OROP in with one change, but veterans reject outright

The announcement comes a day after Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had assured ex-servicemen on OROP implementation before Diwali.

Written by Sushant Singh | New Delhi | Updated: November 9, 2015 10:29 am
Ex-servicemen protesting at Delhi's Jantar Mantar. Pension would be re-fixed on the basis of pension of retirees of calendar year 2013 and the benefit will be effective with effect from July 1, 2014.

The defence Ministry issued the official notification for One Rank One Pension (OROP) for ex-servicemen late on Saturday evening. The government has reversed its contentious proposal to exclude ex-servicemen who had sought premature retirement from the ambit of OROP, but has not conceded the demands for an annual equalisation of revised pension, for pegging the pension to the maximum of the current pensioners, and for appointing an expert commission with serving military personnel and ex-servicemen representatives.

According to the notification, the government will pay the arrears of OROP in four equal half-yearly installments. However, all family pensioners, including those receiving special or liberalised family pension and gallantry award winners, will get their arrears in a single installment. The pension of past pensioners would be fixed on the basis of the pension of retirees of 2013, and the benefit will be granted from July 1, 2014.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had announced on Friday that the notification would be issued before Diwali.

The notification, which was to follow Parrikar’s formal announcement of the acceptance of OROP on September 5, was delayed after the Model Code of Conduct for the Bihar assembly elections came into effect.

Ex-servicemen who have been protesting at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi since June, rejected the notification issued by the defence ministry.

“This is not OROP. At best, it is a one-time increment. We totally and outrightly reject it. It reflects a lack of maturity on the part of the political leadership of the government,” Wing Commander (retd) C K Sharma, treasurer of Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement (IESM), told The Sunday Express.

On Friday, Group Captain (retd) V K Gandhi, IESM general secretary, had announced that ex-servicemen across the country would return their medals at prominent locations in their cities on November 9-10. The veterans had also announced that they would observe a Black Diwali this year.

OROP means military personnel retiring in the same rank with the same length of service would get the same pension, irrespective of their date of retirement. Currently, a Colonel who retired earlier — under the mandate of earlier pay commissions — receives lesser pension than a Colonel who retired after the Sixth Pay Commission came into vogue in 2006. With the Seventh Pay Commission scheduled to submit its report by the end of the year, this difference would have increased further.

The demand for OROP had been accepted by the Koshiyari Committee in its report to Parliament in 2011. At an election rally in Rewari in 2013, Narendra Modi, who was then the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, promised the implementation of OROP. In his first budget in July 2014, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced an allocation of Rs 1,000 crore for OROP, but that amount lapsed at the end of the last financial year.

As protests by ex-servicemen intensified this year, with some veterans going on an indefinite hunger strike, the defence ministry considered various formulae for OROP. The proposal forwarded by Parrikar to the finance ministry entailed an expenditure of around Rs 8,300 crore this year. That proposal was modified during the announcement made by Parrikar in September, when it excluded veterans who had sought premature retirement.

The veterans protested the exclusion, saying that keeping premature retirees out of OROP would exclude 70 per cent of military pensioners. That clause has been removed in the notification, but the government has said that the benefit of OROP will not be extended to military personnel who seek premature retirement now on.

The government has, however, stood its ground on other demands of the ex-servicemen.

The veterans wanted equalisation of pension every year, or at least every two years, but the government has notified that it would happen only once in five years.

They had wanted the revised pensions to be fixed at the maximum of the pension being received by current retirees, but the government has announced that only an average of the maximum and minimum will be given. But the pensions of those who are receiving a higher pension than average will not be reduced.

The government has also notified the appointment of a judicial committee to look into anomalies of OROP. The panel will submit its report in six months. The veterans had wanted representation from the military and ex-servicemen in the committee, and its report within 90 days.