By Anznoo Wasim
The escalating pay bills of government employees have always been a cause of worry to government(s) for a long time. So, it was their constant endeavour to reduce them innovatively. The bureaucracy was tasked to come up with a creative roadmap to accomplish the task. And, faithfully, it produced it during Yashwant Sinha’s tenure as Finance Minister in the Government of India in the commonly known ‘Second Generation Reforms’.
The National Pension System (NPS) that was introduced was based upon these ‘Second Generation Reforms’. It was envisaged to lessen the burden of pension provided by the government to its retired employees. The Government of India applied it from the year 2004 while as the Government of J&K followed it from the year 2010 by issuing SRO 400. Under this system, a share of 10% of the employee’s monthly salary is invested into the few schemes selected by the government. An equal matching share is provided by the employer, in this case, the government. The amount so invested in the defined schemes by the Pension Fund Managers of the government earns value as per the prevailing market trend.
At the time of superannuation, every subscriber has to, at least, invest the 40% of his total value into some annuity of pension fund, thereby guaranteeing himself a definite sum each month. The rest would be paid to him as a lump sum amount to be taken to home. Any employee thus retiring or deceasing is not eligible for any benefit under death or retirement gratuity applicable to employees covered under the ‘Old Pension Scheme’.
The Government of India subsequently made necessary amendments through office memo dated 26/08/2016 extending such benefits to the NPS employees also. Formerly on the 5th of May, 2009, they had also made available the additional relief of pension and family pension to the employees getting disabled or dying in harness respectively during the service period. This was ensured based on the recommendations of the ‘high level task force’ constituted for this purpose by the government. The Government of India also clarified that the New Pension Scheme was meant only to replace the normal pension in case of retirement of an employee or his/her death after retirement, keeping rest of the terms same for all of the employees.
While Jammu and Kashmir also reproduced the same scheme for its newly appointed employees from the year 2010, it is yet to apply the above referred modifications in toto. While recently, the benefit of ‘retirement cum death gratuity’ was extended to NPS , employees of Jammu and Kashmir, also by issuing SRO 484, the other benefit is yet to be given. It is sheer discrimination with such employees particularly in the wake of the government hiking the emoluments and allowances of legislators manifold in the past couple of years. Under such circumstances no excuse, whatsoever, is acceptable for delaying it further under any garb.
Take this case for an instance. Any non-gazetted employee having a service period of 26 years, investing an average sum of Rs 8000/month gaining the interest of 8% per annum would get a monthly pension of Rs 13991/month approximately as calculated by the NPS Trust pension calculator 26 years later. It is much less than the amount he would have taken if appointed prior to year 2010. If he dies in harness his family would not be eligible for any pension if amount in PRAN is less than Rupees two lakhs. Even if the savings in the account are more than it they would not receive the pension more than few hundred bucks. That is undoubtedly disgraceful and demands redressal on an immediate and urgent basis.
As far as the government employees interests are concerned they are legally supposed to be secured by their associations constituted under law. Since, we have as many as one could assume but till date they have remained tight lipped for none of their office bearers are affected by this scheme. Except a brief press note issued by the College Teachers Association (CTA) president recently, no other trade union leader seems to be cognizant of this affair. EJAC, the umbrella body representing all the employees of our state has unfathomably shown indifference towards this exigent issue. As the number of NPS employees are going to increase with each passing year this in no way is going to serve it in the long run.
It is, as such , enjoined upon all the stake holders to play their role in doing away with this injustice meted out to the newly appointed employees. Non-cooperation from any quarter is, undoubtedly, going to take toll on the future of these government servants. There is also an apprehension that it might give rise to the trust deficit, when after a long time it would come to fore that the leaders had given it a miss even when they could have delivered astutely.
—The author can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org