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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

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LTC-SPECIAL PACKAGE FOR NORTH –EASTERN REGION

Special Package for North-Eastern Region


            The Ministry of Tourism, as a part of its promotional activities releases print, electronic, online and outdoor media campaigns to promote various tourism destinations and products of the country including the North East Region. Besides, North East specific media campaigns are launched to promote the entire North East Region. The Ministry of Tourism provides complimentary space to the North Eastern States in India pavilions set up at major international travel fairs & exhibitions. Further, In relaxation of CCS (LTC) Rules 1988, the Government has decided to permit Government servants to travel by air to North Eastern Region on LTC as follows:-


            (i) Group A and Group B Central Government employees will be entitled to travel by Air from their place of posting or nearest airport to a city in the NER or nearest airport.


            (ii) Other categories of employees will be entitled to travel by air to a city in the NER from Guwahati or Kolkata.


            (iii) All Central Government employees will be allowed conversion of one block of Home Town LTC into LTC for destinations in NER.


            (c): Every year 10% of the total plan allocation of the Ministry of Tourism is mandatorily earmarked for releasing funds to the States of the North East Region. This apart, following special dispensations are given to the North Eastern States:


            (i) Under the scheme of product/infrastructure development of destinations/circuit, budget accommodation, restaurants, etc. are allowed to the States of North East Region, selected places of J&K and Eco Tourism projects only.


            (ii) For organizing fairs & festivals 100% central financial assistance is allowed to the North Eastern States & the State of Jammu & Kashmir only.

            This information was given by the Minister of State of Tourism, Shri Sultan Ahmed in a written reply in Lok Sabha today.


Source-PIB

Monday, November 28, 2011

PRESS STATEMENT AND MEMORANDUM TO PRIME MINISTER BY THE STEERING COMMITTEE

STEERING COMMITTEE OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES ORGANISATIONS ON PFRDA BILL

C/o AIRF, 4, State Entry Road, New Delhi – 110001

9868244035

 

PRESS STATEMENT

 

Thousands of State and Central government employees, Railway workers, Defence workers, BSNL, University and School teachers today participated in a massive March to Parliament against the PFRDA Bill and to submit a petition to the Prime Minister to which millions of employees have subscribed their signature. The rally was addressed by the leaders of various organizations of employees and several Members of Parliament.

 

A seven member delegation consisting of Coms. S K Vyas, (Convenor, Steering Committee) Shiv Gopal Mishra, (General Secretary, AIRF), KKN Kutty, (Secy. General, Confederation of Central Government Employees & Workers)   S.N. Pathak, (President, AIDEF) P. Abhimanyu (General Secretary, BSNLEU) Rajendran (General Secretary, STFI) and Sukomal Sen (Sr. Vice President, AISGEF) met the Hon'ble Prime Minister today along with Com Basudeb Acharya, MP and Com.  Tapan Sen, MP and General Secretary of CITU. The delegation appealed to the Prime Minister to reconsider the government's policy of privatisation of pension funds and withdraw the PFRDA bill which seeks to replace the existing defined benefit Pension Scheme of government employees. The concern and anxiety of the government employees over the financial security in the evening of their life was also brought to the notice of the Prime Minister.

 

The petition to the Prime minister elaborated the various reasons as to why the present bill will be neither in the interest of the employees nor will benefit the Government Exchequer (Copy enclosed).

 

The Hon'ble Prime Minister assured the delegation of the consideration of the petition and the feasibility of providing a guarantee for a minimum pension which the Standing Committee had recommended but unfortunately not found approval of the Cabinet.  The Prime Minister informed the delegation that his Government would not do anything to harm the interest of the employees.

 

The rally was concluded at 2.30 PM. On behalf of the Steering Committee, Com. Vyas announced that the employees will organize two hour walk out on the next day the Parliament takes up the PFRDA Bill for consideration.

 

 

SK VYAS

Convener

 

 

 

STEERING COMMITTEE

OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES ORGANISATIONS

 ON PFRDA BILL.

