A group of primary school teachers and retired pensioners, led by the All India Primary Teachers Federation (AIPTF), are on a journey called the Rath Yatra to demand the return of the Old Pension Scheme (OPS). The OPS provided higher pensions to government employees compared to the current National Pension Scheme (NPS). Many of these teachers, like Sudhir Arya, retired under the NPS and receive very low monthly pensions, causing them financial hardship.
The NPS was introduced in 2004 and gradually implemented for government employees. Initially, it seemed attractive due to promised benefits, but over time, employees realized it had many drawbacks, such as inadequate pensions and no adjustments for inflation.
The Rath Yatra, which started from different parts of the country, aims to reach Delhi on October 5th. It has support from 30 lakh primary school teachers and various government employee organizations. They demand the reinstatement of the OPS or threaten further protests.
Under the OPS, government employees received half of their last drawn salary as a pension, which was adjusted for inflation through dearness allowance. In contrast, the NPS mandates employees to contribute to a pension fund, which the government invests in the stock market without any guarantee of returns.
The protesters are concerned about the uncertain future of government employees, especially women, under the NPS. They worry about sustaining themselves with meager pensions that don't keep up with inflation. They also express frustration about being forced into the NPS due to delays in the recruitment process.
The AIPTF rally aims to address the privatization of education and the lack of job security for contractual teachers. They criticize the government's claim that reviving OPS would bankrupt states and argue that officials in government receive multiple pensions from different departments.
The protesters are determined to vote against political parties that do not support their demands and have set an ultimatum of October 27 for the government to act. If their demands are not met, they plan to intensify their protests.