Gujarat Assembly elections: The Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) have both pledged to reinstate the Old Pension Scheme (OPS) in the state, if elected to power in the upcoming Gujarat Assembly elections. Both political parties have made it as a major poll plank in the state as they seek to oust the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Notably, the Gujarat government implemented a new contributing pension plan for employees joining the service on or after April 1, 2005. According to its notification, it will match 10% of the basic pay plus dearness allowance (DA) that employees put into the NPS fund.
With effect from April 1, 2019, the government decided to contribute 14% of the employee's salary and deferred compensation under the Center's plan, compared to the employee's 10% contribution.
The state government of Gujarat responded to employee protests by declaring that the new pension will not be available to individuals who began working before April 2005. Additionally, it pledged to increase its contribution to the fund from the previous 10% to 14%.
Large-scale protest against NPS
As they believe the New Pension Scheme is not in the interests of the retired employees, the people in Gujarat have organised large-scale protests against the government and demanded the restoration of the OPS.
In one of their most resolute election promises, the Congress and the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP promised to reinstate the OPS in light of the BJP government's refusal to grant the requests of the workforce.
Both parties have promised the protesting employees that the OPS will be implemented instead of the New Pension Scheme (NPS). To emphasise their point, they cited the examples of their governments in Punjab (AAP), and Chhattisgarh (Congress).
"We launched an agitation with 15 demands, of which those related to restoration of the OPS and fixed salary issue were not accepted. The government formed a committee. It said it will increase its contribution to the NPS fund but no notification was issued," Digvijaysinh Jadeja, working president of the Akhil Bharatiya Prathmik Shikshak Sangh, a body of government primary school teachers told media.
Employees seek to restore OPS
There are nearly seven lakh government employees who are pressing for the demand for the OPS, including around 70,000 primary school teachers who joined before 2005 on a fixed salary.
Jadeja had in February 2019 led an agitation where around two lakh primary school teachers proceeded on 'mass casual leave' and gathered to protest outside the Gujarat Assembly in the capital Gandhinagar.
The agitation was revived ahead of the upcoming Assembly elections when thousands of state government employees, including school teachers, joined the mass casual leave protest across the state in September this year.
The agitation had forced the government to mellow its stand on the issue and it promised to take the decision on the OPS at the right time, saying it was a policy matter.
Elections for the 182-member Gujarat Assembly will be held in two phases on December 1 and 5. The counting of votes will be taken up on December 8.
(With inputs from PTI)
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