Gorakhpur/Lucknow: While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is expected to reap the electoral benefits of distributing free rations to poor and marginalized people, the promise to restore the old-age pension scheme seems to work in favor of the Samajwadi Party (SP).
SP National Chairman Akhilesh Yadav speaks about this pledge made by his party in its election manifesto in almost all of its public rallies to gain wider support from voters in different communities.
The former chief minister said the decision to reinstate the old pension scheme was taken after extensive discussions with financial experts, representatives of government employees’ unions and associations of retired civil servants. “We have discussed in detail the finances of the scheme and the experts are of the opinion that the state government is capable of putting together a corpus that will take care of the necessary funds,” said Akhilesh, adding that “the restoration of the pension plan will be another important part of our party’s manifesto.”
Sugriv Mishra, an assistant professor at Gorakhpur college, says employees demanded the restoration of the old pension scheme, but all governments ignored their demand. “The government should understand that the old people’s pension was their support in old age, but since the government stopped it, we live at the mercy of our children. We even have to ask them for medical aids,” he said. NewsClickadding that he would support the Samajwadi party this time, despite being a strong supporter of the ruling government.
Echoing a similar view, Sachin Singh, a retired bank clerk from Gramin Bank in Deoria, said: “Bank clerks used to get a government pension before. When we needed money the most, we had to ask our children and relatives for it. The government should provide pensions to bank employees as before. All bank employees are protesting against bank mergers. Banks should not be privatized either,” he added.
He went on to add, “Isn’t it a mother-in-law’s treatment that if an employee retires with OPS, he will get around Rs 25,000 to Rs 45,000 per month as a pension, while the same government employee retiring under the NPS will get Rs 1,500 to Rs 4,000 per month,” he asked, adding that if the job is the same for both, then why the discrimination in retirement.
It is estimated that the announcement of the restoration of the pre-2005 pension scheme will benefit 12 lakh of the state’s retired civil servants who have been on the warpath with the state government for years. Apart from that, the SP also promised financial assistance to retired private school teachers and allowed the posting of grade three and four government employees to their home districts.
The BJP government at the Center in 2004 had stopped the insured pension scheme and instead launched the contributory pension system. The UP adopted the new plan in 2005. Hundreds of thousands of state government employees are unhappy with the new pension plan (NPS).
Kamlesh Mishra, the chairman of UP Rajya Karmachari Mahasangh, an umbrella body for employee unions, said: “All state government employees will rally behind the political forces that speak out for the restoration of OPS,” Mishra while blaming the ruling Yogi Adityanath. The government has said that if the new pension scheme (NPS) is more beneficial than the old pension scheme (OPS), then why has the government not implemented it for MPs pensions and ministers.
Giving credit to the long union-led movement, Mishra added, it took more than 15 years to bring OPS into the political discourse ahead of the Assembly elections.
Electricity department workers also appear pleased with former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav’s announcement that the old pension scheme will be reinstated if they form government. Shailendra Dubey of the All India Power Engineers Federation said it was a long pending demand from UP government workers, who were protesting against the NPS which is also subject to market ups or downs. . Dubey predicted that retired employees also sided with active employees on the OPS issue, which could affect how they vote.
Seema Bharti, a worker from Anganwadi in Kushinagar, said state employees would not respect communal lines but would support the party which sincerely thinks for them.
Workers’ unions have staged several protests over the past two years and staged month-long movements to demand the reinstatement of the old pre-2005 pension scheme, which they say offers them more social security than the NPS based on the market.
A long concession with different groups of people of all castes in the eastern region of the state can quickly gauge the silent “undercurrent” that can go against the opposition alliance that engages the BJP in power in an uphill battle, according to political observers.