In OPS shadow, Raja Babu’s Rs 25 lakh & Creta dowry

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By Manish Anand

New Delhi, February 5: Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar broke ranks with his peers to take a clear stand on the Old Pension Scheme (OPS). Khattar said that India will go bankrupt by 2030 if the country returns to the OPS.

Congress is the votary of returning to the OPS. The party after assuming power in Himachal Pradesh implemented the OPS. Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has said that after the state implemented the OPS, 621 people have availed the benefits of the old regime. Jharkhand has also implemented the OPS where Congress is a junior ally of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM). Bihar, notorious for not paying salary to employees in 1900s, is keeping a silence where Congress is a junior ally to CM Nitish Kumar led alliance.

On the day Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman was presenting the Budget in the Lok Sabha, a peon in one of the Bhavans which house the ministries of the Central government was distributing sweets. He was joyous. His marriage has recently been finalized.

A job of peon in the Central government helped him find a bride. To curious officials, who enquired about his bride and additional details of the marriage, answers were stunning. “He is getting married with a dowry of Rs 25 lakh and a Creta SUV,” said a joint secretary in one of the ministries of the Central government. The Creta SUV is known to cost Rs 13 lakhs onward. The official said that several of the officials in the building where he works may not be owning the SUV that the peon is getting as a dowry. Incidentally, another peon in the same Bhavan comes to the office in a Maruti hatchback.

Dowry, on paper, is a criminal offence. But the social preference for a government job stays unchallenged even after three decades since Manmohan Singh as Finance Minister in the PV Narsimha Rao government forced open India to the global market and unleashed the forces of private enterprises. India now is $3.5 trillion economy. But post-graduates still chase peon jobs in the country, and the private enterprises struggle to find skilled manpower to run machineries.

Congress has said that the party may consider promising OPS in the Karnataka Assembly elections. It may be noted that under the OPS, a retired employee gets 50 per cent of the last drawn salary as monthly pension, while the minimum pension is Rs 9,000 per month which can extend to a maximum of Rs 62,500 per month. It’s also stated that peons are the biggest beneficiaries of the seventh Pay Commission.

“In 1990-91, the Centre’s pension bill was Rs 3,272 crore. By 2020-21, it had jumped 58 times to Rs 190,886 crore. The outgo for all states put together shot up 125 times from Rs 3,131 crore in 1990-91 to Rs 386,001 crore in 2020-21. Overall, pension payments by states accounted for a quarter of their own tax revenues,” Uttam Gupta, a policy analyst, wrote in an article in The Pioneer.

Gupta further stated that pension payments took away a much higher share of tax revenue of states. “For Himachal Pradesh, it was 80 per cent, whereas for Punjab and Rajasthan, it was 35 per cent and 30 per cent respectively,” added Gupta.

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