In September 2013, days after he was announced as the Prime Ministerial candidate of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Narendra Modi roared before thousands of ex-servicemen at a rally in Rewari, Haryana, that he would implement One Rank One Pension (OROP) policy, if voted to power at the Centre. It was his first election rally, marking the start of a successful campaign, for the 2014 general elections. The BJP also included OROP in its election manifesto.
The Modi government, has completed over one year at the Centre and there is still no clarity as to how and when the scheme will be implemented, which will benefit over 20 lakh ex-servicemen in the country. However, the Prime Minister, never misses an opportunity to invoke OROP. He has said it several times in his interviews that the government was “dedicated” to implementing OROP. Most recently he even tweeted, “On OROP- the Govt is committed to OROP & there’s no doubt about it.”
Fed up with lackadaisical approach of the government towards OROP, hundreds of ex-servicemen have decided to sit on hunger-strike at Jantar Mantar, in the national Capital. Everyday a group of 50-55 people will sit on the strike in shifts, till a specific date and assurance is given about OROP. According to the media reports, the ex-servicemen will also organise protests in poll-bound state of Bihar, to mount pressure on the Modi-led Central government.
The OROP scheme has been a long-standing demand of Army veterans which relates to payment of equal pension to defence forces personnel, retiring in the same rank, with the same length of service, irrespective of their date of retirement. Currently, the pension for retired personnel is based on the Pay Commission’s recommendations of the time when he or she retired. So, a Major General who retired in 1990 draws a lower pension than the one who retired after 1990.
The Congress government sat on the scheme for decades. The UPA government had accepted the scheme, but failed to implement it. A sum of Rs 500 crore was also earmarked for the OROP but no notification was issued to enforce it. Meanwhile, the Army veterans have asked for a specific date by which the policy will be implanted, but there are some who say that they have lost faith in the government. “We don’t want a minister visiting us and assuring that OROP will be implemented by so and so date. Nothing less than a written assurance will do. We don’t trust these politicians. Look what happened to Anna Hazare and Lokpal Bill. They made fool of him and the entire nation,” rues Dharampal Singh, an ex-servicemen from Mahendragarh district of Haryana. Another former military man Dharampal Singh Dhillon from Amritsar, says, “It is a shame that the government can’t fulfill what it promised to us during the election campaign, But we will not budge because a soldier never quits. We are ready to sacrifice our lives for the county even at this age.”
Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, has asked the ex-servicemen to be “patient” on OROP. “I assure you that the all the promises made during the election campaign will be kept. But people need to be patient,” Parrikar is reported to have said to reporters, in Jaipur.
While the exact reason for the delay is not ascertained, sources have informed that the file is stuck between Finance and Defence ministries, for reasons best known to the higher authorities only. The government is busy patting its own back on the successful anti-insurgency operation across the border, in Myanmar. But, it is a pity that the hundreds of former war veterans, who must have risked their lives, have to sit on a hunger strike, to demand for what is their right.