New Delhi: K. Doreswamy, 95, says he will sit on a hunger strike from July 16 if the government goes ahead with an order that would deny him and 8,000 other pensioners their revised pay with effect from January 1, 2016.
Doreswamy retired in 1982 as an assistant superintendent at the Coffee Board headquartered in Bangalore. He and his wife are dependant on pension for their survival as their children stay away.
Doreswamy is deeply disappointed with the Union commerce and industries ministry's order asking autonomous commodity boards such as those for tea, coffee, rubber and spices to extend the 7th Pay Commission benefits to pensioners with effect from January 1, 2018.
The ministry has also directed the commodity boards to arrange for the funds required to meet the additional expenses.
However, those retiring from autonomous institutions such as the IITs, central universities and the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan have been awarded pension with effect from January 1, 2016. The human resource development ministry passed orders for these institutions this month.
The current employees of all ministries, including commerce and industries, have been awarded the revised pay scale with effect from January 1, 2016. The retired employees of various ministries will also receive the revised amounts from the same date.
"We are helpless. We are asking for what we are legally entitled to. I will be grateful if I get my dues in my lifetime. I will join the hunger strike if the anomaly is not corrected," Doreswamy told The Telegraph over phone.
A.N. Balaram, the president of the Pensioners Association of Autonomous Bodies, said 70-80 retired employees of the Coffee Board had died in the past two years waiting for the revised pension, which raised the amounts by an average of 20 per cent.
Balaram, 93, said the Coffee Board members would organise the hunger strike in front of the board's offices across the country on July 16. According to Balaram, the "differential treatment" meted out to pensioners of the commodity boards amounts to harassment.
"Never has it happened that pensioners of commodity boards have been treated differently than those of other autonomous bodies. This is an insult to us in our old age," Balaram said.
Suryaprakash, the secretary the association, criticised the government for passing the onus of the payment of the additional dues, arising out of the pension and salary revision, to the commodity boards.
"The date of implementation (of the pay commission recommendations) has to be uniform.... There is also another anomaly. In case of IITs and central universities, the government is bearing the additional cost. For no reason, the burden of arranging for the additional funds has been passed onto the commodity boards. For no reason, the pensioners are being penalised in the process," he said.
While most autonomous bodies have implemented the pension revision, some have still not issued the order. The National Council for Science Museums (NCSM), which is under the Union ministry of culture, is yet to revise pensions, for example.
N. Shashidhara, who retired in 2005 as education officer from Birla Industrial Technology Museum, Calcutta, which is under the NCSM, said those who receive pension from the museum would take part in the one-day hunger strike called by the Coffee Board retirees.
"Every time I ask museum officials about the pension revision, I am told the order is awaited. We have been waiting for 30 months," Shashidhara said.
K.G. Mohanan, the president of the Rubber Board Pensioners Association, said commerce ministry officials had informally cited a funds crunch as the reason for not being able to pay the revised pension with effect from January 2016. "This cannot be tolerated," Mohanan said.