Big Demonstration was held on October 4th by the Athens Pensioners’ Unions. The mobilization is part of the new round of action with which the pensioners’ struggle against the policy of the government that hits pensioners and pensions, against old and new pension cuts. Pensioners claim to abolish all reactive health and insurance policies as well as they demand increases in pensions.
Incredible as it may seem, the union government of India provides a pension to the elderly which amounts to an absurd sum of Rs 200 each per month, and even for accessing this the beneficiary must belong to the BPL population which, as is well-known, is notoriously underestimated. True, the state governments add something to this amount, but, their resources being meagre, the additions cannot be large. What is more, this figure of Rs 200 has remained unchanged since 2006-07; even the elementary courtesy of indexing it to inflation has not been accorded to the elderly.
This is truly a scandalous state of affairs, not just because the sum is laughably paltry, the beneficiary list absurdly truncated, and even elementary protection against inflation missing, but above all because of what it reveals about the government’s attitude. This attitude sees the payment of pension as a largesse on the part of the State, an act of charity towards a set of mendicants. But an adequate old-age pension is actually a right. It is a right not just in an abstract “ought”-sense, but in the concrete sense of being an integral part of the social philosophy which underlay India’s anti-colonial struggle and upon which the Indian constitution is founded.
This philosophy which the Left has always espoused holds that the plight of an individual in society is determined by the social arrangement within which he or she lives. For instance unlike the colonialists of the pre-independence era who attributed the misery of the Indian people to their “laziness”, or lack of enterprise, or subservience to tradition, the anti-colonial struggle advanced the proposition that it was the colonial arrangement that caused the abject poverty afflicting India, whence it followed that this arrangement had to be altered by overthrowing colonial rule and erecting an alternative social arrangement that would guarantee a minimum standard of life to every Indian. The Karachi Congress Resolution in 1931, which outlined what free India would look like, held out this promise, among others. The mass participation in the freedom struggle that occurred in the 1930s was fired by this promise, which thus became a sort of “freedom charter”, upon which the new nation was founded. It acted as a precursor to the constitution.
Even though the constitution did not explicitly codify a set of fundamental economic rights, as it codified a set of fundamental political rights, the former cannot just be wished away, both because they form part of the “freedom charter” underlying the new nation, and also because the latter cannot be enjoyed without the citizen also enjoying a set of de facto economic rights. The assertion of one’s role as a citizen in a democracy cannot occur unless one enjoys a degree of economic security. Hence even though economic rights are not codified as such in the constitution, they are implicit and as fundamental as the explicitly-codified fundamental rights.
Adequate pension to the elderly is one such economic right. It is inherent in the promise underlying the constitution of free India which is visualised as a fraternity of equal citizens. Within this fraternity of equal citizens, nobody is doing anyone else a favour by accepting a legitimate demand for a minimum livelihood.
If adequate pension is an economic right, then it must be universal, like the fundamental political rights enjoyed by all. The pension scheme cannot be either contributory or means-related. It cannot be targeted, not just because any targeting invariably leaves out many deserving beneficiaries, but, more importantly, because it violates the principle of universality that must characterise all rights of citizens. To be sure, in fixing the amount of pension, the fact that a person is already drawing a pension from some other source must be taken into account; and once deduction is made on that score some will automatically get excluded or drop out, but that does not amount to an infringement on a person’s right. Likewise the pension paid by the State to every elderly person as a right must have nothing to do with any contribution from the person concerned. If someone is part of some other contributory pension scheme, he or she may opt out of the State-funded pension, or the pension amount may be suitably adjusted to prevent double benefits; but State-funded pension must be a right for every person, and it must be financed by budgetary sources, unrelated to any contribution from the beneficiary.
The provision of a laughable pittance as pension, as is the current state of affairs, is therefore a violation of the spirit of the Indian constitution, a throwback to feudal times when rulers occasionally showed kindness to the ruled by bestowing favours upon them, of the sort that our governments think they are doing in providing a pittance for a pension.
The Pension Parishad, a network of several groups, organised a dharna in Delhi on September 30 and October 1 to demand an adequate universal rights-based pension. The principle enunciated by the Pension Parishad is that the amount should be half the minimum wage, but in concrete terms the demand was for a pension of Rs 3000 per person per month. The Pension Parishad has organised a similar dharna in 2012 when the demand had been for a universal pension of Rs 2000 per month. Taking into account the price-rise in the interim, the current demand of Rs 3000 is roughly equivalent to the demand of Rs 2000 at that time.
