Even as India celebrates 50 years of victory in the 1965 India-Pakistan war, there has been no headway in the standoff between the government and the protesting ex-servicemen over One Rank One Pension (OROP).
August 28, 1965 was the day that India captured the crucial Haji Pir Pass but Indian veterans are boycotting these celebrations.
Heavy back channel talks continued on the issue and representatives of the ex-servicemen who are staging an indefinite fast at Jantar Mantar met the Army Chief Dalbir Suhag on Thursday evening. It was a fresh bid by the government to end the stalemate but there was “no forward movement” in the talks.
“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.
The government wants 2011 to be the base year and do not agree to an annual increase of three per cent. 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 finalising it. 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.
“It is not possible to give a time frame to OROP,” reiterated Defence Manohar Parrikar on Friday morning.
About 8 ex-servicemen are on a fast unto death. In fact, many of them had to be shifted to a 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 more than two months over the delay in implementation of OROP.
As a mark of solidarity, some families of the ex-servicemen have also joined them on the hunger strike.
“We at Jantar Mantar feel very positive each day and are convinced that the mission OROP will be successful,” a statement released by the United Front of Ex-Servicemen said.
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.
However, there were speculations that the government might relent and given in to the ex-servicemen’s demands on August 28, which is the golden jubilee anniversary of 1965 war with Pakistan.
(With inputs from PTI)