Battle half won: Government unveils OROP, veterans to continue agitation

OROP

Responding to the long-standing demand from ex-servicemen, the Indian government finally announced ‘One Rank One Pension’ (OROP) scheme on September 5. Many ex-servicemen called of the hunger strike, but they will continue with the agitation as they claim that only one of their six demands has been met by the government.

The grant of OROP effectively means an equal pension to three million military personnel retiring in the same rank with the same length of service, irrespective of the date of retirement.

 “Despite the huge fiscal burden, given its commitment to the welfare of ex-servicemen, the government has decided to implement OROP,” said India’s Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.  The estimated cost to implement OROP is around Rs. 8,000 to 10,000 crore (around $1.5 billion) and is expected to increase further. Arrears alone would cost Rs. 10,000 to 12,000 crore, added Mr Parrikar.  The scheme will be effective from July 1, 2014 with arrears paid in four half- yearly installments and widows of pensioners will receive it in a single installment. The base year for calculating the pension has been fixed at 2013.

Mr Parrikar also announced that a one-member judicial committee will be set up to work out details of OROP and will submit its report in six months. The ex-servicemen have demanded that the pension be revised every year or once in two years, but the government has decided to keep it fixed and revise it every five years.

Considering the contribution of the defence veterans to the nation which is invaluable, the OROP was long overdue. Whether a veteran retired in 1980 or 1995, he is entitled to receive the same amount of pension a person of his same rank receives years later. While it would definitely be a fiscal burden as the government rightly claims, the nation would definitely not grudge all its veterans being given equal treatment for their invaluable contribution and sacrifice for the nation.

The bigger challenge for the government would be in implementing the scheme effectively and preventing red-tape by plugging the loopholes to ensure the veterans receive the same pension for the same rank on time. For now, the government may have won the perception battle, but whether it eventually implements the other five demands of the veterans or not remains to be seen.

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