 

13.C Feroze Shah Road

New Delhi. 110 001

Dated: 25th November, 2011

Phone: S.K.Vyas . Convenor: 91-98682 44035.

 011-2338 2286. E mail. Confederation06@yahoo.co.in

 

.

To

The Hon'ble Prime Minister of India,

New Delhi

 

  Sub: Request for Scrapping of PFRDA Bill

 Sir, 

We submit this Petition to bring to your kind notice and through your good office to the attention of the Honorable Parliamentarians of our country certain aspects of the re-introduced PFRDA bill, which will have adverse impact on the exchequer in general and on the prevailing service conditions of the Civil Servants.  We pray that our submissions in this regard may please be caused to be considered earnestly and the implication of the provisions of the bill critically analyzed and examined and take decision to kindly withdraw the Bill from the Parliament.

We submit the following for your critical and objective analysis of the Bill : 

1.      The concept of old age security for civil servant in the form of pension has a very ancient

origin dating back as early as third century BC, the quantum being half of the wages on  completion of forty years blemishless  service to the king.

2.      In the last century, one of the measures taken by the colonial rulers to attract talented personnel to the Royal service was the introduction of pension scheme for civil servants in  1920.  The Royal commission through its various recommendations improved the scheme and the 1935 Government of India Act provided it statutory strength. 

 

3.      The land mark judgment of the Supreme Court in D .S. Nakara and others Vs. Union of India      (AIR-1983-SC-130)(applicable to the Central and State Government employees, teachers,  and           all stake holders of pension system) conceptualized pension stating that pension is neither a bounty nor a grace bestowed by the sweet will of the employer, but a payment for the past services rendered.  It was construed as a right step towards socio-economic justice and a concrete assurance to the effect that the employee in his old age is not left in the lurch.

 

4.      The fifth Central Pay Commission which was set up by the GOI in 1993 to go into the wage structure and pension scheme of the Central Government employees referring to the Judgment of the Supreme Court cited, observed (Para 127.6) that

 

"pension is the statutory, inalienable and legally enforceable right earned by the civil servant by the sweat  of the brow and being so must be fixed, revised, modified and changed in the way not dissimilar to salary granted to serving employees." 

 

5.      The guiding principle adopted in determining of pay package of civil servants is to spread out    the wage compensation over a long period of time whereby wages paid out during the work  tenure is low in order to effect payment of pension on retirement. As such civil service pension  is rightly termed as deferred wage.  While in the organized private sector the employer is   required to contribute equal share to the Provident Fund of the employees, the Government neither contributes to the Provident Fund of the civil servants nor takes any pension  subscription from  him.

 

6.      In an unwarranted intervention in the Statutory defined benefit  Pension system, the IMF in    their work paper (WP/01/125,(2001) propounded the creation of a pension fund by eliciting subscription   from the Wage earners at the earliest stage of their employment so as to fetch an annuity decent enough to sustain him at the old age. In fact it was a suggestion for a retrograde change over from the defined benefit pension scheme to a defined contributory system.   While suggesting so, they have categorically stated that India does not suffer demographic pressure experienced by major countries, for India's population beyond the age of 60 was about 7% in 2004 which rose to 8.6% in 2010 and is estimated at 13.7% in 2030 and 20% in 2050.

 

7.      The New contributory pension scheme enunciated by the Government of India and adopted by most of the State Governments is covered by the PRFDA bill. The bill inter alia, envisages a social security scheme for all who desire to have an annuity at his old age which is voluntary and not mandatory.  However, in the case of Civil Servants, who are recruited to Government service after the prescribed cut -off date ( 1.1.2004 in GOI service) the scheme is mandatory in as much as the employee is bound to subscribe 10% of his emoluments to the Pension Fund and the Govt. being the employer would contributes equal amount.  No employee is entitled to opt out of the scheme.