The appropriateness of this figure can be seen from a different angle. Since poverty in India is defined in terms of a daily calorie-intake norm, namely 2100 calories per person per day in urban India and 2200 calories in rural India, the monthly per capita expenditure at which the calorie intake just met these norms could be taken as the pension amount. NSS data from quinquennial consumer expenditure surveys were used to determine these cut-off levels, and, expressed at prevailing prices, they came, in round numbers, as a weighted average between urban and rural areas, to Rs 2000 per month in 2012, which would work-out to around Rs 3000 today.
The number of potential beneficiaries was estimated by the Parishad in 2012 to be around 8 crores, which by now might have increased to about 10 crores. The annual amount required for providing old-age pensions at Rs 3000 per month to these beneficiaries would therefore come to Rs 3.6 lakh crores; allowing for a 5 percent deduction on account of voluntary drop-outs, what is required is just about 2 percent of the country’s current GDP for financing a universal rights-based pension plan.
The question often raised against such a plan is that the country cannot afford this amount. But 2 percent of GDP, it should be noted, is less than a third of the annual increment that occurs in GDP at present. The provision of this amount of pension, if it is financed through taxes paid out of incomes, would not imply any decline in the average post-tax income of the non-pensioners compared to the preceding year. On the contrary it would still mean that compared to the preceding year their per capita post-tax income would increase by about 3 percent. The payment of pensions on this scale therefore does not require any absolute sacrifice by the non-pensioners compared to the preceding year, only a smaller increase in income than would have occurred otherwise. Nobody in short needs to be squeezed in absolute terms for paying out pensions that provide a minimum living standard to the elderly.
We have assumed above that pensions would be paid out of taxes on incomes; but this is unnecessary. A Tobin Tax on currency transactions, or an increase in the existing tax-rate on stock market transactions, or a straightforward wealth tax would be a far more appropriate way of raising resources for pensions, since it would simultaneously serve other purposes such as curbing speculation or reducing wealth inequality. In fact if we assume, somewhat conservatively, that private wealth amounts to four times the GDP, and that the top 1 percent of households in India owns 62 percent of the total private wealth, then a mere 0.8 percent tax on the wealth of just the top 1 percent of households would be quite enough to finance a universal rights-based old-age pension scheme providing minimum benefits. India’s pension scandal can thus be ended quite easily; why it persists is not any shortage of resources but sheer class-antagonism, since the overwhelming bulk of potential beneficiaries are, or would have been, workers, artisans, craftsmen, peasants, and agricultural labourers.
The Central as well as state government employees’ organisations are demanding that the PFRDA should be annulled, NPS (New Pension Scheme) dropped and that the old defined benefit pension should be restored. They have called for a strike on 15th November, on demands including the above. The pension through NPS will be far less than the defined benefit pension and even is not fully assured. But the government is sticking for NPS. The reply in the Parliament shows the government’s defence of the indefensible. We fully support the demand of the central/state government employees for restoration of the old defined benefit pension scheme.
GOVERNMENT OF INDIA
MINISTRY OF FINANCE
DEPARTMENT OF FINANCIAL SERVICES
UNSTARRED QUESTION NO. 4075
TO BE ANSWERED ON AUGUST 10, 2018/SHRAVANA 19, 1940 (SAKA)
REINTRODUCTION OF OLD PENSION SCHEME
Shri Rakesh Singh
Will the Minister of FINANCE be pleased to state:
the details of drawbacks of the New Pension Scheme (NPS) introduced for the Government officials; whether the NPS is not as beneficial monetarily as the Old Pension Scheme (OPS) and if so, the details thereof; whether the Government employees are disgruntled with the NPS and if so, the details thereof; and whether the Government proposes to reintroduce the OPS replacing the NPS, if so, the details thereof and the action taken by the Government in this regard?
The Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance
(Shri Shiv Pratap Shulda)
(a) & (b) National Pension System (NPS) has been designed giving utmost importance to the welfare of the subscribers. Government has made a conscious move to shift from the defined benefit pension scheme to defined contribution pension scheme i.e. NPS, due to rising and unsustainable pension bill. There are a number of benefits available to the employees under NPS. Some of the benefits are enlisted below:
§ NPS is a well designed pension system managed through an unbundled architecture involving intermediaries appointed by the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) viz. pension funds, custodian, central record keeping and accounting agency, National Pension System Trust, trustee bank, points of presence and Annuity service providers. It is prudently regulated by PFRDA which is a statutory regulatory body established to promote old age income security and to protect the interest of subscribers of NPS.
