. Gehlot urged the Prime Minister to formulate a social security policy for the differently-abled persons, senior citizens and destitute women with the provision for a monthly pension of ₹2,000 to ₹3,000. He said there was no anti-incumbency against the Congress government in Rajasthan, as most of the flagship schemes and budgetary plans had extended benefits to the people.

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