Opposition attacks Kerala CM over suicides of pensioners
Thiruvananthapuram: The opposition in the Kerala Assembly on Tuesday attacked the Pinarayi Vijayan government over the delay in pension to former employees of the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC), which has seen 10 suicides in the past 20 months.
The Congress-led opposition pointed out that the beleaguered pensioners of the state-owned corporation numbering 39,045 have not been paid for the past five months.
Chief Minister Vijayan told the House that the KSRTC is going through tough times financially and has an accumulated loss of Rs 7,966 crore.
"While in office, the Congress-led UDF did not do anything. This government is trying its best to undertake a revamp of the corporation in a phased manner and is confident of financial improvement after implementing the recommendations made by Sushil Khanna (IIM-Calcutta faculty)," said Vijayan.
Seeking leave for motion, former Transport Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan reminded Vijayan of the promises he made ahead of the assembly elections including that they will ensure the pension is paid on time.
"During our time (2011-16) when pension payments were delayed by a month, you created a furore.
"You promised in your election manifesto that there would be no arrear in pension payment, but it has fallen flat. In the past 20 months, since you assumed office, 10 former KSRTC employees or their kith or kin have committed suicide," said Radhakrishnan.
He also said that it is surprising to hear from Vijayan that they are going to implement the recommendations by Khanna who has asked for the sale of the fixed assets of KSRTC to the tune of Rs 915 crore and has also recommended raising the retirement age to 60 years.
"We wish to know if you are going to accept these recommendations which are against your ideology. We wish to know when the Budget for the next fiscal is presented in a few days from now, will you ensure that appropriate Budget provisions for payment of pension are included in it.
"When we were in office we had a proper system but you revamped that and now pension has not been paid for five months," he said.
Vijayan said their policy and ideology will not be compromised.
"We have almost come to an understanding with a consortium of banks, led by State Bank of India, that have agreed to provide a fresh loan of Rs 3,250 crore by restructuring existing loans to the KSRTC by revising its interest rate.
"Once that is done, we are certain that all issues will be sorted out and we expect that the KSRTC will be able to meet the payment of pensions from its own generated funds," said Vijayan.
Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala said the biggest problem the KSRTC faces is this is the third minister who is handling this portfolio.
"Today it's handled by Vijayan who is otherwise burdened with 32 different departments, the highest by any Chief Minister in the country, and hence he has neither time nor interest to look into the affairs of the KSRTC.
"The pensioners have been protesting before the State Secretariat for a month and Finance Minister Thomas Issac is absent today as he knows he will be taken to task," said Chennithala.
In a related development, the Kerala High Court on Tuesday directed the KSRTC authorities to see that the financial position is not an excuse to not pay the pension as these former employees worked hard when they were in service, and pension is their right.