State government employees in Himachal Pradesh, who have been working under the New Pension Scheme (NPS), are demanding that the current scheme be scrapped, and the Old Pension Scheme (OPS) be restored as soon as possible. On Sunday October 28, over 9,000 NPS employees staged hunger strikes in four Lok Sabha constituencies of HP- Hamirpur, Solan, Joginder Nagar, and Palampur, in front of the houses and the offices of the MPs from these districts.
The New Pension Scheme was implemented in Himachal Pradesh on May 15, 2003, by the BJP government, eight months before it was implemented nationally in January, 2004. Out of the 1,80,000 state government employees, almost 80,000 employees who were appointed after May 2015, are working under the NPS. The NPS employees who have retired are receiving a meager amount of around Rs. 2,000 as pension, while the employees who were appointed before the implementation of NPS, are receiving fifty per cent of their last paid salary.
NPS- A Market-driven Policy?
“If you look at the whole policy of this New Pension Scheme, even nationally, you will see that this whole scheme is market-driven, designed to help the big multinational companies (MNC). The money is invested in the share market, and the return is paid as pension to the employees,” said Sanjay Chauhan, former mayor of Shimla Municipal Corporation.
“Pension was started by the British in the year 1871. Even though we were being exploited by them, they were giving us pension. And now, the democratically elected government are exploiting the employees even more,” added Chauhan.
The universally accepted formula, which is followed in different nations all over the worlds, determines the pension to be sixty per cent of the last pay withdrawn by a civil servant. The OPS had already limited this amount to fifty percent of the last pay withdrawn.
In a statement addressing Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, Theog constituency MLA, Rakesh Singha, said, “However, the NPS has made dramatic changes which cannot cater to the old age exigencies. It is surprising that the NPS does not even refund the contributions made by the employees towards pension during their service period. The NPS defeats the purpose for which the pension law was enacted.”
Currently, the West Bengal government is the only state government in the country that is still following the OPS, under pressure from the fighting employees. It was also being followed in the state of Tripura, however, after BJP replaced the CPI(M)-led government in the state in March, 2018, the anti-employee NPS was implemented.
The NPS employees have called for a march to the parliament on November 26, if their demands for restoring the OPS are not met by the government.