Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot announced Wednesday, as part of his populist budget presentation ahead of the 2023 State Assembly election, the restoration of the old pension scheme for government employees hired on or after January 1, 2004. No new taxes were enacted in response to the pandemic’s impact on all economic sectors.
Mr. Gehlot stated that the National Pension Scheme (NPS), which was implemented in 2004, had created concerns among employees about their retirement security. “Reviving the old scheme is a momentous decision. The then-Union government may have introduced the NPS for some compelling reasons, but we should reconsider,” he said.
Rajasthan CM annouced Old pension scheme
Mr. Gehlot, who also serves as finance minister, told reporters following the presentation of the budget that other states should consider the NPS in a new light as well. The contribution-based NPS is a major issue in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh’s ongoing Assembly elections, where the ruling BJP has found itself in a pickle after the Samajwadi Party and other Opposition parties made retirement benefit promises.
Additionally, the Chief Minister reversed a 2017 decision by the previous BJP regime to cut employee salaries, resulting in a discrepancy in guaranteed career progression. Budgetary announcements for the restoration of the next grade pay system will impose an annual burden on the State government of 1,000 crores beginning in 2022-23.
Gajendra Singh, president of the Rajasthan Karmachari Samyukta Mahasangh, welcomed the decision to terminate the NPS, stating that it would benefit over 4 lakh employees who have been agitating on the issue for several years.
Additionally, Mr. Gehlot announced an increase in the number of promotional posts and the extension of the Seventh Pay Commission benefits to employees of boards, corporations, universities, and autonomous bodies.
Mr. Gehlot announced new measures to improve the welfare of various segments of society during his three-hour speech, with an emphasis on health, education, infrastructure, social security, and tourism. He also presented the first-ever separate agriculture budget, which included a provision of 5,000 crores for the Krishak Sathi Yojana and the adoption of mission mode for 11 thematic areas.
The budget proposed increasing the annual health coverage under the ambitious Chiranjeevi Health Insurance Scheme from 5 lakh to 10 lakh per family and providing free IPD and OPD services in government health facilities. Additionally, the state government will spend Rs. 4,500 crores on providing electricity tariff subsidies to consumers in various slabs.
The Indira Gandhi Urban Employment Guarantee Scheme will be launched to provide 100 days of employment on the lines of the rural employment guarantee scheme, with a budget allocation of 800 crores, but workers will work for 125 days rather than the earlier 100 days.
A Right to Service Guarantee and Accountability Bill will also be introduced in the State shortly, for which civil rights organisations have long agitated.
Mr. Gehlot proposed holding the Rajasthan Eligibility Examination for Teachers (REET) in July, following its recent cancellation due to a controversy surrounding the leak of the examination’s question paper. Mr. Gehlot stated that an anti-cheating cell would be established within the Rajasthan police’s Special Operations Group (SOG).
Satish Poonia, the BJP’s state president, responded to the budget by saying that while several announcements were made in the health and education sectors, there were no genuine efforts to develop their infrastructure. “It is difficult to discern the source of funding for budgetary provisions. The government asserts that its manifesto commitments and previous budgetary announcements have been met, but the reality on the ground is quite different,” he explained.
Following Mr. Gehlot’s House speech, each of the 200 MLAs received an Apple iPhone–13 and a copy of the budget. The Assembly previously launched an iPhone-based mobile app for the convenience of legislators, who could use it to access questions, motions, Bills, the agenda, session review, business rules, and the proceedings.