By Rishvik Chanda:
A source of great pride for the nation, the Indian Armed Forces have a large fan base among the youth who sign up in huge numbers every year. But today, the brave ex-servicemen and the veterans of the Armed Forces are concerned and feeling let down following the Government’s delay regarding the implementation of the ‘One Rank One Pension‘ (OROP) scheme.
OROP is a scheme that will ensure that the same pension will be paid to personnel retiring at the same rank with the same length of service, irrespective of when they retired. According to statistics, there is a difference of 82% between the pensions of sepoys retiring in 1996 and those in 2006. Among officers, the difference is 53%. Hence, without the implementation of OROP, ex-servicemen are faced with a very unfair scenario- in return for their service to our country, they have only a few years of financial strain in store.
The long demanded and much anticipated OROP scheme for ex-servicemen was not mentioned by Narendra Modi during his rally in Mathura on Monday, 25th May. On the 28th, retired Wing Commander S D Karnik, a 1971 war veteran, in a mark of protest, boycotted a function in Pune where Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis were to felicitate him. V.K. Gandhi, General Secretary of the Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement, said, “We are requesting our members to boycott all government functions in view of their anti-ex-servicemen attitude. In addition, we are also asking our gallantry award winners to boycott the Republic day celebration of January 2016.”
As is the norm in Indian politics, both the UPA, during its tenure, and the NDA in recent months, promised swift implementation of OROP with a Rs 8,300 crore budget, but the scheme has only been politicised and is yet to be implemented. “So many assurances on one side but nothing is changing on ground. There is NATO (No Action Talk Only) from them“, Karnik said. In answer to concerns regarding other bodies demanding similar schemes if OROP is passed, Karnik explained that “a soldier retires at (the age of) 37 and a civil employee retires at 60.” The Modi government itself has defined ‘military pension‘ as a category separate from other kinds of pensions as the nature and term of service is vastly different. Manohar Parrikar defended the government saying, “I remember I said in January that OROP will be operationalised by July.”
The Government owes much to the soldiers who lay their lives on the line for our country and shouldn’t let them down. The NDA can’t afford to irk one of the most important and most loved institutions in the country and risk a rift between the military and the government. Without further delay, the OROP scheme, which affects over 20 lakh ex-servicemen, should be implemented as a just reward for the country’s ex-military personnel.