Prime Minister Narendra Modi was all set to announce the One Rank One Pension (OROP) scheme for ex-servicemen during his Independence Day speech from Red Fort but could not do so after a last-minute attempt by the PMO to reach an agreement failed, according to former Army chief Gen V P Malik.
In an email to former Navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta, Malik, who acted as the mediator between the government and veterans on the issue, wrote that the PMO had called him on August 10 to “resolve the issue” so that OROP could be announced on “15th of August”.
However, Malik indicated in the email that the government’s final stand was to pay “less than what had been worked out earlier”, which was rejected by veterans who said it was a dilution from the original definition of OROP.
When contacted, Malik confirmed the sequence of events as mentioned in the email and said that disagreements exist over the date of implementation and basic definition of OROP. “The only way to resolve OROP could be a direct dialogue between the political leadership and veterans,” he told The Indian Express from Panchkula.
Malik added that he had written the email to “clear the air to his friends” about his role as a mediator between the government and the ex-servicemen on OROP.
In his email, Malik wrote: “On 10th August morning, I got a call from Principal Secretary (PS) to the PM stating that the PM desired me to discuss Govt position on OROP with agitation leaders and try to resolve this issue so that he can announce it on 15th August.”
The retired general, who commanded the Army during the 1999 Kargil victory, suggested in his email that he was initially reluctant to meet the PMO’s Principal Secretary Nripendra Misra, but agreed after discussing the matter with Gen Satbir Singh of the Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement (IESM) and General Balbir Singh of the Indian Ex-Servicemen League (IESL).
According to Malik, he met Misra on August 11. “He (PS) and the joint secretary (JS) dealing with this subject in the PMO briefed me on the govt stand. In the evening, all the three of us… together were briefed by the JS. Looking at the government position… we felt that we can not represent the government or the agitators but will remain go-between only and try if we can bridge the gap,” Malik wrote in his email.
Malik added that he also held separate meetings with the heads of IESM and IESL on August 12 and briefed Misra about the outcome on August 13.
He wrote in the email: “After speaking to the PM and FM he gave us the ‘final stand of the Govt’.”
The “Government’s final stand meant paying less that what had been worked out earlier and thus, deviation from the definition,” Malik wrote.
Sources told The Indian Express that while the veterans rejected the ‘final stand’, the PMO official too did not indicate any desire to revise the government position.
Later, they added, even as the non-announcement of OROP by PM and the manhandling of veterans by Delhi Police at their protest site in Jantar Mantar caused a furore, the PMO official held another unsuccessful meeting with the representatives of ex-servicemen on the request of the current Army Chief Gen Dalbir Singh.