§ The pension wealth which accumulates over a period of time till retirement grows with a compounding effect. The all-in-costs of the institutional architecture of NPS are among the lowest in the world.
§ Contribution made to the NPS Tier-I account is eligible for tax deduction under the Income Tax Act, 1961. An additional tax rebate of Rs.50000 is also allowed for contributions made to NPS Tier-I under Section 80CCD (1B) of the Income Tax Act, 1961.
§ Subscribers can withdraw up to 25% of their own contributions before attaining age of superannuation, subject to certain conditions. Further, PFRDA vide “PFRDA (Exits and Withdrawals under the NPS) (First Amendment) Regulations, 2017” dated 10.08.2017 has liberalized norms for partial withdrawals which also include reduction of requirement of minimum years of being enrolled under NPS from 10 years to 3 years from the date of joining.
§ PFRDA has increased the maximum age limit from 60 years to 65 years for joining NPS-All Citizen Model and Corporate Sector Model, vide “PFRDA (Exits and Withdrawals under the NPS) (Second Amendment) Regulations, 2017” dated 06.10.2017.
§ PFRDA vide “PFRDA (Exits and Withdrawals under the NPS) (Third Amendment) Regulations, 2018” dated 02.2018 has facilitated easy exit & withdrawal in case of disability and incapacitation of the subscriber covered under NPS.
§ Transparency and Portability is ensured through online access of the pension account by the NPS subscribers, across all geographical locations and portability of employments.
(c) & (d) Representations have been received which inter alia also include the demand that the Government may revert to old defined benefit pension system. However, due to rising and unsustainable pension bill and competing claims on the fiscal, there is no proposal to replace the NPS with old pension scheme in respect of Central Government employees recruited on or after 01.01.2004.
Coms.V.A.N.Namboodiri, Advisor, K.G.Jayaraj, General Secretary and R.A.Nair, Treasurer, AIBDPA had a fruitful meeting with Smt.Aruna Sundararajan, Secretary, DoT on.25-10-2017. The delegation handed over a detailed letter on Pension Revision of BSNL retirees with 15% fitment on IDA pattern. They also pointed out that since the pension is being fully paid by the government, the same need not wait for the wage revision of the workers. The Secretary agreed to do the needful in the matter.
The representatives also brought to her notice a very heart breaking case in Tamil Nadu Circle wherein the Principal CCA has returned the files of 687 Pensioners for 78.2% IDA pension revision with the directive to resubmit by deducting the extra increment already calculated for pension revision on 68.8%.The Secretary stated that she will examine the case.
The recently published book “P and T Trade Union Movement – A Saga of Struggle and Sacrifice” written by Com. V.A.N.Nambbodiri was presented to her which she appreciated much.
BSNLEU and AIBDPA – Crusaders of DOT/BSNL Pensioners
• Though the III PRC has put the affordability clause for the wage revision of employees, the case is different for the BSNL pensioners. It is not BSNL which pays the pension and the affordability clause cannot be applicable to government. 60:40 condition has been removed and the entire pension is to be paid by the government. In this situation, the 15% fitment as recommended by the III PRC for PSUs should be made applicable for the BSNL retirees and pension revision made accordingly. This demand has already been placed by AIBDPA. This has got full justification. It is also a continuation in IDA pension fixation as before. This is a better and more justified demand than the demand for 14.29% fixation recommended by VII CPC. Shifting from IDA pension to CDA pension has got its own ramifications and future complications.
A fully unjustified and baseless campaign is being made by some vested interests against BSNLEU and AIBDPA stating that these two major organizations of the BSNL employees and BSNL/DOT pensioners are not taking up the issue of pension revision of BSNL pensioners effectively.
We thank these friends for the acceptance that these are the two major organizations of the BSNL employees/ pensioners and also for the opportunity given to us for explaining the actions taken by these two unions on the issues of the pensioners.
First of all, let us understand that these organizations have their respective positions only because of the whole hearted support given by the employees and pensioners due to the excellent performance for settling their issues and taking the correct and progressive path.
Let us examine the issues with reference to our past experience for arriving at the correct line and approach.
