UP Elections: SP's Promise of Reinstating Old Pension Scheme Bearing Fruit Among Voters
Gorakhpur/Lucknow: While Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is expected to reap electoral benefits of the free ration distribution to poor and marginalised people, the promise to reinstate the old-age pension scheme seems to be working in favour of the Samajwadi Party (SP).
SP national president Akhilesh Yadav is talking about this promise made by his party in its election manifesto in almost all his public gatherings to garner more extensive support of voters from different communities.
The former chief minister said the decision to restore the old pension scheme was taken after detailed discussions with financial experts, representatives of government employees unions and associations of retired public servants. "We have discussed finances for the scheme in detail and experts are of the view that the state government is capable of setting up a corpus which will take care of the funds required," Akhilesh has said, adding that "Restoring the pension scheme will be another important element of our party manifesto."
Sugriv Mishra, an assistant teacher of Junior High School in Gorakhpur, says that employees have been demanding restoration of the old pension scheme, but all governments have ignored their demand. “The government should understand that pension for the elderly was their support in old age, but ever since the government stopped it, we are living on the mercy of our children. We have to ask them even for medical aids,” he told NewsClick, adding that he will support the Samajwadi Party this time despite being a staunch supporter of the ruling government.
Echoing a similar view, Sachin Singh, a retired bank employee of Gramin Bank in Deoria, said, "Bank employees used to get a pension from the government earlier. The pension had stopped, and by doing this, the government made us destitute in old age. When we needed the money the most, we were forced to ask our children and relatives for it. The government should provide pensions to the bank employees as before. All bank employees are protesting against the merger of banks. Banks should also not be privatised," he added.
He went on and added, "Is it not step-motherly treatment that If any employee retires with the 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 receive Rs 1,500-Rs 4,000 per month,” he asked, adding that If work is identical for both then why discrimination in pension.
The announcement on restoring the pre-2005 pension scheme is estimated to benefit 12 lakh retired government servants in the state who have been on the warpath with the state government for years. This apart, SP also promised financial aid to retired teachers of private schools and allowed posting of government employees of class three and four in their home district.
The BJP government at the Centre in 2004 had stopped the assured pension scheme and had instead started the contributory pension system. UP adopted the new regime in 2005. Lakhs of government employees in the state are not satisfied with the new pension scheme (NPS).
Kamlesh Mishra, the president of UP Rajya Karmachari Mahasangh, an umbrella body of employees unions, said, “All the state government employees will rally behind the political forces that are vocal for the restoration of the OPS,” Mishra while accusing the ruling Yogi Adityanath government said if the new pension scheme (NPS) is more beneficial than the old pension scheme (OPS), then why did the government not implement it for the pensions of MLAs and ministers.
Giving credit to the long movement run by the union, Mishra further added, it took over 15 years to bring the OPS in political discourse ahead of the assembly elections.
Employees of the power department also seem happy with the announcement by the former chief minister, Akhilesh Yadav, that the old pension scheme to restore if they form the government. Shailendra Dubey of the All India Power Engineers Federation said it was a long pending demand of the UP government employees, who have been protesting against the NPS, which is also subject to the rise or fall of the market. Dubey anticipated that retired employees also stand with the working employees on the OPS issue, which might affect their voting pattern.
Seema Bharti, an Anganwadi worker in Kushinagar said that the state employees would not pay heed to communal lines but support the party who sincerely thinks for them.
Employee unions have staged several protests over the past couple of years and run month-long movements demanding the restoration of the pre-2005 old pension scheme, which they say offers them more social security than the market-based NPS.
A concession at length with different sets of people across caste in the state's eastern region can quickly gauge the silent “undercurrent” that may go against the opposition alliance that engages the ruling BJP in a tough battle, say political observers.
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