Mumbai: The Shinde-Fadnavis (Eknath Shinde-BJP) government which is already on tenterhooks over the Maratha reservation issue has another challenge awaiting it in the week preceding Diwalinas 17 lakh government-semi government employees have decided to take out ‘Family March’ across the state on November 8 for the demand of the Old Pension Scheme (OPS).
Employee unions have also warned of an indefinite strike from December 14 to push the demand of OPS. “The meeting of the coordination committee of all government-semi government employees unions was held as the state government is ignoring the demand for OPS and it was decided to take out ‘Family March’ across the state in each district and tehsil on November 8 over the district collector office and tehsildar office with the slogan ‘My family, My Pension’. Later, we will go on indefinite strike from December 14 for the demand of OPS,” announced Vishwas Katkar, convenor of the coordination committee of the government employees union as reported by HT.
This demand of OPS for government employees, including teachers first surfaced on the political agenda during the campaign for legislative council elections in teachers and graduates’ constituencies held in January this year. At the time, Chief Minister Eknath Shinde announced that the government would give the issue some consideration. However, the unresolved demand (the OPS issue) has already meant political damage to Shinde-Fadnavis as BJP lost Nagpur and Amravati to candidates of the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA).
Earlier this year, state government employees went on strike from March 14 during the budget session of the legislature. The strike ended on March 20 after the state government appointed the committee under the former IAS officer Subodh Kumar to look into the demand for OPS. Though close to seven months have elapsed since then, the state government has not come forward with any proposal regarding the pension issue.
“The Subodh Kumar committee on OPS was given three months’ time to submit the report. But now it’s over seven months and no development as far as the report and state governments response is concerned. Against this backdrop, the meeting of the coordination committee of various 219 employee unions of government-semi government employees, teachers and others was held. All representatives expressed displeasure about the state government’s approach and ignorance of the demand of OPS. So, we have decided on the family march on November 8 at the district collector’s office at the district headquarters and tehsildar office on tehsil level. and then indefinite strike from December.” said Katkar in a statement. Katkar also said that the co-ordination committee would like to share the side of employees on the report of the Subodh Kumar committee.
The other demands of employees include cancelling the indirect privatisation of the education sector, no recruitment on a contract basis and filling all the vacant posts immediately through the proper system.
What is the Old Pension Scheme
OPS was a pension scheme by the government through which a government employee gets 50% of its basic and dearness allowance after retirement as a pension. Government employees do not contribute to OPS. It gives a stable source of income post-retirement. This OPS was scrapped in Maharashtra under the central government policy in 2005 due to heavy debt (a chunk of government revenue was spent on the salary and pension of government employees) resulting in less amounts available for developmental work.
After the scrapping of OPS, a new scheme, contribution-based new pension scheme was introduced whereby government employees have to contribute 10% of their basic pay for the pension. The government then invests it in the pension funds selected by the Government of India and the returns are the capital market link. Government employees want OPS back as they are not required to contribute to it and also give an assured amount as a pension with the increase in dearness allowance automatically and OPS also continues to the spouse after the death of the employee.