SHIMLA: Himachal Pradesh on Friday became the fourth state of the country to provide Old Pension Scheme (OPS) to the government employees.
The Congress government led by chief minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu has gifted the old pension scheme to the 1.36 lakh employees of the state on the occasion of Lohri. The much-awaited first meeting of the cabinet headed by the Chief Minister took place at the state secretariat on Friday in which the first guarantee of the Congress to give OPS was approved.
Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Punjab have already given OPS to their employees and now Himachal Pradesh has also announced the same. In Himachal Pradesh, employees will have the choice to choose between OPS and NPS.
In the assembly election, OPS was a major issue and employees covered under NPS had openly supported Congress as it had promised to restore OPS on coming to power. It was the support of employees that Congress came to power by winning 40 seats while BJP was reduced to 25 seats while 3 seats were won by independent candidates.
Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu, while addressing media persons after chairing cabinet meeting, said that the State Government has decided to provide OPS to all its NPS Employees to ensure that they live a respectable life after retirement. He said that this was one of the ten Guarantees given by the Congress party during the recently concluded assembly elections.
He said that the aim of his government is to provide social security to all. He said that the state government has decided to implement OPS from the point of view of social security and humanity. Affordability of OPS expenditure will be achieved through financial discipline and cutting down on expenses and the government believes that there is no such thing that cannot be done, he added.
Sukhu said that a Cabinet Sub Committee has been constituted for finalizing the roadmap for implementation of the promises made by the Congress Party during the elections for creating one lakh employment opportunities in the State. He said that this Cabinet Sub Committee will comprise Industries Minister Harshwardhan Chauhan, with Revenue Minister Jagat Singh Negi and Education Minister Rohit Thakur.
He said that another Cabinet Sub Committee has also been constituted for finalizing the roadmap for implementation of the promises made by the Congress Party during the elections for granting Rs 1500 to the women in the age group of 18 to 60 years. He said that this Cabinet Sub Committee will comprise of Health Minister Dhani Ram Shandil Agriculture Minister Chander Kumar and Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Minister Anirudh Singh. He said that both these sub committees will submit their reports within a month.
While accusing the previous BJP Government for a heavy debt trap of over Rs 75000 crore, Chief Minister said that due to the financial mismanagement and wasteful expenditure by the previous BJP government the State has inherited financial liabilities of Rs 4430 crore as salary arrears to its employees and Rs 5226 crore as liabilities of pensioners as pension arrears on the present government.
He said that in addition to this, liabilities of about Rs 1000 crore as DA of employees and pensioners in the present government have been left by the previous BJP government. In this way the previous BJP government has left a total financial burden of about Rs 11,000 crore on the State exchequer, he said.
Sukhu said that the Centre Government has over Rs 8000 crore as share of NPS employees. He said that despite all these odds, the State Government has decided to provide an old pension scheme to NPS employees so as to secure their retired life. He said that the previous BJP government in the fag-end of its tenure announced opening and upgradation of about 900 institutions in the State with an eye on the general elections and it would require another Rs 5000 crore if all these institutions were to be made functional.
When the cabinet meeting was undergoing inside the state secretariat on Friday, outside the building hundreds of employees despite cold weather conditions were raising slogans of “Sukhu Zindabad” while dancing to the tunes of drum beats. The premises of the secretariat kept reverberating with slogans in support of chief minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu for giving OPS to employees. NPS employees had reached the secretariat with musical instruments and performed traditional dances in the campus. The happiness of these employees knew no bounds after getting the information that the agenda of OPS has been approved in the Cabinet. The employees called Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu the messiah who restored the old pension scheme after 20 years.
NPS Employees Association state president, Pradeep Thakurwho had spearheaded the successful movement to get OPS said that by restoring OPS the chief minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu has become a real hero of employees. He said that the old pension restoration issue which the previous BJP government kept hanging, has been restored by the present Congress government in the first cabinet meeting and has won the hearts of lakhs of employees of the state.
Raising slogans, the employees welcomed the decision of the Chief Minister amid tight police security. As soon as the cabinet meeting was over at around 3 pm, the Chief Minister came out of the Secretariat along with the ministers and thanked the employees.