– Ali Imam Mazumder*
Recently a pensioner wrote in the letter column of Prothom Alo that he went into retirement in 1985. He then stayed at the margin of the 7th Grade in the Pay Scale. His pension benefits were determined on the basis of salary received at that period. He had the luck of receiving some pension increment at times. He now receives a pension money of Tk. 4,465 at the age of 92. His son also went into retirement from service in June 30, 2016 serving at the same grade. He is now 62. He receives a pension amount of Tk. 31,459. The matter may sound unbelievable to somebody. But those who are pensioners, they are acquainted with these sort of many tragic dramas. Even those who entered into retirement from the highest level service before the extension of Pay-Scale in 2009, their pension benefits are less than the basic salary of a presently joining new officer in the 9th Grade.
This disparity has been repeatedly presented. Appeals were made that the pension money to be received by the employees going into retirement or shall enter retirement in future from the same position/post should equal. It is said that there is no provision/rules. It is true, off course. And hence the demand for making provision/rules. The serving employees had no many benefits even few years back; they are receiving those benefits by making provisions/rules. Rules are not an unchanging phenomenon. And this pension disparity got enhanced extensively after the Government gave effect to the pay-scale of the government service-holders in 2009 and 2015. In those two pay-scales a major upward change took place. Here the financial capabilities and noble intention of the Government also mattered. But the old formula of pension increment remains the same. Hence a part of the pensioners are leading a deprived living being a victim of this situation.
The service holder who has urged me with his letter to initiate this writing has dropped down from middle-class level. There are numerous examples of this sort. Whereas the removal of this disparity is possible and reasonable. This is not a high amount of money that would be necessary for the purpose. Few people expressed surprise before the humanitarian decisions to re-instate the pension of the employees who surrendered hundred percent pensions before 15 years or more. Whereas it has been observed that the project has cost the Government an annual expenditure of 150 crore taka only. Is not this amount of money very small considering the size of the present budget of the Government? Virtually they surrendered the pension by receiving money equal to one hundred months. The time-span of 15 years for reinstatement has become very high. How many persons live such a long days? There may not be a heavy pressure on the exchequer if this condition of 15 years is relaxed to 10 years by an extension of this humanitarian decision. The number of pensioners is increasing. Their demands are also enhancing. But again they are also dying gradually extending government relief from liabilities. There was no law of this kind to restore the pension. But the Government had the good intension and hence this new rule has been formulated.
By the same way the conception of an equal pension for the same post is not a new one. A number of retired Major Generals in India has involved in a legal suit on this point. The suit continued for long days. At a stage the Government of India informed the Supreme Court in April, 2018 that all the retired Major Generals or their equivalent military officers will receive the same amount of pension irrespective of their retirement time. The decision received welcome from all quarters. Everyone expects that others those who would move into retirement from other posts-positions would also come under this facility in due course. Some preparations are being made in this respect, it is learnt.
Moreover, the matter can’t be ignored in any way either from moral or from humanitarian point of view. The retired employees do not demand the benefits received by the present employees; they would enjoy the fruits of employment who would remain in job at that time. Gradual extension of facilities is going on side by side monetary growth. But those who have entered retirement or will go into it also have to pay penalty for inflation equally. Their real income also shrinks due to tax net. Here in the running rule pension disparity of the service holders of the same grade going into retirement at different times faces questions.
Due to certain reasons the matters of the issue comes forth strongly. Firstly, many pensioners while receiving pension expected that, money received by hundred percent surrender would be helpful during retired life through the profit by investment of the money in Sanchaypatra. Two years back that profit was lessened at least by 2 percent. This year tax on income has been enhanced. This has decreased expected income. On the other hand effects of price inflection has also been thrust upon. This income-disparity has shaken the foundation of the middle class people. This matter is also made more difficult at the time of fixation of pension increment during increase of salary. In 2015 pay increment was about one hundred percent. While pension increased by 40 percent to 50 percent.
It is argued that half of the money has been already received by the employees by surrender. But what is the amount of that money! 80 percent of that poor pay was his pension. Now it has been enhanced to 90 percent. Although unfortunate to say for the sake of truth that here the politicians have no negative role. Few high government official, in practice, play pivotal role in finalisation of the matter. Why the demands of the old pensioners did not get any importance to them, it is difficult to understand. And the middle class and lower class are not in priority of the present budget of the government. Rather their expenses have increased. So for the removal of this disparity measures should be taken.
Service holders who enter retired life also get delighted when they see that new facilities are created for the service holders. They support the provision of these facilities. But they never claim any of these facilities for themselves. So the father who went into retirement in 1985 got delighted to know the enhancement of the pay and emolument of his son from time to time. He got satisfied to see his son leading a decent living. But when both of them retired from service, they should have been in the level. It may be said that pension has been determined following the rules and regulations.
But the moral side of this system is seriously questionable. Hence its amendment has turned highly necessary. And why the laws of state only, rules even Constitution is amended in compliance with the demand of time. The amendment of regulations of this pension determination related matters is a demand of the time.
The government service-holders is a big slice of the middle class people. Emoluments of them are being extended by the government in a liberal hand in the last 10 years. As a result, eagerness of the desiring students to join the government job has enhanced. This trend would contribute gradually to strengthening the government system. These employees through time go to retirement. They have given labour and intellect to the entire country during their working life. Retired life is acknowledged as old age. In the old age they turn helpless in different ways, not physically only. If during this period there is utter insufficiency of money for leading the rest of life and if one is to be dependent on others, that helpless condition enhances more. They stay neglected to the greater family and society. A reformation of the determination of pension system may help relief from this condition.
All service holders retired from the same pay-scale shall receive pension at the same rate- an initiative on this fundamental principle can be taken. It would increase the expenditure of the government, there is no doubt about it. But without extending arrear dues or if the increment is made by two steps, pressure of expenditure of the government would reduce. Expenditure of the government is increasing every year. Side by side income increases. And this expenditure would play an important role in strengthening the foundation of the middle class. The over-octogenarian father would get rid of his disgrace of leading a life at 14% pension of his son retired currently with his pension received.E
* Former Cabinet Secretary. ** Translated into En