1. The unions in DOT which merged together and formed BSNL Employees Union after formation of BSNL, had strongly opposed privatization of telecom services and had organised three-four strikes alone, and then jointly with the 3 Federations, against privatization. They never agreed for formation of a PSU for telecom services. Corporatisation was agreed to by the three recognized Federations, which made it easy for the government to corporatize telecom services six months earlier than scheduled. (The first proposal was to corporatize by the financial year w.e.f. 01-04-2001).
2. Though agreement for payment of pension was made by the Federations with DOT, there was no mention about periodic pension revision. This was utilized by the government which created a serious problem after the wage revisions in BSNL. When the deficiencies in the agreement was brought to the notice of the Member (Finance) at that time by the E.III(N) union, he had stated that the Federations made the agreement in a hurry and that even he had his own reservations.
3. In the meeting called by the Communications Minister after formation of BSNL, V.A.N.Namboodiri, General Secretary, E.III (N) Union, raised the issue of the pensioners. He pointed out the delay in the payment of pension and pensionary benefits and demanded that the pensioners should not be compelled to go round and round the office for getting their pensionary benefits. He demanded that on the last working day of the retiring official, he/she should be given a farewell function by the SSA head and all the pensionary benefits like GPF, Gratuity etc. should be handed over by cheque/cash and that the official should be given the Pension Payment Order and a certificate thanking for his services, a shawl, a suit case with documents and Rs. 1,000 as a token of appreciation. The Minister fully agreed and modified only the amount to Rs.1,001 as it is more graceful. All these are being implemented in BSNL. The token amount has been gradually increased after the matter was taken by BSNLEU.
4. The agreement with the 3 Federations on corporatization was that an amount of Rs. 1,000 / Rs. 1,500 will be paid to all officials in addition to the CDA pay scale. BSNL Employees Union demanded that since BSNL is a PSU, the IDA scale, which is higher than CDA scale, should be given, instead of CDA pay plus Rs. 1,500. This was accepted by all the unions and the wage revision on IDA scale was granted after hard bargaining. All the pay scales were upgraded with the lowest from Rs. 2,400 to Rs. 4,000. However, there was problem in fixing the pension as the DOT was not prepared to pay pension on IDA scale. The government stand was to pay pension on CDA scale only. After continuous pressure and agitation, the issue was settled after a Cabinet decision. This gave a good rise in the pension of the BSNL retirees from that of DOT retirees. Had we accepted O.P.Gupta formula, the pension should have been much less. The initiative was taken by BSNLEU and was accepted by all other unions.
5. As BSNLEU was the only recognized union, the second wage negotiation took place with it. Citing loss to the company, what the management offered was minimum increase of the pay scale, increments, maximum scale etc. Two strikes were organized by BSNLEU and its allies, to pressurise the management for granting better pay scale etc. However, a few unions, instead of supporting the struggle, pressurized the management to implement the pay scales etc, what was offered by the management on the plea that even that payscales may not be feasible if the company continues in loss. However, BSNLEU struck to its points and the management was compelled to sign an agreement, which gave 30% fitment and also a better pay scale than most of the other PSUs, w.e.f. 01-01-2007.
6. The issue of pension revision came up again after the second wage revision. BSNLEU and the Joint Forum/Forum of BSNL Unions/Associations had to take up the issue with the Minister and organized two strikes to get the cabinet nod and the pension revision. This was much appreciated by the unions and workers, even those who had criticized the prolonging wage negotiations. The difference between the pension of BSNL and DOT retirees increased. AIBDPA which was formed by that time, also organized its own agitational programmes for achieving the pension revision.
7. Next came the issue of 78.2% IDA Pay fixation ( 9.4% IDA pension fixation in addition to the 68.8% already achieved). BSNLEU and Forum demanded for 78.2% IDA fixation for employees and after continued struggles, it was achieved, but was not granted to BSNL retirees. Sustained agitation and two days strike on 21-22 April 2015 by the employees only clinched the issue. AIBDPA orgnised several agitations, including an historic Sanchar Bhawan March on 20-11-2014, and participated in all the programmes organized by the Forum, with full solidarity and support. After the meeting with the DOT Secretary by all the unions and Associations on 01-05-2015, the issue was clinched. There was some more delay due to the change of Secretary, DOT, but the matter went up to Cabinet and was settled. BSNLEU and AIBDPA were in the fore-front of all these struggles.
