Ex-servicemen are clearly upset with the NDA government over the delay in the implementation of the ‘One Rank One Pension’ (OROP) policy. After staging their countrywide protest on Sunday morning, they have now started a relay hunger strike in the heart of national capital New Delhi. Strongly demanding that the central government announce a date of delivering on their long standing demand, the group will continue to sit on relay hunger strike in batches. On Monday, a group of 55 ex-servicemen from Jalandhar district started the hunger strike at Jantar Mantar.
On Sunday, hundreds of ex-servicemen had gathered at the same venue seeking President Pranab Mukherjee’s intervention on their behalf. The issue of OROP was raised by the BJP during the campaigning for 2014 general polls. The party had then promised to implement the policy soon after coming to the power. But the policy is yet to be implemented.
The relay strike after the protest has comes after their talks with the Union government, both at the formal level and at the back-channel, failed to resolve the stalemate. The ex-servicemen claimed they were dissatisfied for not given a specific timeline for the implementation of the long-pending OROP.
Meanwhile, Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has assured the ex-servicemen that their long pending demand will be met for sure. However, the Union Minister sought more time and asked them to be “patient”. He further claimed that Defence Ministry has completed all formalities and OROP will be implemented soon.
Manohar Parrikar had earlier faced a protest over the issue after the function he presided over was boycotted by two prominent war heroes. The function to honour the war heroes was held in Pune earlier this month.
Ever since then, the issue has assumed larger proportions.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi has assured us that it will be implemented, but it has been one year,” said Col. (retd) Anil Kaul, the media advisor to Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement (IESM).
Maj. Gen. (retd) Satbir Singh, vice-chairman of IESM, told the media that the protests will continue till the time OROP is not implemented.
The group ex-servicemen, however, maintained that they are not against any government in particular but are protesting to get their long-pending dues.
The opposition Congress party too criticised the Central government strongly over not living up to its own poll promise.
“During (2014 Lok Sabha) poll campaign, they asserted they will allow One Rank, One Pension. But what happened now? In his radio programme Mann Ki Baat he says he will do it. Do it, but when? The ex-servicemen today find themselves cheated,” Congress spokesperson PL Punia alleged.
Earlier in his eighth installment of ‘Mann Ki Baat’ radio talk, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had assured ex-servicemen that his government would soon resolve the OROP issue.
The policy of OROP, if implemented, will enable a uniform pension for the defence personnel retiring in the same rank with the same length of service, irrespective of their date of retirement. Close to 22 lakh ex-servicemen and over six lakh war widows stand to be the immediate beneficiaries of the scheme.
Currently, the pension for retired personnel is based on the Pay Commission recommendations of the time when he or she retired. So, a Major General who retired in 1996 draws a lower pension than a Lieutenant Colonel who retired after 1996.