OROP long overdue

OROP long overdue

It is the rarest of rare cases that defence personnel, either retired or in service, resort to public display of their indignation – leave alone any protest.

It is the rarest of rare cases that defence personnel, either retired or in service, resort to public display of their indignation – leave alone any protest. This is what is exactly taking place in front of a perplexed nation. Ex-service personnel are literally a waging war against the government’s indifference to their plight.

Pushed to the wall, they have no other option but to press it to keep its promise. And their demand is just and urgent – successive governments at the Centre shrugged of it, though. Pray, what have they been demanding that the governments should turn blind to? It is natural justice that same rank personnel, having put in same length of service, should get same pension and other benefits, commonly referred to as ‘one rank one pension’ (OROP).

A Standing Committee of Parliament on Defence also supported their contention. The Supreme Court clearly ruled in Union of India V. Maj Gen SPS Vains & Others in 2009 that no senior officer could draw less pension than his juniors and also those with similar ranking should get same pension – irrespective of date of retirement in both the cases.

Later, the Ministry of Defence too agreed to concede the demand. As late as February 2015, the SC sternly reminded the Centre of its commitment. One is perplexed to learn that pay revisions awarded to the defence personnel from time to time are only prospective, leaving those, who retired earlier than a specified date, in the lurch.

When the UPA government was dilly-dallying on the issue, the then emerging choice for PM candidate for the NDA, Narendra Modi, roared at an ex-servicemen’s rally in Rewari in September 2013 that had there been an NDA government, the defence personnel would have been rendered justice. He even regretted that the BJP could not come to power in 2004 to resolve their genuine issue. Later, the BJP manifesto also promised the same.

That the vote of ex-servicemen contributed in no less measure to the massive mandate of the NDA in 2014 is no exaggeration. Naturally, with Modi firmly in the PMO saddle, the ex-servicemen longed to see their wish fulfilled. However, one year on, their demand remains just that, much to their consternation and, hence, the outbreak of massive protests across the nation for the date of implementation of their demand.

Their justification is irrefutable. Most service personnel – others ranks, NCOs and JCOs – are retired before they turn 40-45 even as they have 15-20 years of productive life. They have to seek suitable employment in civil society, with no benefits of lateral entry in any level.

That is when family commitments and financial needs would be peaking. Add to this the rising costs due to inflation. They are rightly anguished at their juniors drawing higher pensions than them. Given their service to the nation, is the demand for a parity in pension such an intractable issue for the governments? Dithering on promises is a way of the wayward politicians. The Modi government is risking such opprobrium by shirking from announcing a date of implementation of its promise.

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