Rajasthan: As Congress govt begins to implement old pension system, BJP terms it 'vote-bank' politics

While government employees in Rajasthan are cheering the reintroduction of the old pension system, the principal opposition party in the state is terming it as a desperate attempt to secure votes not only for the assembly elections which are scheduled next year but also the Lok Sabha polls in 2024.

Madhav SharmaMadhav Sharma   5 April 2022 3:44 PM GMT

Rajasthan: As Congress govt begins to implement old pension system, BJP terms it vote-bank politics

As part of the Budget announcement for the 2022-23 fiscal year on February 23, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot announced that the state government will revert back to the old pension scheme.

Jaipur, Rajasthan

Kurdaram Gehlawat, a former jawan in the Indian Army who retired from the armed force at the age of 38 is happy for those government employees who are yet to retire.

"After retiring from the Army, I got selected for a government school teacher job in 2005. After reaching the age of sixty, I attained retirement in 2019 and have been getting a monthly pension of almost three thousand rupees. The amount I receive every month keeps changing on the basis of the share price of the company in which the government has invested my money. But it is hardly above thirty five hundred rupees ever," Gehlawat, a resident of Dalmiya Ka Thandi village in Rajasthan's Jhunjhunu district told Gaon Connection.

He also claimed that the amount that he was supposed to receive as a whole upon retiring was far less than what had accrued in 14 years of his service as a school teacher. "Under the new pension scheme, I was supposed to get Rs 1,560,000 but all I received was Rs 940,000. Had I retired from the Army at the age of 60, I would have been getting Rs 50,000 per month as my pension," Gehlawat added.

When asked about the Rajasthan government's announcement to reintroduce the old pension scheme which ensured a life-long pension of roughly half the salary amount at the time of retirement, Gehlawat said he was happy that the long awaited decision had finally been announced.

"I am happy for people who are yet to retire but I wish people like me who are already retired to also be included in the old pension scheme," he said.

Reintroduction of the old pension scheme

As part of the Budget announcement for the 2022-23 fiscal year on February 23, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot announced that the state government will revert back to the old pension scheme.

"We all know that the employees associated with government services should feel secure about the future, only then they can make their invaluable contribution towards good governance during the service period. Therefore, for all the employees appointed on or after January 1, 2004, I propose to implement the old pension scheme," Gehlot was quoted as saying in his Budget speech.

The demand to reintroduce the old pension scheme has been raised ever since it was renounced during the tenure of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2004.

Tej Singh Rathore, president of Rajasthan Rajya Karmchari Sangh (Sangathit), a Jaipur-based labour rights advocacy union, told Gaon Connection that the Gehlot government's decision to revert back to the old pension scheme is heartily welcomed.

"We are happy that years of collective effort by our organisation has now borne fruit. But we demand that those appointed in government service after 2004 should also be included in the old system. There are an estimated 25,000 former government employees who have retired between 2004-2022. The Budget announcement is made, now we are waiting for a formal notification," Rathore said.

'Myopic political gamble'

While labour union functionaries like Rathore are happy after CM Gehlot's announcement, the opposition parties in the state are terming it as an attempt to garner votes for the upcoming elections at the centre and the state.

"It is a myopic (short sighted) decision which shows the politically selfish motivation of the Congress party. The reason as to why the chief minister has announced the old pension scheme is that those who have been appointed as government employees in or after 2004 will not retire before 2030 and that gives him the room to announce it and not care about the long term consequences of this decision," Satish Poonia, state president of the BJP told Gaon Connection.

Sanjay Poonia

"All they (Congress) are concerned about is to be able to win the elections in the state assembly polls next year and form a government anyhow at the Centre in 2024. The reverting back to the old pension system is an inconsiderate political gamble," Poonia alleged.

Following Rajasthan Chief Minister's announcement, the Congress government in Chhattisgarh under the leadership of Chief Minister Bhupesh Singh Baghel also announced a rollback to the old pension scheme on March 10. Also, in the wake of popular protests demanding a return to the old pension system, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, and Assam have set up committees to consider the feasibility of reverting back to the old pension scheme.

The new pension scheme

The new pension scheme (NPS) which was introduced in 2004 is based on providing pension on the basis of the stock market conditions whereas the old pension scheme ensured guaranteed financial monthly transfers irrespective of the prevailing market conditions.

Under the new pension scheme, 10 per cent of the monthly salary is deducted while 14 per cent of the salary amount is contributed by the government. However, the sum of the two shares (employee and government) is invested in the stock market through an equity fund which is then used to dispense monthly pensions after retirement. However, the monthly pension is not a fixed amount and fluctuates every month as per the rise and fall in the stock prices.

As per the data on the website of the National Securities Depository Limited (NSDL), a sum of Rs 65,000 crores is deposited as the pension fund of the employees of the Rajasthan government. Nationwide, roughly Rs 500,000 crores of government employees' pension funds are presently deposited with the NSDL.

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