GUWAHATI: In a significant development on Monday, a vast number of government employees in Assam expressed their determination to escalate protests, demanding the reinstatement of the old pension scheme (OPS). The All Assam Government NPS Employees Association (AAGNPSEA) spearheaded the movement, gaining backing from opposition leaders and prominent figures in the state who assert that adequate pension is a fundamental right for workers.
At a meeting organized by AAGNPSEA, supported by the Joint Coordination Committee for OPS Assam and the Joint Forum for Restoration of OPS Assam, leaders and representatives of various workers' bodies resolved to cancel the National Pension System (NPS). Their primary demand is to ensure that all workers, employees, and teachers under the state government receive pensions through the OPS.
The gathering also called for the immediate repeal of the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority Act (PFRDA) Act of 2013. This legislation, aimed at regulating pension funds and ensuring old age income security, is perceived by the protesters as a hindrance to the restoration of OPS. They argue that without its repeal, even if a state government decides to revert to OPS, employees would face complications.
The resolutions adopted at the meeting reflect a collective insistence on safeguarding the rights of workers. The protesters expressed concerns about the economic and social decisions being concentrated in the hands of the wealthiest 1% of the population. Renowned author and Gauhati University professor, Akhil Ranjan Dutta, emphasized the need to ensure the socio-economic discourse considers the interests of the working class.
Rajya Sabha MP Ajit Kumar Bhuyan highlighted the support of a conglomerate of 15 opposition political parties, including the Congress, for the OPS restoration demand. He urged for the movement to extend nationwide, recognizing its impact on the lives of every worker. CPI(M) leader Isfaqur Rahman, part of the conglomerate, condemned those advocating for NPS and pledged his party's support for OPS restoration.
AAGNPSEA president Achyutananda Hazarika asserted that most retirees under the NPS receive meager pensions, ranging from Rs 500 to Rs 3,000 a month. With approximately five lakh government employees in Assam, around 3.5 lakh are currently under the NPS. The association declared its commitment to intensify the struggle unless positive steps are taken by the state and central governments in response to their demands. The issue has escalated beyond a regional concern, resonating with the broader discourse on workers' rights and pension systems in the country.