           

8.      Despite the inability to bring in a valid enactment, the Central and all  State Governments other than those of West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura through illegal executive orders decided to impose the contributory pension system arbitrarily on the Central and State Government employees .While the Govt.  of India notification excluded the personnel in the armed forces and para-military establishments, the Governments of  the Left ruled States of West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura consciously continued with the existing defined benefit pension system.

 

9.      The PRFDA Bill stipulates that there will not be any explicit or implicit assurance of the benefit except market based guarantee.  The subscriber is thus exposed to the following risks at the exit.

a)      If there is a major market shock, the subscriber to the New Pension scheme may end with no ability to purchase an annuity.

b)      Since annuity is and cannot be cost indexed, the real worth of the annuity might fall depending upon the inflationary pressure on the economy.

c)      As per the scheme, the subscriber is to make the choice of investment portfolio.  The Civil Servant being mostly uninformed in finance and investment related matters, he might end up in making wrong choices which would eventually rob him of the old age pension.

d)     The subscriber is perforce to contribute to the charges of the investment managers, whose priority often is as to how much profit they could make through investment of the huge corpus of pension fund in the volatile share market .

 

10.  The pension fund created by the employees' subscription and the employers' contribution which directly flows from the exchequer ( which is nothing but tax revenue of the Govt.) is  made available for the stock market operations which is not only unethical but also blatant diversion of public fund for private  profit, both  Foreign and Indian capitalists.

 

11.  In the case of Civil Servants recruited after the cut-off  date, the new scheme replaces the existing much better "defined benefit" pension scheme. In the process, the Government has created two classes of civil servants viz. the one with a defined benefit pension scheme and the other with the contributory pension scheme in which the employee is to part with 10% of his emoluments to become entitled for an old age social security subject to  the vagaries of share market permits.  Since in both the cases, the pay, allowances, perks, and other benefits, privileges, duties and responsibilities are the same it amounts to wanton discrimination of one against another which is not sustainable in law, rather violative of the existing constitutional provisions.

 

12.  The wage structure presently designed for those who are recruited prior to the cut- off date and after is on the same premise and is depressed to enable the Govt. to meet the pension liability in future.  By imposing the new contributory pension scheme on the employees who are recruited after the cut- off date the Govt. not only denies the statutory defined pension  benefit to them but also compel them to contribute for earning an undefined annuity, which must be characterized as highly discriminatory. 

 

13.  Those who are covered by the contributory pension scheme will become entitled for an annuity, a portion of the accumulated contribution is able to purchase, basing upon the accretion to the fund from the investment.  There is, however, no guaranteed minimum amount of pension for those who are covered by the new scheme, whereas the civil servants covered by the existing scheme do get a defined and guaranteed minimum pension and on his death his family members (wife, widowed and unmarred daughters and unemployed sons below the age of 25) become entitled for family pension.  The discrimination factor is thus compounded.

 

 

14.  The  PFRDA Bill when  enacted, it is rightly feared, will empower the Government to alter or even deny the present employees and pensioners the statutory defined pension benefit as has been done in the case of those who are appointed after the cut-off date.

 

15.   It is stated that the prime objective of the introduction of the contributory pension scheme is to substantially reduce the outflow on account of pension liability.  The major pension liability of Government is accounted for by Armed Defence personnel.  They are however excluded from the purview of the contributory pension scheme.  The personnel in the Para Military forces are also excluded from the ambit of the new Scheme.  While doing so, (no doubt to attract the people to serve in the armed forces for security of the Nation) the Govt. is bound to meet the pension liability from the consolidated fund of India.  The argument advanced by the Govt. to cover the Civil Servants in the ambit of the new Pension scheme has been found to be unsustainable by the study commissioned by the 6th CPC.  Shri S. Chidambaram, Actuary, in his report, (Annexure to "A study of Terminal benefit of Central Government employees by Dt. K. Gayatri, Centre for Economic Studies and policy, Institute for Social and Economic change, Nagarbhavi, Bangalore) has pointed out that the Government liability on account of contributory pension scheme would in effect increase for a period spanning for the next 34 years from the existing Rs. 14,284 Cr. To  Rs. 57,088 Cr. ( 2004-2038) and is likely to taper off only from 2038 onwards.  The exchequer is bound to have an increased outflow for the next 34 years and will be called upon to bear the actual pension liability of defence personnel and personnel of para military forces, besides making the contribution to the Pension fund of the Civil Servants recruited after the cut off date.  The specious plea that the exchequer is bound to gain due to the contributory pension scheme is therefore not borne from facts.

