Number of pensioners and retirees in Central government and BSNL has been increasing continuously, while the number of employees is  reduced drastically due to non-recruitment even in justified and sanctioned posts.

Pensioners retired from BSNL faced a lot of complicated issues. Though it was assured at the time of absorption from DOT to BSNL, that  government will pay the pension, problem was created clubbing it with the contributions to be made by BSNL to DOT on taxes, licence fees etc. Government was reluctant to grant Pension Revision based on Pay revision in BSNL. Though there were organizations for central government pensioners, it was difficult for them to deal with the complicated problems of BSNL pensioners. As such, it became necessary to form an association for BSNL pensioners. It will also help in bringing more retirees to the pensioners’ organization. After discussing at various levels, BSNLEU took the initiative to form such an organization for BSNL pensioners. Decided to hold a National Convention of pensioners.

The Pensioners Convention was held on 21st October 2009 at Garhwal Bhawan New Delhi, presided by senior Comrades A.K.Bhattacharjee, P.V.Chandrasekharan and J.N.Mishra. As the organizer, I heartily welcomed all and presented the objective of holding the convention and the problems of BSNL and DOT pensioners. Com.M.K.Pandhe, President CITU, inaugurated the convention and appreciated the organisers for taking the correct decision. Com.S.K.Vyas, veteran leader and Secretary General of National co-ordination Committee of Pensioners Association, greeted and gave valuable guidance. After detailed discussion by the delegates, the new organization, All India BSNL DOT Pensioners Association (AIBDPA),  was formed. Pensioners’ problems were discussed in detail and resolutions adopted.

When the time came for election of office-bearers, many comrades, including senior leaders, compelled me to accept the post of General Secretary. With humility I told them that since I am the General Secretary of BSNLEU, it will not be proper for me to become the General Secretary of the pensioners’ organization also. Com. A.K.Bhattacharjee was elected as President and Com.K.G.Jayaraj as General Secretary. I was elected as Advisor and Com.P.V.Chandrasekharan as Patron.

Within no time AIBDPA won the confidence of the pensioners and membership increased. Not only retired non-executives, but retired executives and even senior officers became members. It started taking up the problems of both BSNL as well DOT pensioners. AIBDPA was able to intervene effectively and got the issues of 78% IDA Relief, withdrawal of 60%-40% condition for payment of government pension etc. settled.

After the formation conference, All India Conferences were held at Kannur, Tirupati and Kolkata with massive participation of pensioners. I was re-elected as Advisor along with Comrades P.V.Chandrasekharan as Patron, A.K.Bhattacharjee as President and K.G.Jayaraj as General Secretary.

Within a short time Circle and Divisional branches could be formed in almost all the circles. Many comrades who had earlier been leaders in the service unions took responsibility in the pensioners association.

Government is taking a step-motherly attitude to the problems of the pensioners, probably because they cannot go on strike and interrupt the services.  But the authorities forget that they are senior citizens and can very much influence the people. They also forget that it is with the hard work of these persons that the services were effectively maintained for years.

One of the major beneficial changes after the Second World War (1939 – 45) was the recognition accorded to the pensioners. Most of the pensioners in the developed countries were war veterans and who sacrificed everything for the war. New rules for pension, family pension, pension revision etc. were introduced. The Supreme Court judgment on 17-12-1982 in D.S.Nakara & others Vs. Union of India case stating that ‘Pension is neither a bounty nor a matter of grace depending upon the sweet will of the employer’ and that ‘Pension is not an ex-gratia payment, but it is a payment for past service rendered’ established that pension is a fundamental right and not a gratis given to the pensioners.

But reactionary changes started after introduction of neo-liberal policies. The central government started to change pension rules. Defined Statutory Pension Scheme was changed to New Pension Scheme (NPS), which is fully against the interests of  pensioners. Those appointed in BSNL since its formation also did not get statutory defined pension. The only beneficial recommendation for the pensioners by the VII Central Pay Commission viz. Option 1, meaning One rank One Pension, has been denied to the pensioners.

BSNL pensioners got Pension Revision from 01-01-2007 only after continuous struggles and agitations by employees as well as pensioners. Pension revision due from 01-01-2017 is denied on the flimsy plea that pay revision is not implemented in BSNL. Struggle by AIBDPA continues for Pay revision, denial of medical allowance, medical reimbursement etc.

Many problems of the thousands of pensioners who were retrenched through VRS are still to be settled. AIBDA is fully committed to settle these problems and is continuing its efforts for the same.

AIBDPA is not only limiting its activities to the pensioners, but is actively participating in the problems of senior citizens and other suffering people.

AIBDPA is affiliated to the Trade Union International (TUI) affiliated to WFTU. Com.K.G.Jayaraj, General Secretary AIBDPA is its Executive Committee Member. AIBDPA is affiliated to the NCCPA also.  (to be continued)