Employees’ Pension Scheme 1995(EPS-95) senior pensioners between the ages of 60-80 are observing an indefinite hunger strike since December 4 at Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation(EPFO) office at Bhikaji Kama Place, Delhi. Their main demand has been an enhancement of their pension from a meagre Rs 200-Rs 2,500 to Rs 7,500.
Government’s inaction and constant backtracking from promises have left these senior citizens visibly miffed. These protestors have decided to go ahead with their plan of committing mass suicide on December 7 outside EPFO office over “betrayal by the government”.
Who are EPS-95 pensioners & what are their demands?
EPS-95 stands for Employees’ Pension Scheme 1995. It covers private and public sector employees who are a member of EPFO and the scheme was started from the year 1995. Commander Ashok Raut (Retd), the national convener and President of the EPS95 National Agitation Committee, while speaking to The Logical Indian, explained, “All private sector employees, all PSU employees, those working in the corporate sector come under the ambit of EPS-95.” Every employee in these jobs is required to contribute 12% of their basic salary+dearness allowance to the Employee Provident Fund. The employer also makes a matching contribution, of which 8.33% goes to the EPS.
Raut said, “This money which is accumulated, amounts about Rs 20 lakh. An interest over this would be about Rs 15,000. However, about 63 lakh pensioners get a pension of just Rs 200-Rs 2,500. So, after 60 years, even when having money in the account are forced to depend on their kin.”
Raut said that at least 17 lakh pensioners get less than Rs 1000 and 20 lakh people get less than Rs 1,500.
As per the demands put forward by the pensioners, they want a revision of pension to a minimum Rs 7,500 based on the recommendation of the Treasury committee and Rs 5,000 for those who do not come under the ambit of EPS-95.
Additionally, they have also asked for the withdrawal of the EPFO interim Advisory of May 31, 2017. Notably, on May 23, 2017, the head office of EPFO issued a directive which said that millions of EPS-95 employees would be eligible for a revised higher pension. However, on May 31, 2017, EPFO issued another notice denying the benefits to pensioners of EPF exempted but EPS unexempted organisation.
“Betrayal by the government”
The Central government had earlier assured a delegation of EPS-95 protestors that they would provide all the help to give them relief. “Labour and Employment Minister, Santosh Gangwar, was scheduled to meet us a few days back. Due to some reason, he could not make to the meeting. I spoken to him over the phone, he has assured me that he will meet us today (December 7). We will wait for some time, if not then we have decided to go ahead with our plan of self-immolation,” said Raut.
72-year-old Kamla Bai Pawar said, “We have been bearing the cold and harsh climate here since December 4 but seems the government does not value our lives. Several pensioners have fallen ill due to the hunger strike but the government isn’t taking us seriously. We are not left with any option, except killing ourselves.”
The Logical Indian community hopes that the government listens to the demand of those protesting. In today’s world, it is impossible for someone to survive on the meagre amount of Rs 200-Rs 2500. If those who have worked in the organised sector are struggling to meet their daily needs after retirement, then the government pension is definitely inadequate.