 

16.   Of the present pension liability of the Govt. of India, which  in 2004-05 was 0.51% of the GDP, 0.26% is accounted for by the Defence( which is 50% of the total pension liability.) The study report of the Centre for Economic Studies has concluded that the pension liability as a percentage to GDP which is just 0.5% presently is likely to decline given the growth rate of Indian economy.

 

17.   Since most of the State Governments have chosen to switch over to "contributory pension scheme" , in fairness ( from the Study conducted by the Centre for Economic Studies and policy) it can be concluded that the pension liability of all the State Governments are bound to increase to three times of what it is today by 2038. 

 

18.  The first version of the PFRDA Bill was placed before the Parliament by the NDA Government in 2003.  The 6th CPC set up the Committee to go into the financial implication on account of the increasing number of pensioners and suggest alternative funding methodology in 2006.  The said Committee came to the inescapable conclusion (report submitted in 2007) that "the existing systems of pension are increasingly becoming complicated after the introduction of the New Pension scheme" and warned that "caution has to be exercised in initiating any further reforms"  In the light of the conclusion of the said study report which revealed the fact of serious escalation in the  pension payment outflow,  the rationale of the re-introduction of the PFRDA bill in 2011 covering the civil servants is incomprehensible.  Undoubtedly, the Bill when enacted into law will through the existing pensioners to a financially insecure future and the existing workers to the vagaries of the stock market. We, therefore, earnestly pray to your good-self to bring back all the civil servants including teachers irrespective of the date of entry into Government service as also those irregularly appointed within the ambit of the existing statutory defined pension benefit scheme.  

 

We may, in fine, quoting the concluding paragraph (Page 76 of the report of the Centre for Economic Studies and Policy – Institute for Social and Economic Change) of the Committee set up by the 6th CPC

 

"Mainly given the fact that the future liability although may be large in terms of absolute size is not likely to last very long and does not constitute an alarmingly big share of the GDP which is also on the decline. It appears that pursuing the existing 'Pay as you go' to meet the liability will be an ideal solution."

 

appeal you, for the detailed reasons adduced in the foregoing paragraphs, that the new pension scheme enshrined in the PFRDA Bill  may be withdrawn from the Parliament both in the interest of the Civil Servants and the exchequer.

 

With regards,                                                

Thursday, November 24, 2011

"INSTRUCTIONS AND GUIDELINES ON SENIORITY.

NATIONAL POSTAL POLICY 2012

 

            Postal Policy 2012A meeting is likely on the policy to discuss various dimensions with key stakeholders, next month PTI | November 14 2011..Share..The government has started the exercise to formulate the new National Postal Policy 2012, in order to rejuvenate and bring the postal sector to the centre stage of economic development.

 

            The Department of Post (DoP) will organise a round-table conference next month to discuss various dimensions of the policy with key stakeholders.

 

            "DoP may complete this (discussion) exercise by April, 2012," Minister of Communications and Information Technology Kapil Sibal said, adding that the agenda of the same should be submitted by November 20.

 

            The government said National Postal Policy (NPP) would have clear goals, defined role of various operators in the sector and regulatory mechanism in place.

 

            "The postal sector is a key information medium that contributes to both the economic and social development. In recent years, the postal market place has grown increasingly competitive, complex and essential," Sibal added.

 

            The minister in his communication to the DoP has indicated that the new policy should be in line with market dynamics and postal sector should contribute to social and economic development of the country.

