The failure of the NDA government to implement the longstanding demand for one rank, one pension (OROP) in its first year has fanned deep resentment among ex-servicemen who have now decided to boycott official functions, hold rallies and go on hunger strikes in protest.
On Thursday, a 1971 war hero declined to attend a function in Pune where defence minister Manohar Parrikar and Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis were to felicitate him. Wing Commander SD Karnik (retd) decided to boycott the function as there was “no action, talk only” by the government on OROP.
The pension scheme is aimed at ensuring that retired soldiers of the same rank and the same length of service receive the same pension, irrespective of their date of retirement. The initial corpus of the scheme is estimated to around Rs 8,300 crore.
Various ex-servicemen groups were hoping that Prime Minister Modi would make an announcement about the implementation of OROP on May 25 during a rally in Mathura to mark the government’s first year in office. The OROP is expected to benefit close to 3 million defence pensioners.
Major General Satbir Singh (retd), who heads the Indian Ex-servicemen Movement, said, “We will do all we can to lodge our protest over the non-implementation of the OROP despite the PM’s and defence minister’s assurances. We are planning to hold a big rally in Delhi on June 14 followed by hunger strikes across the country.”
Navy chief Admiral Robin Dhowan asked veterans to be patient, stressing that the government was seized of the matter. Currently, all pre-2006 (the year the 6th pay panel report became effective) pensioners receive lesser pension than not only their counterparts but also their juniors. For instance, a major general who retired in 1995 draws a basic pension of Rs 30,350 but an officer retiring in the same rank after 2006 gets Rs 38,500.
Similarly, a colonel who retired in 2003 gets Rs 26,150, compared to Rs 34,000 drawn by a colonel who retired this year. The implementation of the scheme is expected to benefit 600,000 widows. Decorated veterans have in the past returned their medals, gone on hunger strikes and signed petitions in blood to draw the government’s attention to the OROP issue.
The UPA government had in 2009 declared that it had earmarked Rs 2,200 crore annually to improve the pension of jawans, a step it described as partial implementation of the OROP that had benefitted 1.2 million pensioners.
The OROP proposal was stuck as the defence ministry had to iron out some complex administrative and financial issues. The sticking points in its implementation have been resolved by the defence ministry and the matter is currently being scrutinised by the finance ministry.