The issue of ‘One Rank One Pension’ (OROP) is bordering a deadlock with protesting ex-servicemen now accusing the BJP-led central government of “constantly shifting goalpost”. The group of war veterans sitting on the strike, with some of them on a fast-unto-death, in the National Capital claimed on Thursday that the Union government is not coming out with any “concrete proposal” to resolve the issue.
“Where do we go for negotiations? People from the government offer one thing and the next day another person comes up with another statement. They are constantly shifting goalpost. There is no clear signal of intent from the government or any concrete proposal,” said Col (Retd) Anil Kaul, media adviser to the United Front of Ex-Servicemen.
The veterans also complained that some sections in the government were also giving misleading figures about financial ramifications in implementing the scheme.
“We are not asking for three per cent increment. This is a misnomer being floated,” Col (Retd) Kaul added in a press conference at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi.
For the last 81 days, the group of ex-servicemen demanding the quick implementation of OROP have been sitting on a relay hunger strike at Jantar Mantar, with twelve of them opting for the fast-unto-death. Due to the dip in their health some of the veterans have been hospitalised as well.
In their presser, the group also claimed that the cost of implementing OROP will come to around Rs 8,294 crore which was worked out by the three service pay cells as estimated by the Ministry of Defence.
“Why is there ambiguity now? Something must be wrong somewhere… Our basic demand is that no junior should draw more pension than his senior,” an ex-soldier on protest sought to know from the press pack present at Jantar Mantar.
The emotive issue of OROP, whose implementation has been promised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself, has been stuck for a while despite hectic back channel talks between the government and the veterans. Earlier, many ex-chief of the three services had even separately written to the President and the Prime Minister seeking their direct intervention to resolve the issue.
Among the reasons for a deadlock is the ‘base year’ for working out the pension amounts. While the veterans have been insisting on pegging the base year at 2013-14 with April 1, 2014 as an implementation date, the Central government had initially wanted the pay-out date be pushed forward from April 1, 2014 to April 1, 2015. But proposal was rejected by the veterans. Whereas, in subsequent talks, the government had pushed the payout date from April 1, 2014 to September 1, 2014, the veterans alleged.
They also added that the government had sent seven mediators to talk to them but all had come with “different concessions”.
The issue of OROP assumes significant proportions as it was one of the key agendas of the BJP and PM Narendra Modi during 2014 Lok Sabha polls campaign. And with the issue nearing a deadlock, BJP-led central government seems to have a limited time window.
“We are not taking a political stand. But we will urge people to vote for a party which will fulfil their promises,” Captain V K Gandhi (Retd), general secretary of Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement said as the veterans claimed to take their protest in the poll-bound state of Bihar.
(With inputs from the PTI)