 

            "A comprehensive policy must be compiled to guide and regulate the development, growth and contribution of this sector over the next five to 10 years," Sibal said.

 

            DoP had earlier come up with a National Postal Policy, which is viewed as 'prototype' of the policy, a senior ministry official said.

 

            The policy was written by couple of postal department officers without consultation with the industry, the official added.

 

            The new policy will be framed in consultation with various stakeholders of the Indian postal sector which will include various players in logistics, courier and e-commerce business."NPP'12 will have clear goals in terms of job creation, potential investment, guidelines for postal services and strategic focus area for the sector," the official said.

With over 1.5 lakh post offices India's Department of Post has the one of the largest postal network in the world.

 

            In order to match the rapid growth of the country, DoP is undergoing various radical changes which includes a proposal to convert over 1.5 lakh post offices across the nation into full-fledged banks on the anvil.

 

            The post offices currently offer financial services like savings bank, postal life insurance, pension payments and money transfer services.

GOVERNMENT GIVES NOD FOR 26% FDI IN PENSION FUNDS

          The government is finally going ahead with the 26% foreign direct investment in pension funds and setting up of a regulator for them. The decision — too hot to be handled in the past because of the fierce resistance from the Left — was taken by the cabinet on Wednesday.

            From now on, non-government salaried people will have the choice of saving for old age in pure pension funds, instead of going in for insurance policies decked up as pension schemes.

            The FDI cap, however, has been kept out of the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) Bill — which has been amended to bring in the regulator — as the cap may be changed in future.

            A government spokesperson said, "The government is of the view that the 26% FDI cap is at par with the insurance sector. But it would like to retain the flexibility of changing the cap as and when required."

            The legislation will allow the funds to invest part of their kitties in stock markets for high returns although at perceivable risks —  exactly the point Left leaders were opposed to.

            Subscribers, however, will have the option of choosing from a range of schemes that offer various ranges of returns based on the risk profiles.

            For instance, schemes investing only in government securities can offer as low a return as 2% a year while, going by the trends during the past three years, a corporate bond plan could fetch as high as 25%.

            The proposed legislation, however, does not specify an assured return option despite the parliamentary standing committee on finance, led by BJP leader Yashwant Sinha, had made a strong pitch for it.

            Currently, the pension sector has its own regulator, PFRDA, but it does not have statutory powers. The UPA government, in its first term (2004-09), introduced the PFRDA Bill in July 2005, but it lapsed after the House dissolved in 2009.

            The interim arrangement is functioning since 2003 through an executive order. But it cannot impose penalties. The PFRDA's new pension system (NPS) was introduced and made mandatory for all government recruits, except the armed forces, from January 1, 2004. It was opened to all citizens from May 1, 2009 on voluntary basis.

             As many as 27 state governments have notified and joined the NPS. As of now, the subscriber base in the government sector stands at 1.1 million with the corpus approaching Rs 7,000 crore.

Hindustan Times, New Delhi, November 16, 2011 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

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ACCOMMODATION FOR PARTICIPANTS IN PARLIAMENT MARCH

ON 25TH NOVEMBER-2011

 

1     .ARYA SAMAJ MANDIR – KAROLBAGH, NEW DELHI.

 

2.     SHIV MANDIR, FAIZ ROAD, KAROLBAGH, NEW DELHI.

         (For West Bengal & Odisha Circles)

 

3.     LAXMI NARAYANA DHARMSHALA, CHHAPPAR WALA CHOWK,PYARELAL ROAD,NEAR BANK  STREET , KAROLBAGH , NEW DELHI.

 

4.     CO-OPERATIVE SOCIETY HALL, DELHI GPO COMPOUND.

 

5.     RMS BHAWAN, REST HOUSE, NEAR DELHI GPO.

 

6.     17/4 C P&T QUARTER KALI BARI MARG, NEW DELHI

 

STREAMLINING OF PROCEDURE FOR DISPOSAL OF MEDICAL REIMBURSEMENT CLAIMS (MRCS) IN CGHS.

