Army veterans were left disappointed when Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not announce implementation of the 'one rank one pension' scheme during his visit to Mathura on 25 May, as he was expected to. One of the heroes of the 1971 war also declined to attend a government function because of lack of government policies for retired defence personnel.
A long standing demand of ex-servicemen's associations, 'one rank one pension' relates to payment of uniform pension to defence forces personnel retiring in the same rank with the same length of service, irrespective of their date of retirement.
Suresh Damodar Karnik declined an invitation to a function where Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar were present.
Karnik told Times Now, "Since 1983 promises have been made and we have been led up the garden path. There is a reason why we want one rank one pension. Our lower rank jawans retire at the age of 37 because the country requires them to retire early because we don't want old people fighting wars. But what about when he grows old and has more commitments, where as a civilian in a government job continues working and earning."
"One Rank One Pension has become a bit of a joke now. The promise was made in 2013, pre-poll, then after the government came to power the senior most person of the government makes statements, but he is unable to give directions to the subordinate ministries?" a miffed Karnik asked.
Karnik is not alone, there were many veterans who were unhappy because of the government's delay with the scheme.
The Indian Express reported, "Brig KS Kahlon (retd), President, All Indian Defence Brotherhood, said that non implementation of OROP has caused great amount of resentment among the veterans and they are gearing themselves up for a prolonged agitation to ensure that the government delivers on its promise."
Army veterans are also likely to hold an agitation over the issue on 14 June.
Another brigadier was quoted by The Times of India as saying, "Earlier, it was said OROP would be announced in the Union Budget. But it looks that the file is still being tossed between the defence and finance ministries, with the two ministers issuing contradictory statements. The previous UPA regime had also announced it. But where is the money?"
And even before the Mathura rally, the Congress and the NDA got into a mud-slinging match with both sides blaming each other.
Attacking the government over non-implementation of scheme, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi on 23 May had said he would "pressurise" the Centre to act on the issue at the earliest. ""One year has passed of the NDA government, of the Modi government and it has not proceeded ahead with the issue. They (ex servicemen) had knocked the doors of the government, but nothing materialised. Army, Navy, Air Force take care of the nation, secure our borders, their demands should be met," Rahul had said.
Like always, the NDA was quick to put the blame on the previous UPA government with Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar saying it was because of AK Antony that the scheme has not yet been implemented. "What I inherited was stalemate. Arunji had tried and started moving the wheels. But in many issues, there was hardly any time for him because he was there only for five months. But he had started moving the wheels. I think I have started putting speed on that," he said.
Even as the UPA and NDA fight over this issue, like all others, it is the former army men who are left in limbo. As an article in Scroll rightly points out, "The decades-long governmental apathy towards ex-servicemen’s demands has put a financial squeeze on veterans who retired years ago and now can’t meet the rising costs of living with their low pensions. It has also projected the armed forces as an unattractive career option for the youth."
While it was the UPA that had announced a Rs 500 crore budget for the scheme in 2014, PM Modi and Parrikar had promised to implement it within one year of office.
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Updated Date: May 28, 2015 17:32:16 IST