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One Nation One Pension (OPS Instead of NPS) | An Article by Bruhaspati Samal ex General Secretary (NFPE Postal Union)

ONE NATION, ONE PENSION (ONOP) An Article by Bruhaspati Samal ex General Secretary (NFPE Postal Union).

The Central Govt. employees including Railways and all the State Govt. employees along with teachers are in continuous struggle since the New Pension Scheme, now National Pension Scheme (NPS) was given effect from 01.01.2004 and became applicable to all new entrants to central government services (except the Army, Navy and Air Force) only with an Executive Order on 22.12.2003 as a part of the implementation of the new economic policy following the IMF-World Bank policy on pension reforms. Subsequently PFRDA Act was passed in 2013 in the Parliament and legally came into force with effect from 01.02.2014 through a Gazette Notification. 

While some State Governments like Odisha implemented it from 01.01.2005, some like West Bengal and Tamilnadu are still under Old Pension Scheme (OPS). Further, due to the rigorous agitational programmes of the employees and workers, some State Governments like Jharkhand, Rajastan, Chhatisgarh, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh have already declared to rollback to OPS. The Govt. of Andhra Pradesh has offered its employees a guaranteed pension of 33% of the last basic pay without any monthly deduction from the employees’ salary as done under the NPS, i.e. 10% of employee’s salary every month in addition to 14% similar contribution by the employer. Similarly, the Govt. of Maharastra is now thinking to exit from NPS.

 While our hon’ble MPS and MLAs are enjoying multiple pensions under OPS, it is a matter of surprise that apart from NPS and OPS, there are some categories of employees in various States and Establishments who have no pension at all (NoPS). The Nation has also One Rank One Pension scheme (OROP) scheme under which uniform pension is paid to armed forces personnel retiring at the same rank with the same length of service, regardless of when they completed their service or retired. 

Further, recently in January 2023, the High Court of Delhi came in the case of Srinivas Sharma vs Union of India and held that that personnel of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) comprising BSF, Assam Rifles, CISF, CRPF, Indo Tibetan Border Police, National Security Guard (NSG) and Seema Suraksha Bal with total of 11,09,511 shall be governed by the OPS. On the other hand, various Trade Unions of the country are in action mode to demand a minimum guaranteed pension of Rs.9000/- for the workers in the unorganized sector.

 Thus, during the period of last 20 years from 2003 to 2023, the struggle for OPS is getting momentum. Now under the banner of National Joint Council of Action (NJCA), all the Central Govt. employees including Railways and all the State Govt. employees along with teachers are accelerating the movement. On the backdrop of such movements on one hand and the decision of various State Governments to rollback to OPS on the other, now, the Hon’ble Finance Minister on 24th March, 2023 has declared to set up a Committee to propose changes for improvising NPS. But the demand of the employees and workers is not to improve, but to scrap NPS including PFRDA Act, 2013 and restore OPS. Since 2024 is the year of General Election, it is quite evident and familiar with the ruling parities to come up with several promises and manifestos in the pre-election year for motivating the voters. Thus, there is nothing for the employees to be surprised with the formation of the proposed NPS Committee. Since the employees have several bitter experiences how the Govt. has moved away from its written assurances earlier with regard to pay and pension, now the functionality of the proposed Committee on NPS seems to be quite apprehensive. It is just an eye-wash to overcome the election year only.

In a democratic welfare country like India, there shouldn’t be separate principles at least with regard to pension, i.e. one for the people and another for the people’s representative, one for the defence personnel and another for the civilians, one for the organized sector, another for the unorganized sector etc. Pension is neither a bounty, nor a matter of grace depending upon the sweet will of the employer, nor an ex-gratia payment. It is a payment for the past services rendered. It is a social welfare measure rendering socio-economic justice to those who in the heyday of their life ceaselessly toiled for the employer on an assurance that in their old age they would not be left in the lurch. Any kind of discrimination amongst employees and workers should be forbidden. 

The Right to Equality, one of the Fundamental Rights enshrined both in the Preamble and under Article 14 to 18 of the Constitution of India states that the State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India. Equality before the law means like should be treated alike. The right should be exercised without distinctions of race, religion, wealth, social status or political influence. Thus, there should not be several categories of pension in a welfare country like India. The Govt. of India is now giving several clarion calls like; One Nation - One Ration Card, One Nation – One Election, One Nation – One Identity Card, One Nation – One Fertilizer, One Nation – One Uniform, One Nation – One Language etc. In the same analogy, why can’t we go for One Nation – One Pension? Since the law says to treat equally all, now time has come to think in this regard more seriously to provide equal pension to all without any distinctions in the category of employees or political influence.

Hope, the proposed NPS Committee will study in details the drawbacks of various pension systems now prevailing in the India, viz; NPS, OROP, NoPS etc., guide the Central Govt. for ensuring a single pension system irrespective of categories of employees and workers with a minimum guaranteed amount subject to maximum 50% of the last pay drawn as given under OPS to honour the Constitution and to suggest for repealing NPS under PFRDA Act 2013. 

One_Nation_One_Pension' published in people's popular English daily of Odisha '#The_Kalinga_Chronicle on 29.03.2023. Thanks to the editorial team.

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