8. BSNLEU, Forum and AIBDPA fought against the unwarranted condition of 60:40 imposed by the DOT, which stipulated that if the pension is more than 60% of the payments made by BSNL to the DOT on dividend, licence fee, taxes etc., the rest of pension will have to be paid by BSNL. At the time of formation of BSNL, the situation was that BSNL was paying more than Rs. 12,000 crore to the DOT and the pension payment was about Rs. 1,000 crore only. Even then BSNLEU had raised the issue and in one meeting with the Secretary DOT, the latter agreed to cancel the same and issued a letter accordingly. But in the absence of cancellation/annulment of the original order it was very much in prevalence. By 2010, the pension payment has increased more than the total amount of payments by BSNL, due to the large number of retirement and the increased pension as also the lesser payments by BSNL. The issue became critical by the time of the demand for 78.2% IDA fixation. AIBDPA met Secretary, DOT and Communications Minister several times and the issue was got focused in the Parliament by Left M.Ps.
9. For payment of the 78.2% IDA pension fixation as well as payment of II Pension revision, many agitations were organized by AIBDPA including Sanchar Bhawan March participated by thousands of pensioners. Many dharnas and demonstrations were held. In addition, volunteers of AIBDPA helped the CCA in many places to ensure early payment.
10. The Medical Allowance for BSNL retirees was agreed to by the management after the issue was taken up by BSNLEU, the recognized union. However, this was stopped later by BSNL on the plea that the company is in loss. Due to the continuous pressure of AIBDPA, the management stated that the employees will oppose if it is restored only for pensioners. The Staff Side (BSNLEU and NFTE, the recognized unions) took up the case in National Council and stated that they have no objection in restoring the medical allowance for the pensioners first. Accordingly, it has been restored to the BSNL retirees from 01-04-2017 which is a great relief.
11. It was on the demand of BSNLEU that the funeral expense was increased to Rs. 15,000. AIBDPA has demanded that this funeral expense should be granted to the family of pensioners also when the pensioner passes away. The argument of AIBDPA that how BSNL can deny funeral allowance to the families of retirees, who have done yeoman service for more than 30 years, when even the family of a new recruit is granted, was appreciated by the management.
12. Now let us come to the latest issue, the pension revision of the BSNL pensioners w.e.f. 01-01-2017. Let us understand that BSNL employees have opted for IDA scale, fought for it, got it and the pensioners also got good benefit out of it. However, there is uncertainty in the minds of the pensioners, whether there will be any wage revision in BSNL and if not, what will be the pension revision for BSNL retirees? This certainly is a serious issue.
Let us look in to the matter thoroughly. The III Pay Revision Committee for PSU executives has given its report and the government has accepted the same. There are certain stipulations in it like no pay revision for loss making PSUs and also an affordability clause for wage revision. As per these conditions, it will be difficult for the BSNL employees to get wage revision from 01-01-2007, since the company is in loss for some years.
The Forum of Unions/Associations of which BSNLEU is a part and its General Secretary is the Convener, has demanded that wage revision for BSNL executives and employees should be granted without delay. While the report of III Pay Revision Committee is for executives, the wage revision for non-executives is according to settlement in wage negotiation with the recognized union/unions ie. BSNLEU and NFTE. Both have demanded early wage negotiation.
The pension revision for BSNL retirees was implemented both times earlier ( w.e.f. 01-01-2000 and 01-01-2007) after the wage revision of employees in IDA scales.
13. There is a feeling among some pensioners’ organizations that since the wage revision for BSNL employees may not be there, how we can get pension revision and why can’t we demand the pension revision on the basis of the VII Central Pay Commission? It means that IDA pension till this time has to be changed to CDA pension revision.
14. In that case, what will be the pension for the employees retiring now? If there is no wage revision, their salary will not increase, many of who are already in the stagnation level, especially those in the lower pay scales and their pension will be less. On what basis their pension revision will be fixed? These are questions which have to be sorted out.
15. The other aspect. If there is no wage revision now, it may be difficult for another wage revision later. This will adversely affect the pension revision of all those retiring after wards (DOT recruitees). Leave encashment, gratuity and all pensionary benefits, including pension will be lower. Accepting such a position will be dangerous and ignoring the future of all the DOT recruitees still in service. Such employees may be there up to 2035, may be less in number. Can we ignore their future and pension?
