Government Announces OROP Scheme; Veterans Express Disappointment

05/09/2015 3:48 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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NEW DELHI, INDIA - AUGUST 28: Ex-servicemen protest demanding 'One Rank, One Pension' (OROP) scheme, at Jantar Mantar on August 28, 2015 in New Delhi, India. Two more ex-servicemen, who were on indefinite hunger strike, have been taken to hospital. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has said that Centre has approved OROP in principle some modalities still need to be worked out. (Photo by Arun Sharma/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

NEW DELHI -- Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar today announced the much-awaited 'One Rank One Pension' scheme, which will be implemented 1 July 2014 onwards, with 2013 as the base year. However, veterans who have been protesting at Jantar Mantar for the past 82 days expressed their disappointment with the scheme, alleging that six major demands have not been met by the government.

"We welcome the decision to implement the scheme but only one point has been accepted by the government, and six others have been denied. We are not satisfied with this," said Major General (retired) Satbir Singh, who is the spokesperson for the ex-servicemen's protest at Jantar Mantar. "We will have an internal meeting and decide how to proceed from here."

Parrikar on Saturday announced that the government has implemented OROP in its "true spirit" despite the huge financial burden on the government. He said that it was a matter of "deep anguish" that the scheme had not been implemented for 42 years. Explaining the delay over the scheme's implementation, the Parikkar said, "The then Defence Minister had in 2009 informed Parliament of administrative, technical and financial difficulties in implementing OROP. It is for these reasons that the present government took some time to fulfil its promise."

He said that while the estimated cost to implement OROP would be Rs 8000 to 10,000 crore at present, it is expected increase further in future. "Despite huge fiscal burden, the government has decided to implement the OROP given its commitment to the welfare of ex-servicemen," he said in a press conference on Saturday afternoon, adding that it will be fixed on the basis of calendar year 2013. Expenditure on arrears alone is estimated to be Rs 10-12,000 crores, he said.

Under the scheme announced by the government, arrears will be paid in four half-yearly instalments. However all widows, including war widows, will be paid arrears in one instalment, said Parikkar. While pension will be re-fixed for all pensioners retiring in the same rank and same length of service, it will be the average of minimum and maximum pension in 2013. Those drawing pensions above the average will be protected, he said.

"The Government has accepted OROP in true spirit without being constrained by previous inaccurate estimates," he said. "PM Narendra Modi has fulfilled his commitment and approved OROP for Armed Forces personnel." A detailed government order on the scheme is expected to be released soon.

A one-member judicial committee will be constituted to give its report on the OROP in six months.

"This isn't a black and white situation. We will soon decide if we want to continue our protest," said Group Captain VK Gandhi, General Secretary of the Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement, India's largest ex-servicemen body.

While the veterans said they were satisfied with the government's intention to implement the OROP, they made it clear that the proposed benefits were not acceptable to them.

READ: Government's Last-Minute Meeting With Ex-Servicemen Ahead Of Announcement

Rejecting the provisions for pension revision after every five years and keeping those who take VRS out of the scheme among others, Singh said, "According to us government has accepted one of our demands and rejected six...at this point we cannot withdraw the agitation based on these details."

The ex-servicemen had met with Parrikar earlier on Saturday for last-minute consultations ahead of the announcement, and had made it clear that they would not compromise on their key demands, including that no senior should get lesser pension than a junior at any time.

Meanwhile opposition parties have quickly jumped in to support the ex-servicemen, and have criticised BJP.

The veterans had also said that OROP should be applicable to those who have sought voluntary retirement and are getting pension, as well as those getting disability pension.

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