Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Why is 'One Rank One Pension' scheme still on papers? ask ex-servicemen
Now employed as a security guard in a government bank, Harwinder Singh, retired from the armed forces in 2008. Sharing his predicament, Harwinder confesses that he does not want his children to serve the nation as army men. “I have been forced to take up a job after retirement to sustain my family because the pension that ex-servicemen receive is too less to manage our expenses. I will never let my children work in army until heavy reforms are introduced to improve the deplorable condition of jawans, who fight and sacrifice their lives for the nation.”
Echoing the concern of many ex-servicemen like Harwinder, members of National Ex- Servicemen Co-ordination Committee (an apex body of ex servicemen organization) gathered at Jantar Mantar on Monday demanding immediate implementation of 'One Rank One Pension' (OROP) scheme. Veterans, along with war widows, from all over India also joined the protest.
The scheme that demands equal pensions for retired soldiers of the same rank and length of service, regardless of when they retired was also a part of BJP's manifesto in the Lok Sabha elections held earlier this year. “Honourable PM Narendra Modi Jee raised a lot of concerns for the deplorable conditions of the retired servicemen. Six months have passed by since the BJP government has come to power after winning with a clear majority, however, nothing has changed on the ground,” mentioned one of the speakers of the committee.
Enraged with the delay in implementing the scheme, all ex-servicemen criticized the incumbent government’s 'double standards' towards the army men. Expressing his anguish Ramanand Yadav, who had travelled all the way to Delhi from Gorakhpur to be a part of the protest said, “We were hopeful that the new government will understand the plight of retired servicemen, but ever since they have come to power, they seem to have forgotten the sacrifices that we, as army men, made for the nation.”
Ramanad retired from the air force in 1998 as junior engineer and holds a diploma in technical education. “After retirement, I was being offered a job of security guard. Having served as a junior engineer, I could not take up that job. So, I decided to go back to my village and reside there. The soaring inflation does not allow us to do much with a pension of mere Rs 7,000.”
A cross section of speakers, during the rally, emphasized on the importance of the scheme that was commenced in the early eighties, when the rank wise pension of ex-servicemen were discontinued and their pension were clubbed with central government employees in 1973. At present, the army men who had retired before 2006 are compelled to live under meagre pension spanning across Rs 7,000 to Rs 9,000 .
Highlighting other instances of ‘discrimination’ within the army fraternity against the jawans, Venkatesh Narayan from Chandigarh, pointed out, “Once we are out of the army, we get a subsidy of Rs 3,500 while the officers get a subsidy of Rs 20,000, to make purchases from the army canteen. The huge gap says a lot about the position of jawans in the country.”
Talking about the long battle being waged by the National Ex-Servicemen Co-ordination Committee, Uma Shankar Sharma, General Secretary, shared , “ We have been demanding OROP since 1983 since the date of its inception. We presented this demand before the high level committee and a committee appointed by Government of India, Ministry of Defense, in 1990. The central government did not implement the scheme, although it had been recommended by Parliamentary Committee including Committee of Petitions headed by Shri Bhagat Singh Koshiary, Honorable MP Rajya Sabha on more than one occasion.”
Elaborating further, he said, “The organisation planned to return the gallantry awards to Honourable President of India, but relented following the advice of then Prime Minister of India. Political parties across party line have backed OROP both inside and outside the Parliament and have mentioned it in their manifestos.”
Approximately 32 lakh ex-servicemen are still waiting for the implementation of the welfare scheme. Although the incumbent government has already allotted Rs 1,000 crore for the scheme, it has failed to provide a roadmap to implement OROP.
Meanwhile, after the protest, the ex-servicemen submitted a memorandum with a charter of demands to the President of India , Prime Minister of India, Chairman Rajya Sabha and speaker Lok Sabha.