16. About 50,000 BSNL recruitees are there at present. They will start retiring probably by 2030 or earlier. There are regularized casual labours, about 4,000 or so, who may start retiring by 2020 or earlier. If there is no wage revision for them, what will be their condition? Will they be in the same payscale/promoted pay scale without any wage revision till they retire as is the case of the employees of the ITI, HMT etc. This is a proposition that a trade union worth its name cannot accept.
17. The pension of the direct recruitees are fixed on the basis of pension contribution by the management as per EPF rules. This comes less than Rs. 1,000 at present. That is why the trade unions had demanded earlier that at least Rs. 1,000 should be paid as EPF/NPS/EPS pension.(now the demand is for increased amount). The demand of BSNLEU and other unions/Association for 30% pensionary benefits is not yet accepted. From the present 18%, they have agreed to increase 4% which is completely insufficient. The newly recruited employees cannot be cheated of their justified pension. Either they should be paid defined statutory pension just like BSNL retirees or 30% pensionary benefits should be granted. Even in this case, unless there is a wage revision, their wages and pension will be much less.
18. In such a case, the logical demand that should be placed is the immediate wage revision for the BSNL employees and pension revision accordingly, which will benefit the present pensioners also, as was the case with the last two wage revisions. This may be difficult in the present circumstances, but not impossible. BSNL Unions have the tradition of making impossible in to possible and a history of fighting against the wrong policies of the government. For instance, despite government decision, it could not implement VRS/Retrenchment of one lakh workers, unbundling of cables, selling of shares, disinvestment to the extent of 10%-25% etc. The issues of II wage revision in 2007, 78.2% pay fixation as well as IDA pension fixation, Bonus even when BSNL is in loss, group insurance, supply of watch etc. etc. have been settled despite initial denial.
19. There is full justification for wage revision of BSNL employees. If the profit and loss of the company is taken for its 16 years of existence, it is almost equal. During the last two years, there is operational profit. The net loss has come down. The loss is only due to the huge depreciation. Services have improved despite lack of equipment, workers etc. The wage bill has not increased for the last 5 years, due to the retirement of large number of employees. The productivity is one of the highest in the PSUs. The workers are making maximum effort for improving the services and finances. The CMD BSNL had stated that the company will be in profit during the year 2017-18, (but may not happen due to demonetization and entry of Reliance Jio,), but any way will be profitable by next year. It is not because of the workers, but only due to the anti-PSU policy of the government that the company has become loss-making. Government is in a move to assist the private telecom companies by reducing their dues to the government in ADC, USOF etc.; why not such relief should be provided to BSNL and make it profitable. BSNL management has already approached the government to waive the affordability clause. The assurance of financial assistance at the time of formation of BSNL should be honoured. The excess land and building assets of the company can be leased/rented and income ensured. There are a lot of ways to assist the BSNL to make it better and profitable. These issues are already raised by BSNLEU and other unions/associations.
20. When the workers are in a bitter fight to get their wages improved, it is the duty of the pensioners to support and give all solidarity to them, which will benefit the pensioners also. It is only through the glorious struggles and strikes of the employees that many of the pensioners’ demands have been achieved. Even now, many of the pensioners demands are being taken by the unions/associations of the employees. The pensioners’ organizations can not accept defeat, even before serious struggle has taken place.
21. Though the III PRC has put the affordability clause for the wage revision of employees, the case is different for the BSNL pensioners. It is not BSNL which pays the pension and the affordability clause cannot be applicable to government. 60:40 condition has been removed and the entire pension is to be paid by the government. In this situation, the 15% fitment as recommended by the III PRC for PSUs should be made applicable for the BSNL retirees and pension revision made accordingly. This demand has already been placed by AIBDPA. This has got full justification. It is also a continuation in IDA pension fixation as before. This is a better and more justified demand than the demand for 14.29% fixation recommended by VII CPC. Shifting from IDA pension to CDA pension has got its own ramifications and future complications.
22. For pension revision, whatever the method be, it will require serious struggles not only of the pensioners, but also of the workers. Pensioners’ organizations cannot think only of their own demands, but also has to see the future of the new pensioners. That is why the demand for the wage revision of the employees also becomes a priority.
23. BSNL retirees are eligible for getting the benefits of the Pay Commission recommendations as per Pension Rules, other than pension, which is fixed according to the last pay drawn. The government has accepted the III option recommended by the V CPC, although they refused to implement Option I, recommended by the VII CPC. Implementing Option III, the comparison with the present pay of the employees in the same grade may come in to the picture. If the employee does not get wage revision, what will be the exact benefit that the new pensioner will get? It will be a permanent loss. The existing pensioners will also not get benefit under Option III, since the employees on retirement will not be getting higher wages, which is to be considered for Option III.
