The nearly 1.82 lakh government employees in Punjab are preparing to remind Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann to implement the old pension scheme in both letter and spirit, even as they contest a claim made by Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) national convenor Arvind Kejriwal that the party-led administration has already fulfilled this demand.
Sukhjit Singh, who leads the Punjab unit of the Contributory Pension Fund Employees Union, stated, "Kejriwalji has said that OPS has been implemented in Punjab. I will be highly obliged if he can tell me my General Provident Fund (GPF) account number." Sukhjit Singh was referring to Kejriwal's remarks on October 1 after thousands of central and state government employees from across the country gathered at Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi to demand the restoration of the old pension scheme.
"We strongly support the demand of government employees to bring back OPS. NPS is an injustice against employees. We have implemented OPS in Punjab and have written to the Centre for implementing it for Delhi government employees. Some other non-BJP governments have also implemented OPS," Kejriwal said in a post.
Sukhjit Singh, however, said, "A notification was issued on November 18 last year, stating that OPS would be implemented, following which a five-member committee was formed in January this year to study its implementation in states such as Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, and Himachal Pradesh. Since then, we have not heard anything. In fact, the 36,796 new jobs that Punjab CM claims to have given are also under the NPS."
Last year, Punjab's 37 employee unions went on strike from October 10, demanding the implementation of the OPS, a key pre-poll promise of the AAP. They also announced to hold a rally in the then poll-bound Himachal Pradesh against AAP. However, Mann on October 22 announced that his government would implement the OPS and also announced a 6% hike in dearness allowance, which he termed as "Diwali ka tohfa (Diwali gift)." Following this, the unions called off their strike.
In a notification issued on November 18, the government mentioned that the standard operating procedure (SOP) regarding OPS implementation shall be notified in due course of time. "The SOP hasn't yet been notified," said Sangat Ram, president of the Kapurthala unit of CPFEU.
Sukhjit Singh said that ahead of the Jalandhar Lok Sabha bypoll this year, they met Mann twice in Phagwara. "He had promised to issue the GPF account numbers after the bypoll. We have sent numerous reminder emails since then, but to no avail," claimed Sukhjit Singh. In August, around 1000 members of the CPFEU met Jalandhar MP Susheel Kumar Rinku, the AAP's lone representative in the Lok Sabha. "Rinku assured us of arranging a meeting with the CM. We never heard anything from Rinku after that," claimed Sukhjit Singh.
Punjab government employees will now organize a "tohfa yaad karao" protest march in CM's constituency Dhuri, Finance Minister Harpal Singh Cheema's constituency Dirba, and in Sangrur.