Himachal Pradesh had gone to the assembly polls on November 12. The counting of votes will take place on December 8. The National Pension Scheme (NPS) would the game changer in the election if the experts are to be believed.
Retired government employees in Himachal Pradesh have criticised the government for replacing the Old Pension Scheme with the National Pension Scheme. At least 3 lakh retired government employees in the state have been demanding the restoration of the Old Pension Scheme. The heavy turnout of voters in the state seems to have suggested otherwise.
The Congress and AAP have separately promised to restore the Old Pension Scheme as both the opposition parties were campaigning for the assembly polls.
In December 2003, the NDA government abolished the old pension scheme and replaced it with National Pension Scheme in April 2004. Under the NPS, the state government employees contribute 10 per cent of their salary to their pension fund, and the government had an equal amount of contribution. The money is then invested in year-marked investment schemes and the returns on this, will determine the payable pension amount.
But the Old Pension Scheme assured life-long income post-retirement. Under this scheme, the retired employees got a pension under a pre-determined formula which was equivalent to 50 per cent of the last drawn basic pay scale. The payout was fixed, and there were no deductions from the salary. There was also a provision for a voluntary General Provident Fund via the contribution of the employees.
Recently, Rajasthan, Punjab and Chhattisgarh announced that they would be reverting to the Old Pension Scheme for the government employees from 2022-2023. Whereas in Himachal, BJP faced the wrath of the government employees who are not satisfied with NPS.
This is significant for election because of the strength of the government employees. In a state with only 55 lakh votes, these dissatisfied government employees along with their dependents form a solid vote base.
Congress promised the restoration of the old pension scheme within 10 days if it is voted to power. Similarly, AAP has also said it would restore the OPS, the day it forms the government in the state. But this issue is missing the ruling party’s poll manifesto. But Chief Minister Jairam Thakur promised a balanced solution to the problem.