The Himachal Pradesh government on Friday approved restoration of Old Pension Scheme in its first cabinet meeting, calling it a "Lohri gift" to 1.36 lakh employees who currently are under the New Pension Scheme.
The Congress party had promised to take a decision to restore Old Pension Scheme (OPS) at the first meeting of the government and it stood by the promise. The Cabinet also decided to adopt the Election Manifesto of the Congress party as policy document of the Government.
Briefing media persons after the cabinet meeting, Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu said: "During her election tour, AICC general secretary Priyanka Gandhi had told us to promise restoration of OPS and we included it in the Pratigya Patra and fulfilled the promise at very first cabinet meeting".
He further added that the benefit of old pension scheme would be given from today (January 13, 2023) and notification in this regard would be issued soon.
Asserting that the promise to provide Rs 1,500 per month to women in the age bracket of 18 to 60 years would be implemented, the chief minister said that a cabinet sub-committee headed by Agriculture Minister Chander Kumar and Dhani Ram Shandil, Anirudh Singh and Jagat Negi as members has been constituted to prepare a road map for disbursement of Rs 1,500 per month in 30 days.
A Committee has also been constituted to explore possibilities for one lakh jobs till February 13, he added. Accusing the previous government of financial mismanagement, the chief minister said that his government not only inherited debt liability of Rs 75,000 crore but also committed liability of Rs 11,000 crore pertaining to employees and pensioners as the previous BJP government has not paid arrears of Rs 4,430 crores to employees, Rs 5,226 crores to pensioners and Rs 1,000 crores dearness allowance of sixth pay commission. Under the New Pension Scheme (NPS), the employees and government contributed ten per cent and 14 per cent respectively and an amount of Rs 8,000 crore is lying with Central government, which is reluctant to reimburse the amount but government has decided to go without it and three per cent increase on GST on diesel would help generate additional funds, Sukhu said.
Sukhu reiterated that the state government has not restored OPS for votes but for giving social security and safeguarding self respect of the employees who have scripted the history of development of Himachal Pradesh. The matter has been studied in depth and in spite of some reservations by finance officers, the issue has been settled and all the employees under the NPS would be covered under OPS, he added. Sukhu also said that the government de-notified over 900 institutions opened by the previous BJP Government without budget as a sum of Rs 5,000 crores was required to make them functional, adding that harsh decisions would have to be taken as the government cannot run under huge debt.
Employees who joined government service from January 1, 2004 are covered under NPS.
The new pension scheme is a contributory scheme in which the government and employees contribute 10 and 14 per cent of the salary respectively towards the pension fund while in the old pension scheme employees with 20 years of service used to get 50 per cent of last drawn salary as pension.
"We had informed the government that the liability for 2022-23 under the NPS is Rs 1,632 crores out of which employees and Government would deposit Rs 680 crores and Rs 952 crores respectively, while the liability under the OPS would only be Rs 147 crores," said Pradeep Thakur, President of New Pension Scheme Employees Federation Himachal.
The employees were ecstatic as the decision to restore the OPS was announced and danced to the tune of local folk dance “Nati”. Various employees associations have hailed the decision and thanked the government.
Meanwhile, the state BJP chief Suresh Kashyap accused the government of misleading the employees on the issue of OPS and said that the Congress has failed to implement the guarantees promised by it in ten days and has even deferred the payment of arrears.