Staff fear losing pension benefits as DMK govt proposes reversing retirement age

Amid speculations that pension benefits may be converted into bonds, many employees fear they may not be alive to reap the benefits before the bond matures

Representative photo: iStock

The Tamil Nadu government’s proposal to slash down the retirement age of government employees from 60 to 58 has elicited a mix response. While some employees feel the decision would help a younger workforce enter government departments, others fear it will hamper their chances of availing pension benefits.

In Tamil Nadu, the retirement age of government employees was 58 till 2019. It was increased to 59 by the then AIADMK government during the first wave of COVID-19. The cut-off was increased to 60 later. The DMK now plans to reverse the same.

“We are welcoming the government’s move since it will help a large number of youths in getting employment. But the government should clarify its stand on pension benefits,” said A Selvam, state secretary, Tamil Nadu Government Employees Association.

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Even though the government has not revealed how it plans to disburse pension benefits once the decision is effected, there are speculations that the pension benefits will be converted to bonds – a prospect which is giving many employees sleepless nights.

“Several government employees have planned many things such as conducting the wedding of their children or building their own house based on the courage that their retirement benefits will be of some help. But it will be devastating for them if the benefits are given in the form of bonds. You can get the money only when a bond matures after a period of time. But who knows whether an employee will be alive till the bond period gets over? How will he or she carry forward the things they planned?” asked Selvam.

Also read: Why Tamil Nadu should restore government employees’ retirement age to 58

PK Ilamaran, state president, Tamil Nadu Teachers Association said instead of reversing the retirement age for current employees, the government can set it at 58 when it recruits new employees.

“The reversal of the retirement age will bring a bad name to the government. We opposed hiking the retirement age in the last regime. Since a mistake was has been committed already, it is better not to repeat another,” he said.

Giving an example how reversing the retirement age will affect current employees, he said if an individual is working now as district education officer (DEO), he or she may get a promotion as chief education officer (CEO). Since the retirement age was increased from 58 to 60, those who are now working as CEO will retire and get all the benefits. But when the retirement age is reversed from 60 to 58, the people who are now working as DEO will lose their promotions and a possible hike, which in turn will reflect in their pension benefits.

“Already 2.5 lakh vacancies haven’t been filled up yet. In the next one year, around 60,000 employees are expected to retire. As on date, about 67 lakh people have registered themselves in the employment exchange. But we have only about 13 lakh government posts available. It is difficult to give a government job to all those 67 lakh people. It will be appreciable if the existing vacancies are filled. Other than that, believing that there will be a huge employment generation if the retirement age is reversed is just an exaggeration,” added Ilamaran.

There are others who have supported the government’s plan to slash the retirement age.

“During the pandemic, the last government put a lot of restrictions on government employees like stopping the dearness allowance and asking them to surrender earned leave among others. All these were temporary in nature. But the effect due to the hike in the retirement age is permanent,” R Deepak, general secretary, Association of Tamil Nadu Highway Engineers told The Federal.

He said that at a time when the economy is in doldrums, the duty of the government should to generate more employment. “Only then can we come out of the crisis. Increasing the retirement age will not be a solution,” he said.

“Rather than retaining an employee even after his or her post-retirement period, the government can bring in at least two people in that place. By that way, the efficiency of the government machinery will also increase,” Deepak added.

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