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Monday, April 22 2024
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Karnataka: ‘OPS becomes an election issue in State’

Pension
Photo Credit : IANS

Bengaluru: Political parties in State are all set to cash in on the exasperation and disappointment of the government employees demanding the scrapping of National Pension Scheme (NPS) and re-introduction of the Old Pension Scheme (OPS) ahead of the May 10 Assembly polls.

The ruling BJP formed a committee on reintroducing OPS by studying states that have scrapped the market-linked NPS. It assured of a suitable action after the report gets submitted to the government.

Understandably, the party took the step at the fag end of its tenure to avoid inviting any wrath of government employees during elections. The government employees and pensioners form a large group of voters in the state. The protests have been staged for the re-introduction of the OPS.

However, the issue cropped up as pensions under the OPS for government employees became one of the top promises made by the Congress in its manifesto for the upcoming Assembly elections in the state.

“To sympathetically consider extension of OPS to the pensionable government employees who joined service since 2006,” the manifesto reads. It is one of top promises made in the beginning of the Congress manifesto after the five guarantees.

State Congress President D.K. Shivakumar stated that his party is sympathetic towards those who want to join the OPS. The Congress has given the commitment and it would implement it without fail.

Meanwhile, JD(S) had promised in its election manifesto that the New Pension Scheme (NPS) will be reviewed. The party has proposed a new pension scheme which will comprise the good aspects of both NPS and OPS schemes. Government sources claim that of the 7.41 lakh government employees in the state, 2.97 lakh are covered under NPS.

The NPS was introduced to all government employees who were recruited to the government services after April 1, 2006. These employees are not happy with the NPS which is a market linked retired pension scheme.

Talking to IANS, Mohan Dasari, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Bengaluru City President explained that his party has already implemented OPS in the state of Punjab. “We have a clear vision to bring back the OPS and we are completely against the NPS,” he said.

“We have been telling everyone in the country that we want to bring back the OPS. The new scheme which is being promoted is being brought in to help the bigger corporations in the country. The Adanis, Ambanis and Tatas and others,” he said.

The money is invested in stocks and mutual funds. The stocks are nothing but the bigger company stocks. With the people’s money, they want to increase the wealth of corporates. But, the earlier pension scheme was completely for the people, he said.

Mohan Dasari explained that these people were getting a bulk amount at the time of retirement. Since it is a market linked scheme, they don’t get a big amount at the time of retirement. Normally, all middle class government employees wait for their retirement to build the house, get the children married. They literally waited.

Now with the market scheme, how are they going to wait for anything? It also means that the government employees are not even going to get a good pension. This is a survival thing for middle class government employees. They struggle their entire life to get that amount, he explained.

“This is purely to help the corporates, this is what BJP and Congress governments are doing. We are completely against it and are determined to bring back the OPS,” Mohan Dasari stated.

Asked about the declaration in the manifesto by the Congress, Mohan Dasari questioned why the Congress government did not bring the OPS in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, where it is ruling? Why are they not doing it now? If Congress has a vision for OPS, it should have done it in both the states. Since they have not done it there, they will not do it here either.

Notably, BJP legislators had staged a walkout in the session demanding scrapping of NPS. Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs J. Madhu Swamy had stated that under the OPS there was a huge financial burden of salaries and pensions. The salary outgo exceeds Rs 90,000 crore, while it was Rs 20,000 to Rs 24,000 crore for pensions.

The BJP government even stated that it had informed in advance about NPS to all those who were recruited post 2006 and they can’t demand OPS. However, considering the setback in polls, the saffron party had mellowed down. It is to be seen whether the political parties are using the issue for election or concerned about government employees.

By M.K. Ashoka

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