24. Pension and pensionary benefits have been won after continued struggles. The case of family pension is also there. The discrimination in pension between Class III and IV etc. could be removed only after sustained struggles. The pensioners were workers and the workers are future pensioners. There is a clear bond between them. Any move to create difference between them will be suicidal.
25. Finally, it can be seen that in all the struggles and actions on the demand of the pensioners, BSNLEU and AIBDPA have been in the fore-front. Individuals may come and go, but the organizations continue for the cause of the workers and pensioners. Any weakening of these ties will be utilized by the government to deny the rights of both. The entire strength of the workers and pensioners will be required to achieve the demand of the pensioners and retirees.
I am herewith posting the full text of the Article published in the ‘Telepensioner’ June issue, written by Com.K.G.Jayaraj, General Secretary, AIBDPA. It is educative and gives the correct approach to the issue of Pension for BSNL employees.
Pension Revision in BSNL – Illusions and Realities.
K.G. Jayaraj, General Secretary, AIBDPA
When BSNL was formed as a fully government owned PSU under Company Act on 01.10.2000, the employees were offered pension from the consolidated fund of the government. And for this, rule 37 A was incorporated in CCS (Pension) Rules, 1972. The pay scales of BSNL employees were also upgraded from CDA to IDA scales. There was a strong argument during this time from certain union leadership, particularly Com. O.P. Gupta that pension should be paid on CDA scales. This argument was unitedly resisted and defeated under the leadership of Com. V.A.N. Namboodiri and the progressive section with the all round support of the other unions. If the argument of Com. O.P. Gupta was agreed to, there would have been huge loss in the pension of BSNL pensioners.
The issue of pension revision arose after the pay revision in BSNL and other CPSEs w.e.f. 01.01.2007. The DoT as well as the government refused to revise the pension for the pre-2007 BSNL pensioners on the plea that there is no provision for pension revision in the Rule 37 A. This was fought tooth and nail by not only the pensioners organisation but all the serving employees unions and succeeded in getting pension revision.
Then came the issue of pension revision on 78.2% IDA or benefit of the merger of 50% IDA with pay. The BSNL employees were granted this benefit notionally from 01.01.2007 with financial effect from 10.06.2013. But the government was not prepared to implement it to those retired before 10.06.2013. The main hurdle pointed out was 60:40 condition for payment of pensionary benefits. Still, with the serious intervention of the employees organisations, powered with two strikes, compelled the government to scrap the 60:40 condition and granted the 78.2% IDA fixation to BSNL pensioners.
During the course of this long and sustained struggle, some people advocated the idea of 7th Pay Commission fixation formula for the BSNL pensioners. What made these people to prefer such a demand was the continuous loss incurring of BSNL. It is more or less the same demand Com. Gupta had put ward and rejected by all. So now these people say that 7th Pay Commission fixation should be implemented on IDA scale. The justification for such a demand is that BSNL pensioners are covered under CCS (Pension) Rules, 1972. Yes CCS (Pension) Rules ensures BSNL pensioners, all the pensionary benefits being granted to central government pensioners, but barring pension, and medical facilities (IDA pattern). As far as pension is concerned, BSNL retirees are governed by Rule 37 A, amended during formation of BSNL. Even if, the government agrees for fixation formula on 7th Pay Commission recommendation, it would become imperative to be downgraded to CDA scales as per existing rule.
It was just a couple of years ago that MTNL retirees were granted pension and other benefits at par with BSNL pensioners, but only after downgrading the pay scales to BSNL pay scales.
Let us come back to BSNL. These people had written off BSNL stating that even ‘God’ cannot revive BSNL and bring it to profits. And on an occasion CMD BSNL said that there will be no pay revision in BSNL w.e.f. 01.01.2017, these people became very jubilant and were in a celebrating mood. But the continued efforts of the employees, spearheaded by all the unions and the Management brought out a wonderful turn around posting operational profits of Rs.672 crore in 2014-15 and Rs.3,856 crore in 2015-16. This made the CMD BSNL to change his earlier stand and assured a decent pay revision in BSNL. The survival of BSNL as a government PSU is very much warranted to ensure telecom services to the people at affordable rates and save them from the sheer exploitation of the greedy private telecom companies.
