New Delhi: Trade unions on Monday pressed for restoration of the old pension scheme (OPS) and a credible social security net for unorganised workers in their pre-budget consultation with Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. In 2004, the OPS was replaced with the National Pension System (NPS) which is contributory and not indexed (not linked to dearness allowance). States like Punjab, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh have already announced the restoration of OPS for their employees.
A joint forum of 10 central trade unions, which did not participate in the meet held earlier in the day, stated in its memorandum to the ministry through e-mail: "Restore Old Pension Scheme in place of NPS by contribution out of government kitty." The forum of these unions did not attend the virtual pre-budget consultation as the unions wanted a physical meeting and demanded more time to express their views.
They had protested against the virtual meeting, saying that over a dozen central trade unions would be given three minutes each to raise issues related to workers. The unions also invited the Finance Minister for an open debate, saying that it would give her more time to defend policies followed by her. Besides, SP Tiwari, General Secretary, TUCC (Trade Union Coordination Centre), who participated in the meeting said that his union also demanded that the OPS should be restored in place of NPS. The forum also demanded raising the minimum pension under EPS-95 (Employees Pension Scheme 1995).
About the minimum pension, Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) stated, "BMS strongly insisted on the need to increase the minimum pension from Rs 1,000 to Rs 5,000 and link it with VDA. It has been brought to the notice of ministers the plights of different pensioners and we have demanded health facilities by linking with Ayushmann Bharat yojana." The BMS also demanded allotment of more funds to unorganised sectors and enhancement of the monthly honorarium to all types of scheme workers, including Aanganwadi, ASHA and midday meal workers.
The BMS said, "Schemes like PM Shram Yogi Mandhan Yojana, which make low-paid unorganised sector workers contribute for a minimum of 20 years, are being touted as 'social security'. Please scrap such Yojanas, the contributions of which you are using for market investments." The TUCC has also demanded that the government must allocate adequate funds in the Budget to provide social security to all the workers of unorganised sectors and prioritise providing them medical cover under ESIC (Employees State Insurance Corporation). The BMS also demanded that ESI (employees' state insurance) facilities be extended to all unorganised sector workers.
The forum noted that though the employers have demanded 'employment generation incentives' in your interaction with them, they prefer automation to reduce manpower, rather than any incentive.
"The Agnipath Scheme, not only deprives the youth willing to serve in the defence services of our country of social security but also undermines our national security. The much advertised 'employment melas' are just an eyewash," the forum said. The workers and representatives have also demanded reduction of tax burden, especially direct tax, to ease out pressure of price rise on the working class. The unions that participated in the pre-budget consultation were BMS, TUCC and National Front of Indian Trade Unions.
(PSU Watch– India's Business News centre that places the spotlight on PSUs, Bureaucracy, Defence and Public Policy is now on Google News. Click here to follow. Also, join PSU Watch Channel in your Telegram. You may also follow us on Twitter here and stay updated.)