All across Uttar Pradesh, more than 40 lakh employees of the State Government announced a seven-day strike from 6th February 2019. They were demanding a rollback of the current pension scheme. Teachers, engineers, tehsildars and members of the transport department participated in the strike.
In response, the state government invoked the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) on 8th February, banning strikes in all departments and corporations under it for a period of six months. The UP Chief Secretary issued a notification to this effect on Monday night. Under ESMA, the police have a right to arrest without a warrant if the provisions of the Act are violated. Further, the Allahabad High Court declared the protest "illegal" and ordered the government to initiate disciplinary action against the striking employees and their unions. It directed senior officials of various departments to record the employees' attendance and videograph their agitation.
The employees were forced to call of the strike in the face of such directives from the court.
The agitation against the New Pension Scheme (NPS) is more than a year old. On 16th November 2018, the Union Railway Minister was hounded out of an event in Lucknow by angry railway employees. Government employees in several states are pointing out that under the NPS, they will receive as little as Rs.700-800 per month as compared to Rs.9000 which they would receive under the old scheme. They are now required to pay 10% of their monthly wages which is matched by the government and invested in equity shares. Retirement pensions are dependent on the returns on that accumulated investment. Unlike the pension and GPF in the old scheme, the NPS does not guarantee any fixed returns as it is market-linked.
The opposition to the NPS has been building up in recent years across all sections of government employees in the country, as an increasing number of employees are realizing the real impact of this scheme. When the scheme was initially implemented in different state, employees were not made fully aware of its implications on their monthly pension receivable after they turn 60 years.