The Indian government has come up with the One Rank One Pension (OROP) in what is being seen as a final effort to get the attention of the defence community of the country – at the present moment there are 14 lakh soldiers and officers serving in various capacities in different wings of the national armed forces. There are also in excess of 25 lakh military officers in India who have retired. Incidentally, this has been demanded for a long time now and has also been promised but till now it had not been implemented. This is also being regarded as an important step taken by the ruling government before the national assembly elections come calling a few months later.
P Chidambaram, the Union Finance Minister, has stated that the OROP will be implemented in a proactive manner and will come into play from the ongoing financial year. The government will be transferring an amount of INR 500 crore to the pension accounts of defence personnel. The main aim of this transfer is to bring down the gap in the amounts being received by people who have retired prior to 2006 and ones who have retired after that.
In fact, in the week gone by, Rahul Gandhi, the prime ministerial candidate for Congress, had lent his support towards the demands for OROP by former armed forces officers. In some ways, this event could now be regarded as a sign of things to come. It needs to be considered in this scenario that if the armed forces officers, soldiers and their family members are taken into account, it would come up to almost 2 crore voters, which is a sizeable base that the ruling party can do with.
As per OROP, defence officers who have retired in the same rank and have served for a similar period of time, they will be paid the same pension. It will not take into consideration the year of their retirement. In the last 4-5 years many ex-servicemen have become disillusioned with how the OROP issue has been handled and have thus staged rallies and also given back their medals. During one such rally organized at Rewari during September, VK Singh, an erstwhile chief of the Indian Army and Narendra Modi had attended the proceedings. The main issue was the fact that OROP was not being implemented. In fact, in some circles this step of passing the OROP is being seen as an eyewash of sorts.
A senior military official has termed the amount to be fairly low. As per the official it is strange that even though the UPA has been at the center they have introduced the measure only a few months prior to the election. The amount has also been termed as being an insufficient one. Previously an amount of INR 1730 crores had been calculated for the 2014-15 fiscal by the controller general, defence accounts, and the ministry of defence. In some official sources, an amount of INR 3 thousand crores was supposed to be set aside for OROP on a yearly basis.
However, the ministry of defence has gauged the various aspects of this financial benefit and the manner of its implementation is expected to be worked out in the weeks to come. As per officials from the ministry the quoted figure is just a way of showing that the government is committed towards extending the benefit. Chidambaram has said that if any additional amount is needed for this purpose then the same will be provided too, thus confirming the opinions of the defence ministry. The government, though, has not provided any reason as to why the OROP proposal was not passed previously and not mentioned the administrative and legal procedures that led to it being delayed.
It is expected that this financial benefit for the military officers and soldiers could lead to civilians making similar demands and it could cost the government anywhere between INR 8,000 and 9,000 crores per year.
OROP Recent Developments
- On 5 September 2015, the Modi government announced the acceptance of OROP, but the ex-servicemen on strike rejected the same. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said that the government has decided to implement OROP in which revision of pension would be done after every five years instead of two years. He also added that base year for this would be 2013 and ex-servicemen who had taken VRS would not be included in the same. On the contrary the ex-servicemen on strike have said that they will not agree for five year revision of salary and omission of VRS holders. They said they would continue their strike.
- After not getting any timeline for OROP, on 17 August 2015, two protesting ex-servicemen launched a fast-unto-death at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi.
- During his speech on the eve of Independence Day, PM Narendra Modi did not mention the timeline for the implementation of OROP but did refer to the same. He said that the talks are on and he expects a positive outcome from the same. He also added that his government ahs accepted OROP in principle.
- According to government sources, the long-pending OROP scheme is likely to be rolled out ahead of the Bihar assembly polls.
- On 15 June 2015, a group of about 55 ex-servicemen who belong to Jalandhar district began their relay-hunger strike at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, demanding the government to announce a date to introduce the OROP policy.
- On 10 June 2015, a group of ex-servicemen met Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and expressed their concerns regarding the delay in the OROP scheme which is likely to benefit as many as 22 lakh retired defence personnel.
- On 3 June 2015, a group of ex-servicemen led by Maj Gen Satbir Singh (retd) met Dalbir Singh Suhag and discussed about the early implementation of ‘one rank one pension’ scheme.
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