Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday affirmed that armed forces personnel who retired prematurely will be entitled to 'One Rank One Pension' (OROP) scheme that ensures uniform pension for veterans retiring in the same rank and the same length of service.
Modi, who was addressing a public gathering after inaugurating a Metro line between Delhi and Haryana, slammed the Congress party for neglecting OROP for 40 years and yet criticizing the government for it's decision to implement the scheme that will immediately benefit close to 26 lakh retired servicemen and over six lakh war widows.
"Some people are trying to mislead the armed forces on OROP. They are trying to score political points. Congress has no right to question the government over OROP when it did nothing in 40 years. The commission proposed to be set up is to address shortcomings, if any, in the OROP decision," he said.
"The government has taken a big decision and this is inspired by a feeling of patriotism and respect towards veterans. We began work on OROP from Day 1 and took a decision. I went deeper into the issue and got to know that OROP is not about Rs. 500 crore. This is about Rs. 8,000 to Rs. 10,000 crore. We made a promise and we are fulfilling it," he said.
Jinhone khud ney kaam nahi kiya, unhe haq hai kya bolney ka?: PM Modi pic.twitter.com/MaYZ7slufs— ANI (@ANI_news) September 6, 2015
Ex-servicemen, pressing for 'One Rank One Pension' for nearly four decades, yesterday won a partial victory with the government announcing that it would implement it, but the veterans rejected the decision and decided to continue their agitation.
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar told reporters that OROP would be implemented from July 1, 2014 on the basis of calender year 2013.
Army veterans decide to call off #OROP strike after Prime Minister Narendra Modi's assurance— India Today (@IndiaToday) September 6, 2015
The pension would be revised every five years and defence personnel who take voluntary retirement will not be covered, Parrikar said, adding that a one-member judicial committee would be constituted to report within six months after examining various aspects of the "complex issue".
Arrears, estimated to cost between Rs 10,000 crore to Rs 12,000 crore, would be paid in four half-yearly instalments. However, all widows, including war widows, will be paid in one instalment.
Ex-servicemen, who have been on an agitation for the past 84 days, took no time in rejecting the government's announcement and declaring that they will continue the stir. They also announced a massive rally on September 12.
What has riled the ex-servicemen is the decision to review the pension every five years instead of two years for which they were willing to settle. Another objection pertained to leaving out ex-servicemen who had gone for premature retirement.
Another sticking point is the setting up of a one-member judicial committee which will examine interest of retirees of different periods and different ranks. It will also address inter-service issues.
Instead, ex-servicemen want a committee with five members, including three of them, to report within 30 days. Rejecting the government's announcement, Maj Gen (retd) Satbir Singh said, "Government has only accepted one of our demands and rejected six. They have gone back on their promises. We have no option but to continue our agitation."
Singh, who has been spearheading the agitation, accused the government of "resorting to gimmicks" due to upcoming Assembly polls in Bihar. He said the hunger strike will be withdrawn if the government gives the OROP benefit to those who have opted for premature retirement.
Top defence ministry sources said interest of those armed forces personnel who had to take VRS due to injuries will be protected. Expressing dissatisfaction over government's proposed benefits under OROP, Singh said, "We do not accept the decisions not to give OROP benefits to those who have taken premature retirement."
Pressure builds from within veterans community with many ex-servicemen urging leaders to call off fast unto death & welcome #OROP— Rahul Kanwal (@rahulkanwal) September 6, 2015
The Defence Minister said the cost to implement OROP would be Rs 8,000 crore to 10,000 crore and it will increase further.
"Despite the huge fiscal burden, given its commitment to the welfare of ex-servicemen, the Government has taken a decision to implement the OROP," Parrikar said.
Explaining the provisions, he said pension will be "re-fixed for all pensioners retiring in the same rank and with the same length of service as the average of minimum and maximum pension in 2013. Those drawing pensions above the average will be protected."
He said the the one-member judicial committee would examine various issues including interests of retirees of different periods and different ranks and other inter-service matters.
"We also disapprove of setting up of one-member judicial committee. It should be under Defence minister and not given more than one month," said Singh.
Defence Ministry sources said government will come out with a detailed order on OROP within next one month.
Parrikar said the government has held extensive consultations with experts and ex-servicemen and decided to implement OROP despite the huge financial burden.
"The previous government had estimated that OROP would be implemented with a budget provision of mere Rs 500 crore. The reality, however, is that to implement OROP, the estimated cost to exchequer would be Rs 8,000 crore to Rs 10,000 crore at present and will increase further in future," Parrikar said. (With PTI inputs)