news Monday, June 15, 2015 - 05:30
Image source: Indian Ex Servicemen Movement Scores of ex-servicemen on Monday protested in New Delhi over the delay in implementing the One Rank, One Pension (OROP) scheme for them and have threatened to intensify their agitation.  Raising slogans like "One Rank, One Pension", "No delay no dilution" and "Sainik ekta zindabad", an indefinite relay hunger strike was launched at Jantar Mantar on Sunday. Some-servicemen even signed a petition in blood. According to the United Ex-Servicemen of India, an umbrella group formed by the ex-servicemen, the protest was held at 55-odd centres across the country. So what is the OROP scheme? According to a PIB release, “OROP implies that uniform pension be paid to the armed forces personnel retiring in the same rank with the same length of service irrespective of their date of retirement and any future enhancement in the rates of pension to be automatically passed on to the past pensioners." “Let’s say I retired in 1994 after 25 years of service. My pension then was Rs 7,000. With each Pay Commission, there is a revision in pension amount, and let’s assume that today my pension is Rs 22,000. Another officer, in the same post which I was in two decades ago, retires today after 25 years of service and but gets a pension of Rs 30,000. He is thus being paid Rs 8,000 more than me, though we held the same rank and had the same length of service. The implementation of the OROP will ensure that both are paid equally.” - A retired Air Force officer told TNM. This implies bridging the gap between the rate of pension of the current pensioners and the past pensioners, and also future enhancements in the rate of pension to be automatically passed on to the past pensioners, says PIB. Who will benefit from the scheme? One Rank, One Pension is expected to benefit 25 lakh veterans and widows of defence personnel. How much money has been allocated for the scheme? The scheme will intially cost the exchequer Rs 7,500 crore to Rs 10,000 crore.  Some-servicemen even signed a petition in blood   What have UPA and NDA governments done about the scheme till now? The demand for the OROP scheme was accepted by the UPA government in 2014 with the then Minister of Finance P Chidambaram introducing it in the interim budget. He also said that the government would transfer Rs 500 crore to the defence pension account for implementing the scheme. The decision was to come into effect in 2014-2015, but the scheme was not implemented. Sources told NDTV that one of the reasons for delay is because the OROP file has been shuttling between the finance and defence ministries. The ex-servicemen are also disillusioned and upset with PM Modi, who had raised the OROP issue during campaigning for the Lok Sabha polls. Last month, the PM last month during a Mann Ki Baat session said, "You have been patient for 40 years, wait for some more time. This is a complex issue... I promise we will hold discussions and resolve it." A statement released by the Indian Ex-servicemen Movement reads, “The Prime Minister's voice still echoes in our minds when he roared at the ex-servicemen rally on September 15, 2013, in Rewari and demanded a white paper on OROP from the UPA Government. He did not stop there, but declared that had there been BJP government in 2004, OROP would have been a reality by now.” Rajeev Chandrasekhar, MP, who is an ardent supporter of the OROP cause said, "My appeal to the veterans is that as we focus on the distance to OROP goal, we must look back to see how far we have come in this struggle. We must realise that the dark days of receiving bleak responses from the polity on the issue of are over and that we are now in the last lap of the OROP marathon. I am sure that this Government will soon implement OROP and urge patience from veterans." What do some retired servicemen have to say about OROP? "We won't budge until the government gives us a date for implementing 'One Rank, One Pension'," retired Major General Satbir Singh, president of the Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement which is spearheading the protests, told IANS. Retired Colonel M S Ahuja (73), who took part in the protest in the national capital, told The Indian Express, “Fifteen months ago, when Narendra Modi, then in the run up to the 2014 general elections, promised to implement OROP, ex-servicemen were a vote-bank. Now, no one is talking about the issue. They say there are complications in the definition of OROP. Were things different when he made the promises."   The retired servicemen also gathered 1,500 gallantry medals to be returned to the president. "We have returned around 22,000 medals in the past, but the president refused to accept them," Major Vijay Sharma, who is retired, told IANS. Another ex-serviceman told TNM, “It is not just the pension; certain perks that we used to get have also been downgraded. Apart from that, officers in other departments of the government, like IAS officers and police personnel, have been brought in par with military officials and in case also given higher ranks and posts. It is fine to put others up, but don’t put others down in the way.” He added, “The condition is still better for retired military officers when compared to that of soldiers on the ground.” With inputs from IANS  
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