... Left still sees red; to oppose pension Bill

New Delhi, Jan 22 | Updated: Jan 23 2007, 05:30am hrs
Sticking to its well known stand, Left front governments in West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura on Monday strongly opposed the Centres efforts to seek support from the states on the new pension scheme at a meeting of chief ministers called by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Though all the other 19 states which participated in the discussion, supported the the Centre's proposals on pension schemes, the Left governments, which faced an ideological isolation at the meeting, said the proposed Bill will in no way benefit either the states or the employees.

With the cut in salary and pension of employees, absence of government guarantee for retirement benefits in new pension scheme (NPS) and the distinct possibility of a sustainable Defined Benefit Pension System, the state is not in a position to accept the NPS. We strongly urge that a more in-depth factual and analytical discussion is essential before taking further step toward NPS, West Bengal finance minister and CPI(M) leader Asim Dasgupta said at the meeting.

"There is a serious loss to the employee in so far as his retirement benefits are concerned in addition to the loss that he has suffered through effective wage reduction during his service, Dasgupta said.

Opposing the idea of investing the pension fund in the stock markets Kerala finance minister Thomas Issac said, The stock markets volatile nature causes serious concerns for the employees. We have serious doubts on the relevance of the new pension scheme.

Issac also assailed the move to choose private parties to manage the pension fund. "Pension fund frauds were common even in Western countries, and they are slowly avoiding private players in pension sector. Private fund managers could turn a curse for the employees," he said.

Later, talking to reporters, Issac also advised other States to invest their pension fund in welfare measures such as hospitals and schools. "Pension funds are not something the government can play with. If the governments are eager to invest it, do it on welfare schemes such as schools and hospitals so the people would benefit in future," Issac added.

The West Bengal finance minister asserted the introduction of the new scheme could not yield resources, which can be made use of bringing workers in the unorganised sectors under the purview of social security schemes, which Issac also agreed. He sai the Kerala's system of welfare pension boards for unorganized workers could be a model for the entire country. The Left front governments also opposed the government's effort for an interim measure to solve the crisis.

"The public sector is already finding it difficult to pay a salary package comparable to what is available in the private sector. The new system would make recruitment of talented persons to public services even more difficult," Dasgupta said.