New Delhi

Ex-servicemen’s wait continues

Print edition : November 13, 2015

Women family members of ex-servicemen sitting on a hunger strike in support of One Rank One Pension in New Delhi on October 6. Photo: Sandeep Saxena

WHEN the government announced that it would implement One Rank One Pension (OROP) for military veterans, after their 84-day agitation, it seemed to be the end of a long struggle for the ex-servicemen, albeit with minor irritants here and there, which would have been removed once the government notified the order.

The veterans continued their dharna and relay hunger strike so that the government remembered their grievances.

But it has been more than a month, and there is no sign yet of the notification. The veterans’ agitation has continued at a low-key level.

The delay, however, has deepened the trust deficit between the government and the veterans, which is not a good thing for the country as a whole because it inevitably percolates to the serving military personnel as well.

Top Defence Ministry officials told Frontline that there was no possibility of the notification being issued during the ongoing Bihar elections, which means a delay of at least another month.

“The order cannot be issued now because we don't want it to be entangled in any more complications with the Election Commission. It will only be issued after the elections in Bihar get over,” a top Defence Ministry official said.

It is, however, another matter that the order would not have come under the purview of violation of the electoral code of conduct because the announcement for the same had been made much in advance.

The veterans have condemned the delay. “The government does not seem to realise that it is playing with fire. Our boys [serving personnel] are getting demoralised seeing us sit on the road for so long. This delay further convinces us that our just demands are not going to be met and the government is simply delaying the order so that we do not intensify the agitation during the Bihar elections. But they are mistaken; we will continue to agitate until our demands are accepted,” said Maj. Gen. (retd) Satbir Singh, chairman of the Indian Ex Servicemen Movement, who is spearheading the agitation.

The veterans had rejected many points in the government announcement made by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on September 5.

They had raised serious objections to the Minister’s announcement that those who took voluntary retirement from the forces would not be entitled to OROP.

A large number of military personnel retire early if they are superseded, and many do so for medical reasons, and to club these forms of retirement with voluntary retirement is incorrect, the veterans said.

They had also rejected the government’s contention that pension would be reviewed every five years instead of every year as demanded.

The veterans also rejected the government’s announcement that a one-member judicial committee would be set up to look into any complexities and submit a report within six months. They rejected, too, the announcement that the calendar year 2013 would be taken as the base year for fixing pension, and that pension would be fixed at the average of the minimum and maximum pensions drawn.

The veterans demanded that the panel consist of five members, including one ex-serviceman and one serving officer; that the panel should submit its report in one month and not take six months; and that the pension be fixed at the maximum drawn.

They also demanded that the financial year 2013-14 be fixed as the base year.

The protesting ex-servicemen had hoped that the detailed order would be issued in a month. But it seems that their wait is going to be much longer.

Purnima S. Tripathi

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