Recently on 23rd January the Finance Ministry has cleared a proposal to guarantee a minimum monthly pension of Rs. 1000 under the Employees Pension Scheme 1995, managed by the Provident Fund Organisation. To commence this pension plan of Rs. 1000 per month from the beginning of 2014-15, the government has allocated Rs. 1,217 crore of additional subsidy. At the present there are 27 lakh pensioners receiving less than Rs. 1,000 per month. At the same time, the Ministry has raised the basic salary under the Provident Fund Organisation from Rs. 6,500 to Rs. 15,000. This means that worker getting a salary of upto Rs. 15,000 per month will be brought in the pension scheme.
The above-mentioned decision of the government raises several questions. Firstly, can a pension of Rs.1000 per month, meaning Rs. 33 per day, be sufficient for dignified existence and secured future of a worker’s family? Secondly, can a worker be denied the right to pension just because he earns more than Rs. 15,000 per month?
Contrary to the decision of the government, for the past several years, workers have been demanding that every worker, irrespective of whether one works in public sector or private sector, “organised” or “unorganized” sector, one must receive sufficient monthly pension upon retirement for living a dignified life. This right belongs to all the workers irrespective of their salary or their employer. Pension amount has to be linked to the cost of living so that a pensioner can be assured of a real income.
Under the existing Employees Pension Scheme (1995), a worker contributes 8.33% of his basic salary to the Provident Fund and the Government merely, 1.16%. For example, if a worker deposits Rs. 541.45 then government contributes Rs. 75.40. This clarifies the fact that what the organised sector workers get as pension is mainly contribution from their own salary.
From the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report, tabled recently in the Parliament, the sensitivity of the government towards workers’ pension can be clearly seen. According to the report, the Central Government is not giving its full contribution to the Provident Fund pension plan. During the financial years 2006-07 and 2011-12, there has been a continuous fall. In 2011-12, the Central Government contributed only 1,350 crores in place of Rs. 3,293.99 crore.
In the existing political and economical system, crores of organised sector retired workers are being considered a “burden on the treasury”.
In reality, a retired worker has a special place in the society. The present economy is built on the foundation of the wealth created by the retired workers. It is the working class that moves the whole economy on the basis of its labour power and generates the resources for the whole society. In every sector of the whole economy – construction industry, service industry, education, health-care, heavy industry, agriculture, etc., it is the toilers who create the resources for the whole society. Along with giving birth to the future generation, they also nurture them. Therefore, after retirement, it is the responsibility of the state and the government as well as for the whole society to look after them. Therefore, workers should fight for a universal pension for a dignified life as a matter of right.