Lucknow: “Jo humse takraayega, wo chur- chur ho jayega...”
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The air at the Eco Garden on Tuesday was filled with chants and slogans as tens of thousands of state employees flocked to the state capital Lucknow to participate in a mega rally against the New Pension Scheme (NPS) backed by the Yogi Adityanath government.
The state government employees, especially those employed on a contractual basis or through outsourcing, know that if they fail to pressurise the government before the upcoming Assembly elections are announced, they would have to wait for another five years.
On Tuesday afternoon, Eco garden ground saw a mammoth gathering where tens of thousands of government school teachers accompanied by pensioners, shiksha mitras, anganwadi workers, sanitation workers, mid-day meal cooks and several other scheme workers from across Uttar Pradesh joined one-day rally against new pension scheme, demanding withdrawal of the New Pension Scheme of the Center government and restoration of the old pension scheme.
UP Class IV State Employees Federation president, Ramraj Dubey while addressing the crowd said that “If the government can rectify its mistake by repealing the three contentious farm laws, why not abolish new pension scheme?”
The Employees’ union leader also alleged it was the first time the state government was trying to take their democratic right to protest away.
“The new pension scheme is like gambling. We will not accept this under any circumstances. If an employee retires with the old pension scheme, he will get around Rs 50,000 per month while the same government employee retiring under the new pension scheme will receive Rs 800-1,500 per month. When inflation is at an all the time high, the government should increase the money. Instead, they are shrinking what we rightfully deserve,” said Dubey.
Speaking with Newsclick, he added that, “Most of the recently retired government employees aren’t able to even pay their monthly electricity bills with the pension they are getting under the new scheme. Isn’t this a humiliation by the government for someone who has devoted half of his or her life to teaching?”
Echoing a similar view, State Employees Joint Council President, Harikishore Tiwari felt that the government was cheating its employees. He asserted that now they plan to fight against the government in a democratic manner. If the government does not accept their demands, its effect will be seen in the upcoming assembly elections.
The day-long protest saw the state office bearers addressing the protesting employees about the pros and cons of the new system.
Dinesh Chandra Sharma, president of Uttar Pradesh Prathmik Shikshak Sangh, a state-level teachers’ association said, “National Movement for Old Pension System (NMOPS) has been running across the country for the last several years to repeal new pension scheme launched by the Center. However, it is for the first time that state and central employees have come together in large numbers to up the ante for their cause.”
“The government has stopped payment of dearness allowance (DA) amounting to 10,000 crore to the employees and abolished more than a dozen allowances; thousands of posts of principals have been abolished in the basic education department and not a single teacher has been promoted during the last five years. The policies of the government have brought the shiksha mitras and instructors to the brink of starvation, while anganwadis and cooks are facing a financial crunch. However, the government remains insensitive,” said Sharma
The union leaders alleged that earlier the governments used to listen to the problems of the employees and teachers and tried to solve them, but this is the first government that is snatching away the achievements and rights achieved by the long struggle of the employees.
The protesting teachers raised a flurry of demands including regularisation of contractual employees, increment of employees as per the earlier pay commission, restoration of the old pension scheme, release of DA instalment and arrears.
The union leaders’ committee said that if the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government failed to revive the scheme, it would cost the party dear in the upcoming Assembly elections.
Sharma and other employees reminded the state government promises: “CM Yogi Adityanath had promised that the old pension scheme would be revived once the BJP formed the government. Even after four-and-a-half years in power, the party had not fulfilled the promise. If government dilly-dally continues, it will become difficult for its legislators and ministers to seek votes ahead of the elections.”
NPS, a government-sponsored pension scheme, was launched in the year 2004 for government employees. It was opened to all sections in 2009.
The state government employees and pensioners have been continuously raising their voices for the return of the old pension scheme in the state.
Meanwhile, anganwadi workers, ASHA, mid-day meal workers and other scheme workers demanded to regularisation of job and ensure minimums salary of Rs 21,000 per month and provident fund.
“Be it anganwadi workers, mid-day meal employees or ASHA, their situation is vulnerable in Uttar Pradesh despite working round the clock and taking every scheme of the government at the doorstep. The anger against the government growing louder since the election is nearing. If our demands are not met in a time-bound manner, we understand from our farmers how to teach a lesson to this adamant government,” Veena Gupta, president UP Anganwadi Karamchari Union told NewsClick.