F. No. S.11024/8/2011/CGHS(P)

Government of India

Ministry of Health and Family Welfare

Department of Health and Family Welfare

Directorate General of C,G.H.S.

Nirman Bhawan, New Delhi

Dated the 14th November, 2011

 

CIRCULAR

SUBJECT : Streamlining of Procedure for disposal of Medical Reimbursement Claims                (MRCs) in CGHS

            The pensioner CGHS beneficiaries and their dependent family members are entitled to get cashless medical treatment In CGHS empanelled private hospitals on a referral by a Government medical specialist / CMO in-charge, after obtaining prior permission from the CMO in-charge of the CGHS Wellness Centre/Dispensary they are attached to. They are however, also entitled to obtain the medical services from any un-empanelled hospital in emergency condition and get reimbursement of medical expenses incurred by themselves or any of their dependent family members. They can file Medical Reimbursement Claims (MRCs) with the respective CGHS Wellness Centres they are attached to- The CMO In charge is expected to scrutinize the claim papers with reference to the prescribed Checklist and forward the same to the Office of AD/ JD in charge of the zone/city. The Office of AD/JD processes the claim and arranges reimbursement of the admissible amount to the pensioner beneficiary at the earliest.

2.         A number of complaints are being received from the pensioner beneficiaries about the slow and tardy pace of disposal of MRC claims by CGHS, Complaints have also been received about the unnecessary harassment of pensioner beneficiaries who are also senior citizens, affecting them mentally and financially, and thereby creating a bad image for CGHS. CGHS is responsible for taking care of healthcare needs and well being of the central government employees and pensioners. It has therefore been decided to lay down a comprehensive procedure to be followed by all concerned in CGHS to ensure timely and hassle free disposal of the MRC claims by CGHS in order to facilitate prompt reimbursement of medical expenses to the pensioner beneficiaries.

3.         The procedure to be followed by CGHS for dealing with MRC cases shall be as follows;

i.          The beneficiary will submit the MRC in the prescribed format with all relevant supporting vouchers/documents in original, to the CMO-I/C of the relevant CGHS Wellness Centre. The CGHS Wellness Centre shall verify and ensure, before accepting the claim papers, that all relevant documents are enclosed as per the prescribed checklist and issue a dated acknowledgement to the claimant in token of receipt of the MRC by CGHS.

ii.         The CGHS Wellness Centre shall forward the MRC papers online to the Office of Zonal AD/JD, CGHS for further processing for reimbursement of claims. The physical papers shall be sent to the office of the AD/JD within one / two days of receipt of claim papers.

iii.        If there are still any deficiencies / gaps found in MRC documents/papers, the Office of AD/JD, shall retain the papers and communicate the list of deficiencies / observations, preferably online, to the CMO-I/C for removing the shortcomings. The MRC may also be returned in original to the CMO- I/C, if it is absolutely necessary for doing the needful to remove the deficiencies in consultation with the beneficiary.

iv.        The CMO-I/C shall contact the beneficiary concerned and inform him about the shortcomings in the MRC papers and request him to submit the requisite information / documents. The CMO I/C shall not return the MRC in original unless it is rejected in total.

v.         The MRCs should be scrutinized and processed by the Office of AD/JD as far as possible through computerized software as per the extant policy and instructions issued from time to time about the CGHS rates and admissibility of claims under CGHS.

vi.        The amount found admissible as per the CGHS guidelines may be passed for payment and forwarded online / manually to the PAO for making payment. The original documents should also be forwarded simultaneously to the PAO for making payment of the admissible amount to the claimant.

vii.       When a bill is sent to the PAO, the details pertaining to the claimant will be entered through computer and the claimant shall be informed of the same along with bill number, amount admissible and details of disallowances clearly indicating the specific reasons / grounds for deductions.

