Rahul, Kejriwal promise to restore old pension scheme
Vadodara/New Delhi, Sep. 20 (PTI): Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday promised to restore the old pension scheme for government employees if voted to power in Gujarat, amid a renewed focus on the issue in the recent state elections.
Gandhi said the old pension scheme (OPS) has been reintroduced in party-ruled states of Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh and it will now be done in Gujarat too.
“By abolishing the old pension, the BJP has made the elderly dependent from self-reliant,” he said in a tweet in Hindi.
“The government employees who strengthen the country have a right: The old pension.
“We restored the old pension in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh. Now the Congress government will come in Gujarat and will bring the old pension,” Gandhi also said, using the hashtag #CongressDegiOldPension.
Thousands of retired government employees in Gujarat recently held protests demanding the re-introduction of the scheme.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, who announced the revival of the OPS in the budget speech in February, on Tuesday said that the scheme will be implemented in both Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh if the Congress forms government there.
Kejriwal, who is campaigning in Gujarat, said Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann has issued an order considering the implementation of the old pension scheme in the AAP-ruled state.
“Government employees in Gujarat have taken to the streets in large numbers. Their main demand is the implementation of the old pension scheme. I guarantee them that when AAP forms a government, we will implement the OPS in Gujarat,” Kejriwal told reporters.
The old pension scheme was discontinued on April 1, 2004 and replaced by the National Pension Scheme (NPS).
Under the old scheme, the employee used to get the Dearness Allowance-linked pension. In this scheme, the pensioners used to get the benefit of enhanced pension every six months due to the periodic hike in dearness relief.
However, this DA-liked pension was discontinued for all government employees who joined service on or after April 1, 2004, effectively reducing the burden of the pension bill on the state exchequer. These employees were covered under the NPS.
Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav had in January announced the restoration of the old pension scheme as a poll plank in Uttar Pradesh, while attacking the BJP for scrapping the scheme in 2004.
It was dubbed as a game changer by some poll observers who predicted an increase in the Samajwadi Party’s support among the state government employees. Though the SP failed to dislodge the BJP, its performance improved.
BSP president Mayawati, while addressing an election meeting in Auraiya, too had promised the OPS.
According to the Uttar Pradesh Rajya Karmchari Sanyukt Parishad, there are about 10 lakh teachers and employees who are not getting the benefits of the old pension scheme.
Gehlot had announced the revival of the old pension scheme for the state employees during the state budget 2022-23 presented in February.
More than three lakh state government employees, who were appointed on or after 1 January 2004 will be covered under the old pension scheme.
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel announced the reinstatement of the OPS in his budget speech in March this year.
Jharkhand, where the Congress is part of the ruling alliance, also reintroduced the OPS this month.
Assembly elections in the BJP-ruled Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh are due in the next few months.
While the Congress is the main opposition in these states, the AAP is also making a determined bid to gain turf there after its recent win in Punjab.
Kejriwal, who was in Vadodara to address a town hall meeting as part of the campaign to reach out to various sections of society ahead of the elections, said state employees play a big role in electing or defeating a government and asked them to continue their struggle.
“If this (BJP) government does it (implement the OPS), then fine. If not, then we will implement it when the incumbent government changes after two months,” he said.
Queried on a group of retired bureaucrats questioning his alleged attempt to induce public servants in Gujarat to help AAP in the upcoming polls, Kejriwal said they never raised the issues of protecting employees and corruption in Gujarat.
“I would like to ask them (retired bureaucrats) to write once for the implementation of the OPS,” he said.