January 26, 2020

Maharashtra: Scrap NPS, restore old pension scheme

A JOINT convention by employees of central and state government, railways and teachers was held in Mumbai on December 24, 2019 demanding the scrapping of NPS(new pension scheme) and restoration of the OPS(old pension scheme).

The convention was attended by members of the Western Railway Employees Union, National Railway Mazdoor Union, organisation of teachers and state government employees and other central government employees organisation’s affiliated to confederation of central government employees and workers, like postal, income tax etc. The convention was also a prelude to the impending General Strike action slated for January 8, 2020.

The new pension scheme has been agitating the government employees since its inception. The major flaw of the scheme is that while the contributions by the employees are defined but the amount of pension, which the employees will supposedly get after retirement is not defined. There is no minimum guaranteed pension under the scheme. This is because of the fact that the pension fund is to be invested in the stock market and the vagaries’ of the stock market will decide the return and consequently the amount of pension to the employee. While various committees set up to look in to the grievances of the employees suggested that minimum pension needs to be determined, the government refused to accept the recommendations.

It was in this back-ground that the confederation, Mumbai unit organised this convention. The leaders from various organisations who spoke on the occasion were critical of the scheme and the government’s adamant stand on the issue. It is pertinent to mention here that the struggles are going on to demand restoration of the old pension scheme and scrapping of the new pension scheme in various government offices by respective unions/associations, which still needs to materialise in to united actions. It was in this background that the effort of the confederation, Mumbai unit to bring about a united face through the mass convention was undertaken.

On behalf of the confederation Ajay Patole, while welcoming the leaders and workers to the convention said the January 8, 2020 strike is very important considering the fact that NPS is the major demand put forth by the confederation. He said mobilisation is going on and the struggle for restoration of OPS needs to be carried forward even after the strike through agitation and other related programmes. Speaking at the convention J R Bhosale, general secretary of the WREU said that even though the NPS was introduced by the then NDA government of Vajpayee, the NDA and UPA came together to ensure the passage of the PFRDA bill, thus giving it legal sanction. He further said a united fight against various policies of the government is needed to bring out a change in the order of the day. K K N Kutty, president of the confederation said that the January 8, all India strike of the working class of the country is against the anti-worker, anti-people policies of the government and every effort should be made to make it a grand success. He further said that the NPS is the main issue being high-lighted by the confederation. He said efforts are on to sell public sector companies to the cronies of the ruling classes. In a lighter vein he said that destruction of public property is now being made a serious issue because if the properties are damaged, how they will sell them? Venu Nair, general secretary of the NRMU speaking on the occasion said it is high time that the railway unions should embark on agitation and an action plan must be drawn. He said the recent conference of the AIRF has decided to go on strike on various issues. He further said that his organisation is ready to make any sacrifice but every other organisation should come together and take to the path of agitation. K K Thekedath, representing the co-ordination committee of teachers organisation’s in Mumbai pointed out the need to organise a long and sustained struggle to bring about a change in the pension scheme. He opined that this convention is a step in that direction and it needs to be carried forward and a massive joint rally should be organised at Azad Maidan, Mumbai in the month of April, 2020. He also said a co-ordination committee should be formed for the purpose and responsibility for co-coordinating with various organisations should be assigned.  The leaders of the state government employees, Milind Sardeshmukh and Avinash Daund speaking on the occasion explained the situation being faced by the state government employees and emphasised the need for united struggle on the issue of NPS. R P Sarang, of the postal employees’ federation said efforts are on to make the January 8, 2020 all India strike a total success in the postal department. 
Prashant Chavan, working president of the income tax employees’ federation, Mumbai thanked all the leaders for their insightful speech and was hopeful that the initiative taken to bring about a joint movement will bear fruit in the future. The income tax employees’ federation had made excellent arrangement for the successful conduct of the convention with stage and seating arrangements in the quadrangle of Aayakar Bhavan and additional seating arrangements in the Shamiana with the proceedings shown through screens put up there so that more than 400 persons could be accommodated.  It was decided by the convention to discuss with leaders of all the organisations and chalk out joint strategy for the future struggle to replace NPS with OPS.

The central government employees affiliated to the confederation of central government employees and workers also participated in the January 8 strike.  In Mumbai the strike was total in the department of posts, income tax, civil accounts, film division etc., and partial in some other departments like AG office, BARC(Bhabha Atomic Research Centre) etc.