viii.      The Office of AD/ID of the zone / city shall submit a weekly report in Form —'MRC-I' and Monthly Return in Form — 'MRC — II' indicating the details of disposal of MRC cases, to the Office of AD(HQ), CGHS for Delhi & NCR and to the Office of Additional DDG (HQ), CGHS for other than Delhi and NCR CGHS cities.

ix.        A separate analytical statement shall be attached with the Monthly Return in Form-'MRC- II' giving therein, the details of the MRCs pending for 2 months and above, clearly indicating the reasons there for and steps taken to dispose of such cases.

x.         The Office of AD (HQ), CGHS, New Delhi and Office of Addl. DDG (HQ), CGHS shall compile the Monthly returns received from the respective zones and cities and submit a consolidated Monthly Return on MRC cases (Zone-wise/City wise) to the Director, CGHS for monitoring of MRC cases on a monthly basis. A copy of this Monthly Return shall also be endorsed by AD (HQ), CGHS and Addl. DDG (HQ), CGHS to Additional Secretary and Director General, CGHS for his information.

4.         All the CMO — I/C of the CGHS Wellness Centres and the ADs and JDs of the zone /city are herby directed to follow the above procedure religiously in both letter and spirit to ensure speedy and timely disposal of the Medical Reimbursement Claims (MRCs) filed by the pensioner CGHS beneficiaries.

End: Forms – MRC-I & II

sd/-

(L.C.Goyal)

AS&DG (CGHS)

Monday, November 21, 2011

RECRUITMENT RULES POSTAL ASSISTANTS/SORTING ASSISTANTS-2011

          DEPARTMENT OF POSTS HAS NOTIFIED RECRUITMENT RULES, 2011 FOR POSTAL ASSISTANTS AND SORTING ASSISTANTS, THESE HAVE BEEN PUBLISHED IN OFFICIAL GAZETTE ON 3.11.2011.

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE GAZETTE NOTIFICATION 

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE DEPARTMENT LETTER ADDRESSED TO  HEADS OF THE CIRCLE.

GOVERNMENT GIVES NOD FOR 26% FDI IN PENSION FUNDS

          The government is finally going ahead with the 26% foreign direct investment in pension funds and setting up of a regulator for them. The decision — too hot to be handled in the past because of the fierce resistance from the Left — was taken by the cabinet on Wednesday.

            From now on, non-government salaried people will have the choice of saving for old age in pure pension funds, instead of going in for insurance policies decked up as pension schemes.

            The FDI cap, however, has been kept out of the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) Bill — which has been amended to bring in the regulator — as the cap may be changed in future.

            A government spokesperson said, "The government is of the view that the 26% FDI cap is at par with the insurance sector. But it would like to retain the flexibility of changing the cap as and when required."

            The legislation will allow the funds to invest part of their kitties in stock markets for high returns although at perceivable risks —  exactly the point Left leaders were opposed to.

            Subscribers, however, will have the option of choosing from a range of schemes that offer various ranges of returns based on the risk profiles.

            For instance, schemes investing only in government securities can offer as low a return as 2% a year while, going by the trends during the past three years, a corporate bond plan could fetch as high as 25%.

            The proposed legislation, however, does not specify an assured return option despite the parliamentary standing committee on finance, led by BJP leader Yashwant Sinha, had made a strong pitch for it.

            Currently, the pension sector has its own regulator, PFRDA, but it does not have statutory powers. The UPA government, in its first term (2004-09), introduced the PFRDA Bill in July 2005, but it lapsed after the House dissolved in 2009.

            The interim arrangement is functioning since 2003 through an executive order. But it cannot impose penalties. The PFRDA's new pension system (NPS) was introduced and made mandatory for all government recruits, except the armed forces, from January 1, 2004. It was opened to all citizens from May 1, 2009 on voluntary basis.

             As many as 27 state governments have notified and joined the NPS. As of now, the subscriber base in the government sector stands at 1.1 million with the corpus approaching Rs 7,000 crore.

Hindustan Times, New Delhi, November 16, 2011