Pension Revision- New Challenges and our task.

BSNL absorbed retirees are entitled to get the pension revision from 01-01-2017. But the government has taken a negative and unjustified stand and the Hon’ble Minister for Communications, Shri. Ravi Shankar Prasad has stated in the Parliament that pension revision is linked with wage revision of BSNL employees and will be considered once the wage revision is implemented.

But what are the facts ? When BSNL was formed , the government had declared that BSNL absorbed employees will be eligible to get pension from the consolidated fund of the government, as in the case of central government employees.  Accordingly, to make them eligible for pension from the consolidated fund of the government, necessary amendment in the CCS (Pension) Rules, 1972 was made in the form of Rule 37A. Pension contribution is being made by BSNL to the government at the maximum of the pay scale of each employee. The condition of 60:40 stipulated earlier by the government having been scrapped, the entire liability of pension and pensionary benefits to BSNL absorbed retirees lies with the government.  Thus, pension revision is not anyway connected to the poor financial condition of BSNL.

AIBDPA from the very beginning has demanded that pension revision should be granted from 01-01-2017 with 15% fitment, delinking wage revision. This was based on the last pension revision from 01-01-2007 with 30% fitment, which was the maximum recommended by the 2nd PRC and 3rd PRC recommending a maximum fitment of 15%. All Unions and Associations of BSNL (AUAB) also put forward the same demand vindicating AIBDPA stand on this vital issue. AIBDPA not only wrote letters , held discussions with the top officers and Minister, but also conducted several agitations for the settlement of the genuine issue.

Meanwhile the recommendation of the BSNL Board for wage revision of employees with 15% fitment from 01-01-2017, exempting BSNL from the affordability condition as per the provision in the 3rd PRC to the effect that affordability conditions are not applicable for the government companies which are implementing government projects, was turned down by the Department of Telecommunications. Thus AUAB had  to go on a series of agitations including a 3 days strike in February, 2019. Thereafter, the Minister of State for Communications, Shri. Manoj Sinha was compelled to hold discussion with AUAB leaders  and gave categorical assurances on important demands including pension revision, delinking wage revision.  Accordingly, DoT wrote to Department of Pension & Pensioners Welfare asking modalities to revise the pension without wage revision. The DP&PW in return asked DoT to forward its proposal to which DoT did not reply at all for obvious reasons. ( It is an open secret that a dominant section of the bureaucracy in DoT was  deadly against pension revision before wage revision.)

Then came the general elections in 2019 and Shri. Ravi Shankar Prasad replaced Shri. Manoj Sinha as the Cabinet Minister  for Communications &IT. He took a stand similar to the bureaucracy and as stated above, that pension revision is possible only after wage revision. Some of the pensioners’ organizations, having been frustrated over this development, started talking about seeking legal remedy.

It was in this context that the Central Executive Committee meeting of AIBDPA held at Guwahati on 24-25, November, 2019, discussed the issue in details and unanimously decided against seeking legal remedy on pension revision. Instead , the CEC decided a phased programme of agitation, culminating in a Parliament March. As authorized by the CEC, CHQ took the initiative to contact other important pensioners’ organizations for a joint struggle but could not succeed. Therefore, we had no other option than go it alone.  Mobilization of pensioners in a signature campaign in the Memorandum to the Prime Minister was held successfully in December, 2019. The second phase was meeting the Members of Parliament to seek their support. Our comrades met 196 MPs, irrespective of political affiliation, including two Cabinet Ministers, Speaker of Lok Sabha and four Ministers of State and the response was very positive and encouraging. Some of them wrote letters to the Prime Minister, Finance Minister and Communications Minister and certain other MPs raised the issue in the Parliament. The 3rd phase was Mass Hunger Strike at CCA offices on 12th February, 2020 which became a stupendous success with massive participation of pensioners. However we had to postpone the Parliament March of 12th March, 2020 due to breakout of Covid-19 pandemic, though all the arrangements were made.

Now, some of the pensioners’ associations have filed petitions in the Principal Bench of CAT, New Delhi seeking legal remedy of pension revision. While AIRBSNLEWA, SNPWA and three MTNL pensioners associations have demanded pension revision with 2.51 multiple factor, AIBSNLPWA has demanded pension revision on terms of 7th Pay Commission. One of the important functionaries of AIBSNLPWA, in an open video chat, giving details of the petition filed, has stated that the case involves huge expenditure and unpredicatable delay and may benefit the next generation of pensioners, if the final verdict is favourable. 

The Regional Labour Commissioner (Central), New Delhi in the conciliation of the three days strike by AUAB held in February,2019, has asked the BSNL management to at least discuss and decide the wage revision of the non-executives. But the RLC has got its own limitations and pressure has to be exerted in the form of agitation in which AIBDPA is committed to participate. Recently, some of the proposals in the BSNL revival package like sovereign bond of Rs. 8,500 crore, monetization of BSNL assets etc are being implemented which are certain to ease the financial woes of BSNL.  Further, the BSNL management has to implement the wage revision to motivate the employees.

But for pension revision, the government need not wait for the wage revision as it has nothing to do with BSNL. We hope that the government may now seriously think about it and implement the pension revision with 15% fitment from 01-01-2017, delinking wage revision. Otherwise, AIBDPA is committed to launch another phased program of agitation at the appropriate time.