There has been no let up on the One Rank One Pension (OROP) issue. With no solution in sight, the agitation has now entered its 76th day.
On Saturday another veteran who was on a relay hunger strike was rushed to an Army hospital after his health deteriorated.
“Havildar Abhilash Singh has been taken to hospital. He was on relay hunger strike,” said an official from the United Front of Ex-Servicemen, the umbrella group leading the campaign.
Ex-servicemen have been protesting at Jantar Mantar in Delhi, staging an indefinite fast, for the early implementation of OROP.
There have been several rounds of talks between the government and the protesting veterans. All of these have failed. Several back channel talks on the issue have also “not moved forward”. Representatives of the ex-servicemen met the Army Chief Dalbir Suhag on Thursday but the stalemate remained.
“We met the Army chief but there has been no forward movement. We are firm on our stand that the base year has to be 2013-14 and that payment should begin from April 1, 2014. OROP should not be left to the 7th Pay Commission and the definition has to be the same as accepted by the Parliament,” said Maj Gen Satbir Singh (Retd), Chairman of the Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement on Thursday evening.
The government wants 2011 to be the base year and do not agree to an increase of three per cent every year. It also wants payment to begin from April 1, 2015, which has been rejected by the veterans. The government has also come out and said it was fully committed to OROP and was in the process of finalisation. In fact in his Independence Day speech, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the Centre agrees OROP “in principle” and is working on the issue.
About 8 ex-servicemen are on a fast unto death. In fact, many of them had to be shifted to the hospital as their health deteriorated. On Thursday, 2 more veterans Major Piar Chand and Hav Sahib Singh were rushed to the Army hospital after the doctor adviced.
Apart from those on fast-unto-death, the group of ex-servicemen have been observing a relay hunger strike for about 76 days now. As a mark of solidarity, some families of the ex-servicemen have also joined them on the hunger strike.
Close to 22 lakh retired servicemen and over six lakh war widows stand to be immediate beneficiaries of the scheme, which envisages a uniform pension for the defence personnel who retire in the same rank with the same length of service, irrespective of their date of retirement. Currently, the pension for retired personnel is based on the Pay Commission recommendations of the time when they retired. So, in effect, a Major General who retired in 1996 draws less pension than a Lieutenant Colonel who retired after 1996.
(With inputs from PTI)