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Maharashtra: 17 lakh government employees go on strike over old pension scheme


Lakhs worth workers of the Maharashtra government went on strike on Tuesday to demand reinstatement of the old pension scheme (OPS).

From cleaners to teachers, from paramedics in hospitals to other government employees, everyone went on strike on Tuesday for the implementation of the old pension scheme. The strike will take place when class 10 and 12 exams are underway.

Employees of various government departments in Maharashtra put forward slogans like: “Only one mission, restore old pension”.

The chorus to restore the old pension scheme across India has grown. While many non-BJP-ruled states have decided to restore the old pension scheme for their workers, this is the first time such a large protest has been seen where BJP and Shiv Sena are in power.

Under the old pension plan (OPS), the pension amount is provided by the government, increasing liability, while the NPS has a contribution mechanism from both the employee and the government.

Earlier this month, the Dutch government allowed selected employees to opt for OPS. The Ministry of Personnel said in its decision that the employees who joined central government services on posts announced or registered before December 22, 2003, the day the National Pension Scheme (NPS) was notified, are eligible to participate in the old pension scheme under the central government. Government Services (Pension) Rules, 1972 (now 2021).

The select group of civil servants can opt for this option until 31 August 2023.

This month, government workers in Karnataka withdrew their indefinite strike after the state government announced a 17% increase in basic salary.

The workers had demanded a temporary exemption from a 40% increase in base salary and a review of salaries according to the 7th Pay Commission.

Meanwhile, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has expanded its support for the recovery of OPS, as its government (Bhagwant Mann) has done in Punjab. The government of Himachal Pradesh has already reinstated the old pension scheme. Before that, the governments of Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh have taken the same route.

Experts, including former RBI governors, have warned against introducing the old pension plan.

Former RBI Governor D Subbarao said, “That will be a decidedly regressive move, both for our commitment to fiscal responsibility and more generally for the credibility of our reforms”.

While another ex-RBI governor Raghuram Rajan suggested that states find cheaper ways to meet the demands of government retirees.

The state government going the old retirement route believes it would bring social security and the well-being of their employees. However, economists see this as a trend that could lead to disaster in the future, as states will not build a corpus with this.

The OPS was discontinued in 2003 by the NDA government effective April 1, 2004.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.