Dissatisfied with the form in which One Rank One Pension (OROP) policy has been rolled out, several war veterans began returning their medals in New Delhi, thereby intensifying their agitation in the process. On Monday, the agitating ex-servicemen had announced their plans to return medals they had won while in service, claiming they are not willing to accept the OROP in the present form as there are some provisions, which has complicated the issue even further.
Assembling at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in the national capital on Tuesday, many striking veterans returned their medals to the local District Commissioner seeking its safe custody.
“We have one and only demand and that is OROP. It was the government who inserted provisions that has made the issue complicated. We want OROP as per the definition. No junior should get more pension than his senior…. In protest against the government notification, we will start returning our medals,” Group Captain V K Gandhi (retd), general secretary of Indian Ex-servicemen Movement (IESM), had told the press on Monday.
BJP-led Union government had on Saturday formally notified the OROP scheme saying it will benefit over 24 lakh ex-servicemen and six lakh war widows in the country. But the notification was rejected by the protesting ex-servicemen.
In his immediate reaction to the notification, Maj Gen (Retd) Satbir Singh, Chairman of Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement spearheading the protest, said “the notification will not be acceptable to the rank and file. It is not One-Rank-One- Pension but One-Rank-Five-Pension”.
Meanwhile, Union Defense minister Manohar Parrikar defended the OROP notification saying “not all demands can be fulfilled”. Emphasising that “maximum” demands of the veterans have been fulfilled, Parrikar remarked that behaviour of protesting ex-servicemen is “unlike that of a soldier”.
“This is unlike a soldier. Whoever are still protesting despite the announcement are being misguided,” Mr. Parrikar said while briefing the press in Goa on Tuesday adding OROP decision is Modi government’s one of the biggest achievements in the last one year. PM Modi had promised the implementation of OROP while campaigning as BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate during the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
Claiming he was “pained” to see such tactics being used, Parrikar questioned the protest saying, “Medals are given by the country for the service and gallantry acts that the soldiers have rendered. A section insisting on returning the medals because one is not happy with certain clauses of OROP, for which the government is paying over Rs 8,000 crore, is demeaning the medal itself.”
The Union Defense minister also stressed that if there are any grievances, the ex-servicemen can present their case to the judicial commission that will be set up for this purpose.
In its November 7 notification, which cleared the roll out of the long standing demands of the ex-servicemen, the Centre had dropped the contentious proposal to exclude ex-servicemen who had sought premature retirement from the ambit of OROP.
However, those armed forces personnel who opt to get discharged on their request would henceforth not get OROP benefits.
The notification was almost similar to the announcement made by Defence Minister Parrikar on September 5. To begin with, pension would be re-fixed on the basis of pension of retirees of calendar year 2013 and the benefit will be effective with effect from July 1, 2014. On the other hand, the veterans had demanded that the period for pension should be financial year 2013-14 and not the calender year. Also, they wanted April 1 as the effective date instead of July 1.
The notification said that in future, the pension would be re-fixed every 5 years. However, ex-servicemen had been demanding revision of pension every two years, if not one.
(With inputs from the PTI)