The Narendra Modi government on Saturday announced the much-waited OROP scheme for defence veterans, but the ex-servicemen ‘categorically’ rejected all the proposals and said they will continue to protest.
Defence minister Manohar Parrikar announced the one rank, one pension scheme during a press conference assuring an equal pension to three million military personnel retiring in the same rank with the same length of service, regardless of the date of retirement.
“The government has accepted OROP in true spirit without being constrained by previous inaccurate estimates. Despite the huge financial burden, the government has taken the decision to implement OROP. The previous government had estimated a cost of Rs 500 crore, however, the reality is that OROP would cost Rs. 8000 crore to the exchequer to implement and it will keep increasing,” Parrikar told reporters in New Delhi.
The minister said the arrears would amount to anywhere between Rs 10,000 crore and Rs 12,000 crore.
“OROP review will occur every five years and the scheme will be effective from July 1, 2014, and the base year would be 2013,” he added.
Parrikar said the government would constitute a single-member judicial committee to look into various aspects of OROP, including inter-services matters, and it will submit its report in six months.
OROP arrears will be paid in four half-yearly installments and all widows, including war widows, will get arrears in lump-sum. Army personnel who have taken voluntary retirement will not be covered under OROP.
He said an order on OROP will be issued by the ministry of defence very soon.
“PM Modi has fulfilled his commitment and implement OROP. I appeal to the veterans now to continue the task of nation building,” he said.
Agitating ex-servicemen, who had met Parrikar earlier in the day, rejected the government’s announcements saying they are not fully satisfied.
“We only accept one point made by the government and that is the implementation of OROP and categorically reject everything else,” said Major General Satbir Singh (retd), who heads the Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement.
He said they cannot accept the government’s proposal on one-man judicial panel that will offer its report in six months saying the time period has to be thirty days and demanded for a five-member panel of which three should be veterans, one serving serviceman and an officer of their choice.
The veterans, who had been holding protests across the country for 82 days, also rejected the government’s proposal of a five-year review period of pensions saying they must be reviewed every year.
“A senior officer can never receive a smaller pension than a junior officer,” said Maj Gen Singh.
He said they need more clarification on whether premature retirement qualifies for the scheme, issue of averaging of pension and the government’s decision to not give OROP benefits to those who have opted for voluntary retirement scheme (VRS).
“At least 40% of our servicemen take VRS and if the government still doesn’t accept it then it is a big blow to the forces.”
Maj Gen Singh said they will take a call on the hunger strike and inform the media later in the evening.