Himachal Pradesh chief minister Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu, his deputy Mukesh Agnihotri and Congress HP president Pratibha Virbhadra Singh with party leader Rahul Gandhi during his Bharat Jodo Yatra
Shimla: “Rahul ji, when will we start getting Rs 1500 per month? This was an obvious question Rahul Gandhi faced as he walked in step with Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu during ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ through the state on January 19.
“ Sukhu ji is a zameeni admi. He (CM) has fulfilled the promise of granting Old Pension Scheme (OPS) .One-by-one all promises will be fulfilled” Rahul Gandhi responded to women standing on rooftops at Kathgarh town as yatra ahead for Jammu, on its way to its last destination of Kashmir.
The Congress, during assembly elections, has promised to give Rs 1,500 per month to all women in the age group of 18 to 60 years—one of the 10 key guarantees which brought the party back to power, after five years of BJP rule.
The new problem the cash-strapped Himachal government is expected to face is whether the women will be paid Rs 1500 per month or Rs 2000?
In poll-bound Karnataka, Priyanka Gandhi, who earlier campaigned in Himachal Pradesh, has promised to give Rs 2000 per month under ‘Gruha Laxmi’ scheme but her party in Himachal Pradesh talks about only Rs 1,500 per month.
For granting Rs 1500 per month to women in the age group of 18 to 60 years, the cabinet has set-up a committee under minister for social justice and women empowerment Col (Rtd) Dhani Ram Shandil. The committee will submit its report in a month’s time.
Arranging funds for this scheme is also going to be an arduous task for Sukhu government.
“We have doubts if the government will really implement its promises. We will also like to know from Priyanka Gandhi why there is a disparity between women in Karnataka and those in Himachal for same promise ? “ asks Karan Nanda , BJP spokesman.
Till now, the Congress has decided to implement the Old Pension Scheme (OPS)—a major election promise about which the party leaders are boasting as the beginning of the process for fulfilment of all the election promises.
“All government employees retiring from now onwards will get the benefits of the old pension scheme in Himachal Pradesh. The finance department is working out modalities on its implementation. Money has also been made available. We are largely following the formula adopted by the Chhattisgarh government,” Chief Minister Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu says.
He admits that the state’s debt burden of Rs 75,000 crore is a major challenge. The government also has inherited a liability of Rs 11,000 crore payable to government employees as arrears of revised salaries and pensions. This includes Rs 4,430 crore as salary arrears, Rs 5,526 crore as pension arrears and about Rs 1,000 crore as DA.
The implementation of the OPS alone is expected to cost Rs 800-900 crores in the first year. The burden will continue to increase in the coming years.
“We have raised VAT on diesel to raise money for OPS. This is just one step. I will unfold more such plans to raise resources when the state’s budget for 2023-24 is presented in the assembly” Sukhu told India Narrative.
The data available with the finance department reveals there is a mounting liability on the salaries and pensions of the government employees in Himachal Pradesh.
The state has also seen a big jump in committed liabilities of the government on account of salaries ,pensions, interest repayments on loans from Rs 17,154.75 crore in 2016-17 to Rs 22,464.51 crore in 2020-21.
The committed expenditure has increased from 65.31 per cent to 67.19 per cent over the last five years. There is only a small percentage of funds left for development.
Priyanka had said in Karnataka that Rs 24,000 a year would be directly credited to their bank accounts under the ‘Gruha Lakshmi Yojana’. The promise comes within days of the Congress making an announcement to provide 200 units of free power every month to each household in the state. Same happens to be 300 free units in Himachal Pradesh.
Former Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur said, “the Congress has come to power by making false promises and offering green pastures to people, employees ,women and youths. We are waiting to see how such lofty promises will be fulfilled in absence of resources.”