CHANDIGARH: Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann on Friday said that the state cabinet has approved the reimplementation of the old pension scheme, which was discontinued in 2004.
In another decision of the cabinet, a meeting of which was held here under his chairmanship, Mann said a notification to fix sugarcane rate at Rs 380 per quintal has also been approved. Asked about the Old Pension Scheme, Mann, who was addressing a news conference after the cabinet meeting, said, ''OPS has been approved by the cabinet. Details will be given. Many employees will be benefited under the old pension scheme. Notification has been issued.'' An official statement said the decision will directly benefit more than 1.75 lakh government employees.
In order to ensure that the scheme remains financially sustainable for the exchequer in future also, the state government will be contributing proactively towards creation of a pension corpus which will keep on serving the pensioners.
The contribution towards the pension corpus will be Rs 1,000 crore per annum initially and will gradually be increased.
In addition to this, the current accumulated corpus with the New Pension Scheme, or, NPS, is Rs 16,746 crore, which the state government will request the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA), a central body, to refund.
The old pension scheme, under which the entire pension amount was given by the government, was discontinued in the country from April 1, 2004. In the cabinet meeting held nearly a month ago, the Punjab government had decided to restore the scheme for its employees, which has been their major demand. State Finance Minister Harpal Singh Cheema had last month said employees will be given the option to join the old pension scheme.
''The state government has approved the Old Pension Scheme for its employees currently covered under New Pension Scheme (NPS) thereby fulfilling a long pending demand of employees of the state.
"This will directly benefit more than 1.75 lakh government employees currently covered under NPS. In addition to this, 1.26 lakh employees are already covered under the existing Old Pension Scheme,'' said the official statement issued after Friday's cabinet meeting.
The scheme is expected to benefit more than 4,100 employees in the next five years alone.
The scheme is aimed at safeguarding the future of government employees and recognising their immense contribution towards the State, it said. The cabinet reiterated its firm commitment that the scheme will be made self-sustainable from the resources available with the exchequer adding that under no circumstance, the future of employees' will be jeopardised.
Briefing reporters about other decisions of the cabinet, Mann said, ''In today's cabinet meeting, the notification regarding Rs 380 per quintal sugarcane rate has been approved, which is highest in the country.'' ''We have cleared all outstanding dues of sugarcane from farmers,'' he further said. All sugar mills will start crushing sugarcane from November 20. Mann also said that 645 lecturer posts in government colleges will be filled. The Cabinet also accorded approval to enhance the upper age limit for direct recruitment of principals from 45 years to 53 years enabling associate professors/professors to apply for these posts up to the age of 53 years. These posts will be filled through the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC).
The age relaxation will provide a pool of competent and eligible persons to the government from among whom the selections can be made by PPSC, the state government said.
In another decision, the Cabinet greenlighted waiving of electricity bills totalling Rs 9.31 crore till October 31, owed by 366 registered 'gaushalas,' including 20 government cattle ponds.
The step is aimed at helping gaushalas check the problem of stray menace, the statement said. The adjustment will be made from cow cess collection which currently lies with Punjab State Power Corporation Limited.
The Cabinet also gave approval for amending the Punjab e-stamp Rules, 2014 to start online e-stamping up to Rs 500 in addition to existing provision.
The online option of e-Stamping is running successfully in other states and the online version of e-Stamp certificate can also be printed on plain paper, the statement said.
Meanwhile, Mann said that an amount of Rs 5 lakh each has been given to 624 families, whose next of kin died during the farmers agitation against the now repealed farm laws. He said that so far 326 such families have been given jobs. The remaining families will also be compensated with jobs soon, he added.
Asked about the law and order in the state, Mann said: ''Punjab police are capable of maintaining peace. We have given strict instructions to Punjab police to conduct random searches and those who flash weapons or make hate speeches and provoke should be dealt with strictly as per law.''