(Source- The Week)
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Pension tension - By Ajit K. Dubey (The Week)
Centre gets brickbats over delay in implementing 'One Rank, One Pension' scheme
Yagya Narain, 68, retired as master warrant officer from the Indian Air Forceago and settled in Rajasthan. His son is a Delhi-based defence correspondent. Soon after the Narendra Modi government took over, Narain would call his son regularly to check on of the 'One Rank, One Pension' (OROP) scheme. During the Lok Sabha poll campaign, the BJP promised to fulfil this four-decade-old demand of ex-servicemen. Eight months down the line, Narain asks his son: Will OROP ever be implemented?
Modi spoke of OROP at Rewari, Haryana, on September 15, 2013. Rewari has a long tradition of producing officers and jawans. Modi told the gathering: “Today, I publicly demand, on behalf of Army men and ex-servicemen of this country, that the government publish a white paper on the statusof the One Rank, One.” He said it was in his destiny to fulfil this long-standing demand. In the next seven months he would lambast the Manmohan Singh government many over the OROP scheme.
While sailing on the INS Vikramaditya in June and in his Independence Day address, Modi reiterated his commitment to implementing OROP.
Lt Col Brij Mohan Thapa, who heads a Dehradun-based forum for ex-serviceman, said: “As veterans in the last days of life, are we expected to wait for date after date to get unfulfilled promise after promise? And, die without seeing a government that fulfils its promises?”
Retired brigadier Gurmeet Kanwal, a strategic expert, tweeted to former Army chief V.K. Singh, who is now a Union minister: “Dear General, deep resentment among Veterans re PM Modi promise on OROP. As seniormost in Parlmnt n Govt, all looking up 2 you.”
Maj Gen (retd) Satbir Singh, chairman of the Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement (IESM), said he had written to Modi about the issue. He blamed bureaucrats for blocking OROP on financial grounds. IESM office-bearers allege that Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had asked them to “lower expectations”, citing heavy financial burden. They say Jaitley hinted that the government might dilute the OROP scheme.
Satbir Singh said: “We will not accept anything less than OROP in full. Accepting it partially would mean only a hike in pension. OROP must be implemented from April 1, 2014, so that the soldiers also get some arrears.”
If OROP is enforced, every pensioned soldier of the same rank would receive the same pension. Only the duration of service would be considered; the date of retirement would become immaterial. Now, soldiers who retired recently receive more pension than those who did earlier, because of the salary hikes by pay commissions.
The veterans called offprotests—one scheduled to coincide with the winter session of Parliament and the other on February 1—after Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar reassured them. Parrikar told THE WEEK: “The NDA government will definitely implement OROP. I am sure that we would be able to implement it before the budget for next fiscal is announced.”
The confusion, apparently, is about theoutlay. In 2010-2011, the Army Headquarters told the defence ministry that it would be around Rs1,400 crore. The ministry's department of ex-servicemen welfare puts it at Rs3,000 crore. The defence accounts department puts it at Rs9,300 crore, before the implementation of the seventh pay commission.
A senior bureaucrat from the ministry told THE WEEK that OROP was Parrikar's top priority. The ministry has the support of Parliament's standing committee on defence, which is headed by former Uttarakhand chief minister B.C. Khanduri, who retired as major general.
(Source- The Week)