The issue of ‘One Rank One Pension’ (OROP) has got the Union government seemingly wary. Amid the reports of “good news” soon on the implementation of OROP, the Prime Minister on Wednesday held consultations with his key cabinet ministers, though the government sources maintain that consultations were held on the “overall situation” in the country arising out of politically charged issues including OROP and quota protests in Gujarat.
The meeting was attended by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Finance Minister Arun Jaitely, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu and Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari. It is understood that issue of OROP was deliberated where the BJP-led union government is facing angry protests by veteran soldiers who are demanding the pension criteria, an election promise made by PM Modi himself during 2014 election rally.
On the other front, the deadlock over the issue persisted with the protesting ex-servicemen rejecting the government’s formula on Wednesday. Army chief Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag had on Wednesday night held a two-hour long meeting with representatives of ex-servicemen.
“Government is hell bent on short changing. There are only three points of contention,” a key functionary of the ex-servicemen community told the press.
According to him, the government wants 2011 to be the base year besides no three per cent annual increase. He also added that government also wants payment to begin from April 1, 2015 as against the agreed date of April 1, 2014.
“We have rejected the proposal. Escalation of our protest in expected. The complicated arithmetic will mean reduced payout,” he said.
Government sources indicated that in the wake of differences persisting, it may take some more time before a final resolution is found. Speculations, however, were rife that the government might announce OROP on August 28, the 50th anniversary of 1965 war with Pakistan.
Even as the resolution of issue still remains under the cloud of speculations, a key minister in Modi government, former Army Chief V K Singh claimed that he has firm faith in Prime Minister Narendra Modi who had taken a pledge to implement ‘One Rank, One Pension’ scheme for ex-servicemen. The Union MoS Foreign Affairs was speaking at a public event in Bhondsi village near Delhi, where he unveiled a statue of an army martyr Kumarpal Singh.
While in the capital at Jantar Mantar, nerve-centre of ex-servicemen’s rigorous protest demanding the quick implementation of OROP, two more veterans joined fast-unto-death on Wednesday.
Navy commander (Retd) AK Sharma and Sanwal Ram Yadav, father of martyr Lance Naik Sunil Kumar Yadav joined their six colleagues who are already on the fast-unto-death. While, two of them Col (Retd) Pushpendra Singh and Havildar (Retd) Ashok Chauhan have been hospitalised after a dip in their health, 4 others remain steadfast on their hunger strike including Havildar (Retd) Major Singh who is continuing even after been pressed hard by his colleagues and family to go for medication.
Apart from those on fast-unto-death, the group of ex-servicemen have been observing a relay hunger strike for more than two months over the delay in implementation of what is now turning into an emotive subject for several veteran soldiers.
The disappointment among the former soldiers rose further after the Prime Minister kept away from announcing the date of the implementation of the OROP during his Independence Day address. PM Modi though assured the war veterans that his government has accepted the policy of OROP “in principal”. Reacting to no announcement by the Prime Minister, the veterans began their fast-unto-death from 17th August.
Earlier, former chiefs of the three armed forces had even written to the President and Prime Minister seeking their intervention.
(With inputs from the agencies)