UP: Old Pension Scheme is Key Issue Ahead of 2024 Lok Sabha Polls, Say Protesting Teachers
Lucknow: Thousands of teachers from across Uttar Pradesh held a massive protest rally on Tuesday at Lucknow’s Eco Garden against the new National Pension System (NPS).
Carrying placards and raising slogans against the Yogi Adityanath-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, the teachers are demanding re-introduction of the Old Pension Scheme (OPS) and warned the authorities of intensifying the agitation if their demand is not met before the municipal elections, scheduled to be held next month.
The protesting employees, under the banner of Uttar Pradesh Prathmik Shikshak Sangh (UPPSS), said the new scheme would be like death to employees. "There is no gain for government employees. Hence, we have been fighting for repeal of this scheme," Sushil Kumar Pandey, UPPSS president, told NewsClick.
He said over 50,000 state employees from all 75 districts, including as far as Western Uttar Pradesh and Purvanchal, participated in the rally. Rallies are being conducted in all district headquarters. "We have been agitating for the past one decade, when the government introduced this discriminating policy. However, successive governments have been blind to our woes,” he added.
Pandey said the scheme was against the guarantee of equality provided by the Constitution, as it discriminated against NPS employees who are getting lower pensions as compared to OPS employees.
"NPS is injustice with employees as well as their family members," he said, adding: "NPS does not guarantee minimum pension to employees and the government should immediately withdraw the ordinance in this regard."
They claimed that several recently retired government employees were not able to even pay their monthly electricity and other bills with the pension they were getting under NPS.
Ram Adhar Singh, a government teacher, who travelled around 300 km from Jamania in Ghazipur district to participate the rally, told NewsClick: "An MP or MLA who wins and serves for five years gets lifetime pension, while those who serve for more than 30 years are being denied proper pension after retirement.”
Apart from reintroducing OPS, the Uttar Pradesh Prathmik Shikshak Sangh other demands include permanent status of shiksha mitras (ad hoc teachers) and anudeshaks (para-teachers), removal of anti-teacher provisions in the National Education Policy 2020 and cashless facilities for employees.
With the next Lok Sabha elections due in May 2024, the protesting teachers said that they would bring the current government “to its knees” if OPS is not restored.
"We did not want to cause any law and order situation as we are government employees. Hence, we decided to abide by the instruction of the authorities this time. But if our demand is not fulfilled, we will have to resort to more intensified protest,” Jagdish, a teacher who came from Sitapur to join the rally, told NewsClick.
As per the OPS, pension was fixed as 50% of the last basic salary drawn, along with other benefits and perks. Whereas, NPS is a contribution-based pension system. The pension benefit is also determined by factors such as the amount of contribution made, the age of joining, the type of investment, etc.
Meanwhile, Uttar Pradesh Prathmik Shikshak Sangh (Sharma fraction) said it would also organise a similar protest in Prayagraj on November 17 where teachers in a large number are expected to join.
"Whether the current government agrees to restore OPS today or not, they will have to do so before the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. There is one Constitution in our country and when Opposition-ruled governments in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Punjab have announced return to OPS, why can’t Uttar Pradesh follow suit?" Suresh Kumar Tripathi, president of Uthe association told NewsClick.
Tripathi further said they were also gearing up to launch a movement ahead of the 2024 general election where around 6-7 lakh government employees would join protests from across the state against NPS.
"OPS will be a key issue before 2024 elections and if the BJP government remains in the illusion that they might win the elections again, they are highly mistaken," Tripathi said.
Last December, teachers and other government employees had staged a massive demonstration at Eco Garden, demanding fulfilment of their long-pending demands. Teachers were hoping for restoration of OPS in the Budget but were disappointed.
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