When the defence minister, flanked by the service chiefs, announced the implementation of One Rank One Pension today, it was expected that it will bring the 83 day old protests by veterans to an end. But going by the response of the veterans and the mood at Jantar Mantar, the government has failed to satisfy the protesters.
Out of the seven points announced by the defence minister, the veterans have welcomed only one point: the implementation of OROP from 01 July 2014, with 2013 as the base year for calculation of pension. The veterans wanted equalization of pension every two years but the government has not budged from its stated position of equalization every five years.
Watch video – Explained: One Rank One Pension
The government has also said that it will fix the pension as the average of the maximum and minimum of the new retirees, while the veterans wanted it to be pegged to the maximum of the scale. The government has announced a one member judicial committee to look into the anomalies, if any, created during the implementation of OROP. The veterans have rejected it, because they wanted a five-member committee with three veterans as part of it. The government has given the judicial committee six months to submit its report while the veterans wanted the report within a month.
But what really seems to have irked the protesting veterans is a caveat inserted into the announcement at the last few days: to keep military personnel who have taken premature retirement out of the ambit of OROP. Due to the steep pyramidic structure of the armed forces, many deserving people choose to take premature retirement. As per extant rules, anyone who has served for a minimum of 20 years as an officer (and 15 years for jawans, NCOs and JCOs) is eligible for pension. As per veterans, this last minute clause will exclude 40 percent veterans from OROP. This is likely to be the biggest sticking point between the government and veterans, going forward.
The defence minister spoke of an additional financial burden of Rs 8,000-10,000 crore this year due to OROP. He also said this burden will continue to rise every year. He mentioned that the previous UPA government had allocated only Rs 500 crore towards OROP, while omitting to mention that in its first full budget, Mr Jaitley had also allocated only Rs 1000 crore for OROP.
According to the defence minister, the arrears of OROP will cost another Rs 10,000-12,000 crore. The government has budgeted Rs 54,500 crore for defence pensions this year. With the government committed to fiscal prudence, it is not going to be easy for Mr Parrikar to fully satisfy the veterans. Leave alone this announcement signalling the end of battle between the veterans and the government, it doesn’t even bring a temporary ceasefire between the two sides.