NewDelhi/Nagpur: With hopes of achieving a breakthrough, former military servicemen met Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and Army Chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag on Saturday over the delay in implementation of ‘One Rank One Pension’ scheme. However, Parrikar’s first meeting with ex-servicemen has been inconclusive.
Seeking an intervention, the ex-servicemen have written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking for the implementation of OROP as soon as possible. While the government has said that it is in favour of the scheme, it is unwilling to commit to a timeline.
“The meeting remains inconclusive. We will continue with our agitation. There is no confusion in the definition of One Rank One Pension,” Major General (retired) Satbir Singh said. The second round of talks between the ex-servicemen, the Defence Minister and the Army Chief will take place later in the day.
Earlier, officials from the Finance and Defence Ministry met to finalise the budget for the scheme. PM Modi was expected to announce the scheme at a mega rally in Mathura which was organised in May to celebrate the government’s first anniversary.
Outraged ex-servicemen have been up in arms since no announcement was made on the scheme.
A group of ex-servicemen has decided to go on relay-hunger strike from June 15 demanding implementation of the scheme, notwithstanding an appeal from the Army Chief to postpone it.
One Rank One Pension scheme has been a long-standing demand of nearly 3 million ex-servicemen in the country. It seeks to ensure that a uniform pension is paid to defence personnel who retire at the same rank with the same length of service, irrespective of their date of retirement.
Vowing to address the “vexed” issue of OROP, Modi had on May 31 sought “some time” from the ex-servicemen. Modi said the issue is not as simple as he had thought but much more “vexed” as “problems” have been added to it over the years.
Five years ago several veterans returned 20,000 medals to the government to protest lack of progress in the OROP promise. The ex-servicemen’s community is still anxiously waiting for the demand to be fulfilled.
The implementation of OROP is coupled with several problems. The problem of pension disparity started after the Third Pay Commission in 1973. It created a situation where a Major in the Indian Army and equivalent ranks in the Indian Navy and Indian Air Force who retired before 1996 gets 53% lesser pension than a Major who retired in 2006.
Before Lok Sabha elections the then Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government allocated Rs 500 crore for OROP and when BJP-led National Democratic Alliance came to power it increased the allocation to Rs 1000 crore.
But the actual financial requirement is much much more, almost to the tune of Rs 8300 crore. With arrears from April 2014, this figure would be around Rs 20,000 crore.
Meanwhile, the demand for giving similar benefits to paramilitary forces is also being raised. It will be a tight rope walk for Modi who wants to keep the revenue expenditure under check.