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UP: Protest by Govt Employees Intensifies for Old Pension Scheme

Thousands of teachers, pensioners and employees from the central and state departments joined the ‘Hunkar Rally’ in Lucknow.

Lucknow: Sixty-four-year-old Ghanshyam Tiwari, a retired teacher from Sitapur, is a troubled man. With more than 20 years of work as a lecturer at the Government Inter College, Tiwari says there is no social security in his old age when he needed the Old Pension Scheme (OPS) the most. 

"This is one of the most humiliating experiences of my life. The situation during the pandemic was the worst for us as we had to borrow money from relatives and neighbours for medicine and groceries," Tiwari told NewsClick. 

Tiwari was drawing a salary of Rs 87,000 per month when he retired in 2018. Today, he gets a pension of Rs 4,170 per month. He says it is tough for him to make ends meet with four children to look after.

Ranjita, a retired railway employee, has a similar story. She says she gets shaky whenever thinks about her old age. "We will not go home until the government restores OPS," she says.

Ranjita was part of a ‘Hunkar Rally’ by thousands of teachers, pensioners and employees from the central and state departments at Charbagh Railway Stadium in Lucknow on Tuesday to demand the restoration of the old pension scheme. 

Representatives from various sectors, including railways, postal services, public works, education, and electricity, joined the rally.

Addressing the rally, Shiv Gopal Mishra, general secretary of the All India Railwaymen's Federation (AIRF), who was leading the Hunkar Rally said, “The rally made a significant impact, as teachers, pensioners, and employees from various sectors united in their demand for the restoration of the old pension system. The collective efforts of these individuals aim to bring attention to their cause and advocate for change at both the state and national levels.”

Tiwari claimed the estimated number of participants from both central and state departments in the rally was up to one lakh. 

The union leaders said both central and state employees’ organisations were actively coordinating the logistics for the mega rally at three different levels. 

Tiwari further said that the State Employees Joint Council and its affiliated unions/associations had taken out pension-rath yatras in 35 districts of Uttar Pradesh from May 16 for the restoration of OPS, and received strong support from central employees, state employees, teachers and social organizations.

After the Hunkar Rally, the programme of 'Parliament Gherao' will also be announced soon. 

The protesting leaders said if the government does not consider their demand to restore the OPS, a call for Bharat Bandh will be given soon.

Harikishore Tiwari, president of the State Employees Joint Council, told NewsClick, "We have held many rallies before this, the government listened to us but did not implement our demands. We will soon call for Bharat Bandh and we will not let the government invest our money in the share market at any cost. Our money is being invested in such companies which are constantly going into losses."

Meanwhile, Uttar Pradesh Congress also showed solidarity with the agitation by the central and state employees for the restoration of OPS.

Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee (UPCC) president Brajlal Khabri in a statement said that Congress supports OPS because it ensures social security to employees after retirement and the party demands its immediate restoration.

“After winning assembly elections in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, and Himachal Pradesh, Congress governments restored OPS as its first step, giving relief to retired employees. If the Congress-ruled states can restore OPS, why can’t the Centre and the state government ruled by the BJP follow suit,” asked Khabri in a press statement.

 State employees in Uttar Pradesh have been protesting for the last two years, demanding restoration of OPS. 

 "The new pension scheme is a bluff. We will continue our protest till we get a strong reply from the government." Sushil Pandey, president of the UP State Primary Teachers Association said, adding that If an MLA or a MP is eligible for all benefits and multiple pensions as per tenure, why can't an employee get the old pension.

The agitating employees "feel cheated under the ruling government and said if the government does not consider implementing OPS, we will teach a lesson in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls as it is a ‘do or die’ situation for us."

 In May, thousands of government and semi-government employees took out 'Paidal March' (foot march) under the banner of All India State Government Employees Federation in the state capital, raising slogans along the way. 

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