Finally, the differences have cropped up in the United Front of Ex-Servicemen. Many ex-servicemen wants Major General (retired) Satbir Singh, Chairman of Indian Ex-servicemen Movement, to be reasonable and consider others also. Most of the ex-servicemen leaders are accepting the government proposal of revising pension every five years as their worry is 7th pay commission.
War veteran Major General (retired) Singh, who has been leading the protest in Jantar Mantar for the last 80 days, said they were getting positive signals from the government from the last few days but stopped short of saying there was a breakthrough. Earlier in the day, in the three-day coordination meeting between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) OROP was an important issue. RSS has asked the BJP to resolve the OROP issue. Manohar Parrikar briefed the representatives of the RSS on the issue, and that’s how it might be announced ahead of Bihar elections.
Meanwhile, the protestors are willing to accept two years relaxation as normalisation period but they will not accept revision in 5 years. This will defeat the purpose of OROP. They will continue with agitation if it’s 5 years. He said the issue was non-negotiable and both the elements of the OROP concept cannot be interfered. An agreement can be reached once we know what is on the platter (offer by the government), he said, adding effective date of revision must be from April 1, 2014. Independent MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar, who has been mediating on the issue, said it was time veterans must return home with honour and grace by reaching an early settlement. He urged them to accept the revision of pension every three years.
Not in the best of health yet undeterred, Colonel (retired) Pushpendra Singh resumed his fast-unto-death demanding prompt implementation of One Rank, One Pension scheme at Jantar Mantar hours after he was discharged from an Army hospital. Singh, one of the ex-servicemen fasting in demand of the immediate implementation of the OROP scheme, was hospitalised last week- the ninth day of his fast after his medical report showed increased ketone levels.
Singh was admitted to the ICU of Army Hospital Research and Referral, from where he was discharged on Thursday. Hours later, he returned to the protest site to join his fellow ex-servicemen, whose agitation entered the 81st day.
Rs. 8300 crore is very much affordable amount and 30 per cent increase in every 10 years again can be borne by the government. It is the babus who have planted stories. India afforded OROP as per 1973 when we were poor; India is growing 8 per cent for next 30 years. Another thing, when babus granted themselves OROP, no one commented that India will become bankrupt. Babus have virtually forced public debate on veterans OROP.
In the eighth installment of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Mann Ki Baat’ radio talk, he had assured ex-servicemen that his government would soon resolve the OROP issue. The agitation by ex-Army personnel comes two weeks after PM Narendra Modi repeats his assurance to execute the OROP in the eighth episode of his radio programme “Mann Ki Baat”. However, the delay in the implementation of the One Rank, One Pension (OROP) policy, ex-servicemen held protests across the country, demanding its immediate introduction. The pension issue for ex-service men is very crucial and government needs to understand that just by speaking on radio or television the issue of their lives will not be resolved. All ex-servicemen always worked hard for the country at least they should not be forgotten. One year is too long time to implement such a simple thing particularly when the Defence Minister said that he had worked out all the details and are ready but needs a Finance Ministry nod. However, the civil servants applied the veto exposing the political leadership as weak and untrustworthy.
It is extremely painful to see that politics is being played out on such an important issue and Prime Minister Modi as usual promising things but hardly implementing anything. Can’t we look after our veterans, who put their life for the safety of our nation? We are not doing any favour to them by giving adequate pension. It is an opportunity to do something for their selfless service to the nation. Present government must take this issue with utmost seriousness and sincerity. It is actually shameful for us that the policy is being delayed because of the issue of funding. In country where lakhs and crores of rupees scams happened, this urgent policy, which require around eight thousand crore, had to be delayed for decades, citing the lack of funds. Now the new government has to understand the need of the hour and take necessary and quick actions.
Mounting pressure on the government ahead, four former service chiefs in an “open letter” sought intervention of the President for early implementation of the One Rank One Pension (OROP) to avoid the situation “getting out of hand”.
One Rank, One Pension is an old demand of Indian military personnel. The term means armed forces personnel holding the same rank and same length of service will get the same pension, regardless of the last drawn pay. The Indian government accepted the demand in 2014. In its July 2014 Budget, Government of India allocated Rs. 1000 crore for this scheme. Due to some technical calculations and interpretations to be concluded by the related ministry, there was a delay in the implementation of the scheme in 2014. Recent meetings have been on the positive note indicating that the scheme will be implemented before the approval of budget of India 2015-16. Due to a fear that civilian retired employees of central government may also demand OROP, the Defence Minister decided to rename the Defence pensions as military pension which could not possibly be claimed by civilians. OROP has been a long-standing demand of over two million ex-servicemen of India. It seeks to ensure that a uniform pension for the Defence personnel retiring in the same rank with the same length of service, irrespective of their date of retirement. The ex-servicemen maintained that they were not against any government but were protesting to get their long-pending dues. May be the mounting pressure from all sides and Bihar elections, somewhere BJP is forced to announce OROP and deliver it in given time.