Row Over Manis Stand On Pension Age
Finance Minister K.M. Maniís statement that it may not be out of place to peg the retirement age of new entrants in State service at 60 years once the contributory pension scheme proposed by the government became operational has kicked up a row.
Mr. Maniís statement, made in the course of his reply to the debate on the Kerala Appropriation Bill in the Assembly on Monday, was quickly picked up by youth organisations such as the DYFI, Youth Congress, Muslim Youth League, AIYF, and RYF, owing allegiance to both the ruling and Opposition alliances, to raise the spectre of a massive agitation if the government went ahead with the Ministerís plans. While the youth organisations called the proposal a blow to the jobless youth in the State, Leader of the Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan found in it a challenge to the people of Kerala.
Faced with a sharp reaction, Mr. Mani himself came up with a clarification later in the evening to the effect that no decision had been taken to raise the pension age of State employees. No discussion had taken place on the subject. He had only stated that in many States where the contributory pension scheme had been implemented, the retirement age had been raised to 60 years. This did not mean that the same would be done in Kerala. The government would not take any step that would hurt the job prospects of the youth. Discussions would be held with youth organisations before any policy decision was taken, the Minister was quoted by a press note issued by his office.
However, earlier in the day, DYFI State secretary T.V. Rajesh and Youth Congress State president P.C. Vishnunath came out sharply against the Finance Ministerís proposal at press conferences convened by them. Mr. Mani himself came up with the clarification after Chief Minister Oommen Chandy sought to douse the flames of discontent by stating that no decision on raising the pension age had been taken.