Despite Prime Minister Narandra Modi’s announcement on Sunday that pre-mature retirees (PMR) will be included under the One Rank, One Pension (OROP) scheme, protesting veterans called the earlier exclusion a “last minute mischief” and citied it as a reason to continue the relay hunger strike till the order to implement OROP was received in black and white.
The government sources, on the other hand, justified the exclusion of PMRs saying it was done as an attempt to arrest the likely exodus of soldiers from the armed forces that might be caused by the implementation of OROP.
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“After the PM’s announcement, we have called off the fast-unto-death. But the last minute mischief of excluding PMRs from OROP has sown a seed of doubt in our minds that anti-armed forces lobby is active within the government. We still do not want to trust anyone and will continue the relay hunger strike till we get the order in writing,” said Group Captain V K Gandhi, General Secretary, Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement (IESM).
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He said that the statement regarding implementation of OROP, though read out by the Defence Minister, was issued directly by Prime Minister’s Office.
According to Colonel Anil Kaul, spokesperson of the United Front of Ex-Servicemen, the clause to exclude PMRs never ever figured in any of the discussions between the government and veterans. He added that even Defence Minister Parrikar expressed surprise over its inclusion in the evening meeting with veterans.
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“When we met the Defence Minister at 11.30 am on Saturday, there were only three points on the table and that did not include the question about the PMRs. But then, the Defence Minister surprisingly made an announcement at 3 pm that personnel who retire voluntarily will not be covered under OROP. Upset, when we met him again between 6.30 and 7 pm, he too was surprised about the inclusion of the clause,” Kaul said.
According to the veterans, 46 per cent of ex-servicemen are PMRs. The clause to exclude the PMRs from OROP, if applied, would have slashed the OROP budget by 50 per cent — about Rs 4000 crore of the estimated Rs 8000- 10,000 crore.