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, due to 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 the Finance Ministry’s 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, quick actions.
Mounting pressure on the government ahead of Independence Day, 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”. While expectations are high among ex-servicemen of an announcement on the issue by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Independence Day, Finance Ministry sources told that consultations so far have not been conclusive and discussions are still on.
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. While inaugurating a top defence accounts dept controllers meet on 30 April 2015, he asked the MoD officials to be prepared to implement OROP orders shortly. There are unsatisfied elements and opposition party sympathasiers in ESM, as veterans are called in India, community who sledge the government as well as Defence minister for delay in implementation of the scheme.
The protest comes after talks — both formal and back-channel — with the government failed as the ex-servicemen were not given a specific timeline for the implementation of the long-pending OROP. Earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his government was committed to implement the One Rank One Pension (OROP) scheme for ex-servicemen, but sought time to resolve its complexities. Attacking the previous governments for “playing politics” over the issue for the past 40 years, he said OROP was “a complex issue”, but BJP made it even more complicated.
OROP has been a long-standing demand of over two million ex-servicemen of India. The ex-servicemen maintained that they were not against any government but were protesting to get their long-pending dues. Interestingly, some farmers’ groups and students from Delhi University and Jawaharlal Nehru University also joined the protests.
Close to 22 lakh ex-servicemen and over six lakh war widows stand to be the immediate beneficiaries of the scheme. OROP file was with the Finance Ministry for a final budgetary approval. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has repeatedly said that the government has completed all formalities and OROP will be implemented soon. In a bid to step up pressure on the Modi government for the implementation of One Rank One Pension scheme, ex-servicemen have signed a petition in blood and will hand it to President Pranab Mukherjee and the Prime Minister. Let’s hope that BJP will act on what they say.