In what came as a big surprise, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Wednesday announced that he would implement the old pension scheme (OPS) for state government employees who were appointed on or after 1 January, 2004. Ashok Gehlot presented the Budget for the year 2022-23, with the main focus on sectors like health, education, employment, infrastructure, social security and tourism.
Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav has made a similar promise related to the old pension scheme in the election manifesto for Uttar Pradesh. But Gehlot’s announcement will put pressures on other states as well as the Central government for restoring the old pension scheme. It was the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre which had done away with the pension scheme in 2004 and had brought the National Pension Scheme (NPS)w, which is connected to the market. It is said that this decision was one of the main reasons for the defeat of the NDA. With the implementation of the old pension scheme in Rajasthan, employees will get full pension after retirement. CM Gehlot today presented the agriculture budget as well in what is being seen as a new initiative. Now, the pension scheme will be a political issue for Congress during elections at state and national levels. The budget presented by Gehlot is believed to be a historic one which may give Congress advantage politically. Gehlot also announced the withdrawal of the state government’s 2017 decision to cut the salary of the employees.
“We all know that the employees associated with government services should feel secure about the future, only then they can make their invaluable contribution towards good governance during the service period. Therefore, I announce the implementation of the old pension scheme from the next year for all the employees appointed on or after January 1, 2004,” said Gehlot.
The CM also made announcements related to healthcare and employment. He announced the implementation of the Indira Gandhi Urban Employment Guarantee Scheme. He said that 100 days of employment will be available in urban areas from the next year on the lines of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA). He also announced to make 125 days of employment available under MGNREGA instead of the existing scheme of 100 days. The CM announced that one lakh government posts will be filled.
He also announced to increase the health coverage under the state government’s ambitious Chiranjeevi Health Insurance Scheme from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 10 lakh per family in a year. Gehlot announced an allocation of Rs 5,000 crore for CM Krishak Saathi Yojna and Rs 2,700 crore for the Rajasthan Micro Irrigation Mission, which will benefit 5 lakh farmers. The CM has focused on the agriculture sector and announced so many steps to reduce the problems of the farmers and increase productivity. This will help the Congress politically as well. For electricity consumers, 50 units free electricity for those using 100 units, Rs 3 per unit grant for all domestic consumers up to 150 units and Rs 2 per unit grant for consumers of 150 to 300 units and above as per the slab. Gehlot also announced Rs 500 crore for SC-ST Development Fund and allocated Rs 100 crore for EWS families.
The CM announced the opening of 1,000 Mahatma Gandhi English Medium Schools each in urban and rural areas. “To ensure the quality of education in the English medium, I announce to create a separate cadre of English medium teachers under all subjects. About 10,000 English medium teachers will be recruited in these schools in the first phase,” said Gehlot.
He also proposed to conduct Rajasthan Eligibility Examination for Teachers (REET) in July 2022. He said that the exam would be conducted afresh but the old applicants won’t have to pay an application fee. “Along with this, the number of posts in the upcoming REET examination has been increased from 32,000 to 62,000 in view of more employment opportunities for the youth. During our tenure so far more than 1 lakh youth have been appointed and recruitment is under process for about 1 lakh 25 thousand posts,” said Gehlot. He said that the government would create about one lakh additional posts in various departments in the coming year.
During the almost three-hour-long speech, the Chief Minister said, “It is my privilege that I am presenting the first separate agriculture budget. It will set a new horizon in the agriculture sector in the state.” In the first agriculture budget, Gehlot announced an allocation of Rs 5,000 crore for CM Krishak Saathi Yojna, which was Rs 2,000 crore in the last Budget.
The Budget for the year 2022-23, proposed Rs 2,700 crore for the Rajasthan Micro Irrigation Mission, under which 5 lakh farmers will be benefitted. He also announced to make 125 days of employment in MGNREGA instead of 100 days. The state government will bear the expenditure of Rs 700 crore. He said that an anti-cheating cell will be set up in the Special Operations Group (SOG) of Rajasthan police. Under the CM Digital Service Scheme announced by the Chief Minister, 1.33 crore women will get internet enabled smartphones for 3 years. He announced to give industry status to tourism and hospitality, which were affected largely due to Covid-19 pandemic. The Chief Minister is said to have taken care of all sections in his budget.