NewDelhi/Nagpur: Hari Ram saw combat in both the 1965 and 1971 wars against Pakistan. When he joined the Army as a Sipahi, he would make just about the same wage as a day-labourer – Rs. 60 a month.
“But I joined for the love of the Army,” the retired soldier, now in his seventies, says.
Hari Ram’s pension till date was a meagre Rs. 3,500 per month. He is hoping after today’s announcement of the One Rank One Pension scheme, his pension will jump by roughly Rs. 4,000.
But he hasn’t started celebrating just yet. “I’ll wait to see what will finally come to me. There is nothing on paper yet,” he says.
Havaldar Attar Singh also fought in the 1971 war but when he lost his father in 1991, he was forced to leave the Army to take care of his family back home. His basic salary then was only Rs. 1,250. “I had no option when I left the Army, no job opportunity and a dependent family. If we are left out because we retired prematurely from the army, where would that leave us today,” he asks.
With pension and allowance hike included under the new plan, he is expected to take home close to Rs. 17,000 per month.
But there is still confusion over whether the premature retirement rule would keep them out of the new benefits, they say. The veterans are still waiting to understand the fine print of the government’s new rules, which, according to sources will protect those who sought voluntary retirement in the past. Those retiring now however may no longer get this benefit.
Retired subedar Sube Singh says, “We can’t even go back home with so much confusion. Our families will wonder what we have been doing for 80-odd days only to return empty handed.”
The veterans say the One rank One Pension or OROP announcement has led to more confusion on who will be included or left out – reason why nearly three-month-long agitation continues at Jantar Mantar.