Rajasthan: Citizens fear revert from OPS to NPS, as BJP scraps stipend schemes amid rising unemployment
The scrapping of the two employment schemes renders a large number of recruits unemployed, says Pradesh Congress president Govind Singh Dotasara
Former chief minister Ashok Gehlot has reiterated his demand that the various welfare schemes launched by the previous Congress state government should be continued on merit.
Gehlot had already attracted the attention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to this matter, who had during the election campaign before the recent Vidhan Sabha election publicly assured the people of Rajasthan that the various schemes launched by the incumbent government would continue even if the BJP came to power.
And yet, that's not what has happened this week.
Instead, there are apparently contradictions at various levels, and the new BJP government has started scrapping the various welfare schemes and also schemes of youth employment put in place by the previous dispensation.
The Rajiv Gandhi Yuva Mitra Internship scheme—which offered youth in various government offices a task to disseminate information for a fixed emolument of Rs 17,500—has been scrapped. "Maybe the scheme was in the name of Rajiv Gandhi, but the BJP government could have continued the scheme, naming it after Atal Behari Vajpayee or some other leader? The sudden closure scheme instead, only because it was in the name of Rajiv Gandhi, is unfair to the youth," said Gehlot.
"The Mahatma Gandhi Seva Prerak scheme, in which the youth were paid an honorarium for spreading Gandhian ideologies, was also scrapped, causing much discomfort to the 50,000 youths who were involved in the scheme,'' Gehlot continued.
Pradesh Congress president Govind Singh Dotasara said that the scrapping of the two employment schemes has rendered a very large number of youth unemployed, and the new BJP government has given a hint that it has no plan to generate further employment.
Chief minister Bhajan Lal has been evading the media's questions on the issue as well as those related to the Old Pension Scheme; he has only been saying that the BJP government will review the pension schemes.
The various employees' organisations have started raising the issue more vociferously, but seem unable to change the BJP's pattern of avoiding the issue—seen even during its electioneering for the recent Vidhan Sabha polls.
“Our fear is that the new BJP government would overturn the decision of the Congress government and introduce the New Pension (NPS) as formulated by the Union government," said Upendra Sharma, general secretary of the Rajasthan Shikshak Sangh, a teachers' association.
The fear seems well-founded. No BJP-ruled states provide the OPS, and Rajasthan was the first state to provide the benefits of the OPS to its employees and those who are part of various boards and corporations.
"The previous state government enforced the NPS in the year 2004," noted Sharma, "and after that, the Gehlot government earlier in the year 2023 ordered that it would give the employees the benefit of the OPS. The BJP government, it seems, is hell-bent on the NPS, which would harm the interest of 5 lakh employees of the state government, apart from some 1.25 lakh employees serving in various boards and corporations and other autonomous bodies who are also forgoing the benefits of the OPS."
Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand were the states that followed Rajasthan’s example on the OPS—none are BJP-ruled, notably.
Under the OPS, an employee on the completion of 10 years of service with the state government is entitled to a proportionate minimum pension of Rs 8,500 per month. But under the NPS, which is linked to the market, there is no guarantee of a fixed sum. In one case, a pensioner was found to be receiving Rs 148 per month as pension under the NPS!