Several lakh employees of the central and state governments thronged the national capital on Sunday to demand restoration of the old pension scheme, with the massive crowd spilling onto roads and open spaces.
Sunil Bajpai, a teachers’ leader who had arrived from Etawah in Uttar Pradesh, said 8 lakh to 10 lakh employees had assembled from all over the country, including the Andamans and Ladakh.
The National Movement for Old Pension Scheme (NMOPS), an organisation of central and state government employees, had called for the congregation.
The NMOPS is spearheading a countrywide movement for the restoration of the old pension scheme (OPS) for employees recruited after the Centre and most states replaced it with the National Pension Scheme (NPS).
The OPS entitles an employee to a pension equal to 50 per cent of their last drawn salary. The NPS, introduced by the Centre in 2004 and adopted by most states, requires an employee in service to make a contribution towards his or her pension that is equal to the government’s. Even at the highest allowed rate of contribution, the eventual pension is far less than that under the OPS.
Bajpai, an NMOPS member, said employees from the Centre’s railway, defence and postal departments and all state government departments participated in the meeting.
“Several leaders including farmer leader Rakesh Tikait and Opposition politicians like Udit Raj from the Congress, Sanjay Singh from the Aam Admi Party and Kuldeep Yadav from the Samajwadi Party took part,” he said.
Bajpai said the meeting decided that the NMOPS would wait for the government’s response over the next few days.
“If there is no positive response, the NMOPS will organise campaigns against the BJP in all the states and ask people not to vote for the party in the 2024 general election,” he
NMOPS president Vijay Kumar Bandhu told this newspaper last month that states such as Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand had already restored the OPS while Bengal and Tamil Nadu never discontinued the OPS.
The Union finance ministry set up a committee in April this year to suggest improvements to the NPS. The panel is yet to submit its report. However, Bandhu said the NMOPS wanted the return of the OPS, not an improved NPS.