After the 3rd PRC submitted it’s report, both BSNL Management and DoT had taken a positive stand on pay revision in BSNL, despite the affordability condition in the PRC report. However, it is reported that in the Secretaries meeting under the chairmanship of the Cabinet Secretary held on 12.05.2017, the Additional Secretary of Department of Telecom took a passive stand. All the unions and associations under the leadership of BSNLEU therefore has decided for a phased program of agitation, culminating in a strike on 27.07.2017, demanding pay revision and pension revision. Affordability conditions are nothing new. There had been such affordability condition in the 1st and 2nd PRC also. The 3rd PRC in its report itself has reproduced the operational portion put forward by the 1st and 2nd PRC.
Ist PRC – 2.4.8(a) Affordability.
CPSEs which did not make profit during the last three years would also be allowed to adopt the same recommended pay scales, but with the approval of the administrative ministries in consultation with DPE.
IInd PRC – 2.4.10(a) Affordability.
The parameter for deciding affordability was that by implementing the pay package, the dip in the profit of CPSEs for the year 2007-08 should not exceed 20% in respect of executives. If the dip is more than 20%, then the pay package would not be implemented in full, but in different part stages.
As for scoring, the CPSEs were categorised into five groups. A+, A, B, C and D. The 2nd PRC recommended 5 sets of pay scales for five categories. It also recommended different fitment method.
But after the struggle of the workers, the government was compelled to reject the categorisation and a uniform pay scales was prescribed.
Fitment was also made uniform with @ 30% of BP + DA. The 3rd PRC in it’s executive summary, para 5, has recommended that “Affordability condition shall not be applicable to such CPSEs which are formed to perform specific agenda of the government”.
The CMD BSNL in his DO letter dated 07.06.2017 to Secretary, DoT, with copy to Secretary, DPE has quoted the above recommendation and has effectively pleaded that it is very much applicable to BSNL. BSNL is committed to implement the Telecom Policy, 1999. BSNL is incurring loss for keeping up the social obligation of the government by giving landlines in rural areas. And it is no private telecom company but BSNL alone restoring the telecom services where national calamities strikes the country. Also it is the BSNL which is extending telecom services in the terrorist / naxal affected areas by installing sufficient number of towers. CMD also has specifically mentioned about the urgency of pension revision of 2 lakh BSNL pensioners along with the wage revision.
Pay Revision is very much possible, so also pension revision.
Therefore, there is nothing to be disappointed but to be confident that we shall achieve pay revision and pension revision through united and sustained struggle of the workers and whole heartily supported by the pensioners. There would not be much difficulty in the pension revision, once the pay revision is implemented, as there is no 60:40 condition. On the contrary 100% liability is with the Central Government.
Those who have no faith in organization and the struggles, through which only, we have achieved all the genuine demands of both workers and pensioners, may continue to spread rumours and half truths to confuse the pensioners. The legacy of Com. O.P. Gupta was “it is not the responsibility of unions to fight against government policies and that is the job of political parties.”
These people are least concerned about the continuance of BSNL as a government PSU to ensure telecom services at affordable rates to the common people. They are also not concerned about two lakh BSNL employees. And their mindset has narrowed down to ‘let the BSNL and it’s employees go to the hell but give us our pension revision at any cost’.
Let us focus on the programme of struggle already chalked out by all the unions and associations for pay revision and pension revision so that it is made a grand success.
And definitely victory will be ours.
Despite serious financial crisis, Kerala LDF government has sanctioned Rs. 1,114 crore for payment of Social Security Pension to 37.02 lakh persons, those senior citizens who are not getting pension otherwise.
Out of this, 19.29 lakh persons will be paid through accounts, while 17.73 lakh persons will be paid at their homes. Government has taken decision earlier to pay the pension at their homes as a special case.
The special consideration to the senior citizens by the Kerala Government is to be appreciated.
Despite many months after the implementation of the VII CPC recommendations for the CG pensioners including gratuity, these have not been extended to BSNL pensioners. Com.V.A.N.Namboodiri, Advisor, AIBDPA today, 24th January 2017, met Shri R.K.Mishra Member (Services) and discussed the matter and demanded for early issue of orders in the matter. He agreed to look in to the matter. The issue of extending 78.2% IDA Pension fixation for those retired from January to May 2007 was also raised on which a letter has already been given earlier. Member (Services) agreed to look in to.