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Sukhu Govt okays OPS but Himachal totters under Rs 91,000 crore debt mountain

Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu at an old age home in Shimla's Basantpur on Saturday. The state CM has cleared Old Pension scheme while economists cry foul (Image courtesy: Twitter/@CMOFFICEHP)

Shimla: Adding a huge liability of Rs 11,000 crore that now has to be paid to the Himachal government employees and pensioners, the first Cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu has approved the restoration of the Old Pension Scheme (OPS), 18 years after it was done away with in 2003-04.

The decision was taken as part of the fulfillment of the Congress Party’s poll promise.

After the decision, Sukhu admitted that the state already has a debt liability of Rs 75,000 crore. There are DA arrears of Rs 1000 crore and unpaid liability of Rs 4,430 crore as arrears of the employees. Besides, there is another Rs 5,226 crore now due as pensioners’ arrears.

“We made the assessment, and it was found that the previous government had left liabilities worth 11,000 crores in our pocket due to the implementation of the Sixth Pay Commission The 900 institutions opened by the BJP during the past six months and it will cost Rs 5,000 crore, which means we have the burden of Rs 91,000 crore in our hands,” the Chief Minister said.

The Congress has come to power in the state primarily on the promise to restore the old pension scheme—a demand which had gained ground in the run-up to the polls. The government employees had been holding public protests and dharnas to pressure the earlier Jai Ram Thakur-led BJP government.

The refusal of the BJP to revert back to the OPS had resulted in eroding its vote bank.

Sukhu said “there were obstacles, financial and procedural in the implementation of the OPS. But we have done it as per our promise made in the elections by the party at its Solan poll rally addressed by AICC general secretary Priyanka Gandhi’.

He said this was the first guarantee of the Congress government. Around 1.36 lakh government employees will start getting the benefits of OPS from January 13—coinciding with the Lohri festival.

“In the past days, the officers kept putting obstacles in this by saying that there is no money, but I gave my formula. I told them, we look at OPS not as a monetary beneficial scheme but as a social security cover for the employees, who form a lifeline for the governance”

The Finance Department will now make the notification. All the eligible employees of departments, boards, and corporations have been brought under this scheme. Based on the formula of Chhattisgarh, OPS is being implemented in Himachal Pradesh by preparing its own formula.

The cabinet also took a decision to give Rs 1500 per month to women in the age group of 18 to 60 years as part of the poll promises despite the government’s coffers being empty. A cabinet subcommittee has been formed under cabinet ministers Dhani Ram Shandil, Chandra Kumar, and Anirudh Singh and asked to give their report in a month’s time.

Also Read: Sukhwinder Sukhu takes oath as Himachal CM in presence of Rahul, Priyanka