OROP now a reality but ex-servicemen still unhappy

Rajat Kain

Parrikar-ArmyThe policy of ‘One Rank One Pension’ (OROP) for the armed forces is now a reality. Narendra Modi government rolled out the OROP policy on Saturday afternoon in New Delhi. But the emotional issue for the scores of war veterans and ex-servicemen seems to be away from a complete closure as the striking veterans have rejected many of the provisions, even though they welcomed the government rolling out the OROP policy. The striking veterans, though, called off their hunger strike at Jantar Mantar, they have announced that their agitation will go on.

The issue, which has been lingering for over 40 years now, got headway on Saturday afternoon with Union Defence minister Manohar Parrikar making an announcement.

“Despite huge financial burden, govt has taken a decision to implement OROP. OROP will be implemented from July 1, 2014 and the base year would be 2013,” Union Defence Minister Parrikar said holding a presser at the South Block in New Delhi.

“Government took some time to fulfil its OROP promise, the expenditure in arrears alone would cost around Rs 10,000-12,000 crore,” the Defence minister added.

Among the provisions announced by the government, the principal of OROP will not be applicable on the defence personnel taking a voluntary retirement and the pension of ex-servicemen will be revised every five years. But the sources in Defence ministry claimed that those personnel who had to take the VRS due to “injuries” will be protected under the policy. In another provision, a single-judge committee will be set up to look at the issue of pension equalisation, Defence Minister Parrikar said.

But soon after the BJP-led NDA government made announcement on one its key poll promise, the group of ex-servicemen, sitting on a strike at Jantar Mantar for the last 83 days, expressed their disappointment, rejecting several of the OROP provisions rolled-out by the government.

“Veterans will not withdraw their agitation . . . . We reject the government decision for revision of pension every five years… According to us, government has only accepted one of our demands and rejected six,” Maj Gen (Retd) Satbir Singh, Chairman of Indian Ex-Servicemen movement said.

OROP-India-Gate“We don’t accept the decision not to give OROP benefits to those who have taken voluntary retirement … We also disapprove of setting up of one-member judicial committee. It should be under Defence minister and not given more than one month,” Maj Gen (Retd) Singh added.

The emotional issue of OROP has seen several developments associated with it over the past few weeks. Even as the hectic negotiations were going on between the representatives of the Central government and ex-servicemen, some of the striking veterans sat on the fast-unto-death pressing government to accept their demands. Earlier, several ex-Chiefs of the three services had even separately written to the President and the Prime Minister seeking their direct intervention to resolve the issue.

Now, with the policy of OROP becoming a reality but differences still persisting over the announced provisions, the contours of the next step to be taken by the striking veterans will only be seen in the days to come. Perhaps the striking veterans at Jantar Mantar may have already lent some hints.

“Agitating ex-servicemen to decide future course of action in response to defence ministry announcement shortly,” Maj Gen (Retd) Dalbir Singh said at Jantar Mantar.

(With inputs from the PTI)