Vol. XLII No. 49 December 09, 2018

The Movement on Old Pension Scheme and the Politics of UPA and NDA

B S Negi

THE new economic policy initiated by the Narsimha Rao government in 1991 has widened the gap between the rich and the poor manifold. The liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation policies have hit the basic services like health, education hard and made them highly expensive. The successive governments at the centre led by the Congress and the BJP have been boasting about the demographic dividends but both have betrayed the youth of the country by compelling them to work under temporary conditions.

The ruling parties adopted the policy of divide and rule by dividing the employees of the country on the new pension scheme (NPS). At the time of adoption of the new pension policy, the conventional employees’ organisations were reluctant to raise their voice against it as it was supposedly to have a prospective effect. The governments were able to convince the employee’s organisations by citing benefit of the new pension scheme (NPS). It was only after 15 years of its implementation from 2003-04, that the employees who were getting a monthly salary of Rs 55,000-Rs 60,000 and who got retired in 2017-18 got a paltry pension of Rs 1,500 to Rs 1,700 per month; realised the perils of the NPS. Whereas, their counterparts who were under the old pension scheme got pension which was half of the salary amount last drawn.

The employees realised the importance of struggle and started to organise the employees across the nation with different names such as New Pension Scheme Employees Association (NPSEA) in Himachal Pradesh and National Platform for the Movement of Old Pension Scheme (NPMOPS) at national level. Noticing the aggression of these new employees’ organization the conventional employee’s union also started raising the demand of revocation of new pension scheme in their demand charter.

The employees in the country realised the importance of forming the union to combat the attack of the NPS and started organising demonstrations in different parts of the country.

The BJP was the initiator of the NPS under the Vajpayee government but could not pass it under pressure from different quarters. It was believed by the employee’s unions that a coalition government is a weak adjustment and hence will not be able to pass it through. It was under the Congress rule that eventually it got passed and implemented in the country. The state governments led by Congress passed it without any hindrance and implemented it.

The employees are feeling looted by way of withdrawing their benefits including pension. Employees are bound to buy a pension policy and bound to give their hard-earned money to the fund managers. The youth are feeling looted as there is no permanent job opportunity in the market; they are compelled to grovel in front of the private contractors. A queer situation has emerged where the ratio of regular and outsourced employees have become equal in some departments.

In Himachal Pradesh the BJP on May 15, 2003, withdrew the old pension scheme well before the other states did it. Now a majority of the states have adopted the NPS from 2004. Though, the BJP government in Himachal Pradesh formally adopted NPS in 2006, it however implemented NPS retrospectively from May 15, 2003. This was a great shock to those employees who entered in the government service from 2003 to 2006.

The Left parties opposed NPS vociferously in both houses of parliament. The Left ruled states in West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura in that period refused to implement the NPS. In West Bengal due to the pressure from the employee’s union, the old pension scheme continues as the successive governments have refused to implement the NPS. In Kerala it was during the UDF rule that the NPS was adopted in 2013. The present Left government in Kerala has constituted a high-power committee on November 7, 2018 to review the NPS and adopt the OPS. In Tripura the incumbent BJP government immediately after assuming office has adopted the NPS in its first budget session in 2018. Not just that the Tripura government is trying to overturn the decisions of the former Left government by retrenching the employees. Hence it is not difficult to understand the outlook and position of different parties on the NPS.

More than five lakh employees gathered on November 26, 2018, at Delhi in Ramlila ground against the NPS. The impact was evidently seen in Delhi. Arvind Kejriwal government announced the revocation of NPS to its employees in Delhi. He called for a special assembly session on the same day and passed a resolution to revoke the NPS and forwarded the same to the central government. After the Delhi demonstration of the employees, the state government of Andhra Pradesh on the Kerala government’s pattern constituted a committee to review the NPS. All this could be done because of the pressure mounted by the employee’s union and its mobilisation against the NPS.

It is high time that the people of the country recognise the political character of the political parties on different issues. The movement for the OPS should be strengthened and pressure should be mounted on the central government so that it becomes an important issue in the upcoming general election in 2019. Employees have to strengthen their movement at their own at the state level and they must compel the state governments to implement the OPS or at least follow the Delhi government model to call a special session on the ‘issue’ and pass a resolution in favour of the employees.

The movement for OPS must identify their own strength and start building structures at state level through comprehensive membership drive, creating new units and organizing dharnas, rally and strike at block district and state level. They have no other option than to fight strongly.