The One Rank One Pension (OROP) scheme that was hanging on the Finance Ministry for over five years, both the Congress-led UPA government and the BJP-led NDA government under Narendra Modi should own the responsibility for perpetuating it despite full knowledge that it was beyond mere political calculations involving a huge dent on the exchequer.
While the Congress relented just before the election year to benefit from the votes of these 30 lakh beneficiaries, BJP weaned them away promising its immediate implementation. Once in power, the staggering amount of Rs.8500 crore has forced Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to postpone the OROP beyond the second budget, forcing the ex-servicemen to hit the streets and now end up at the Jantar Mantar in hinger strikes.
For those new to the subject, implentation of OROP entails uniform pension benefits for the defence persons who retired in the same rank with the same service term, irrespective of their date of retirement. Current policy entails only those who retired after 1996 to draw more pension than those who retired before, though rank is the same.
With OROP, 22 lakh ex-servicemen and about 6 lakh war widows will get Rs.10,000 more on average. This has become imminent because the current policy entails those who retired after 1996 to draw more pension than those who retired before, though rank is the same.
“Modi has assured us that it will be implemented, but it has been one year,” said retired Colonel Anil Kaul, who is the media adviser to Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement (IESM) that is sprearheading the protest in New Delhi at Jantar Mantar. “The Prime Minister’s voice still echoes in our minds when he roared at the ex-servicemen rally on September 15, 2013, in Rewari and demanded a white paper on OROP from the UPA Government,” said ISEM earlier.
Now that the relay hunger strike entered 65 days, many war veterans who were in the forefront to die for the country are openly preparing themselves to die for the OROP implementation. Strange but no country would have upset its ex-servicemen given a chance.
In case of the Modi’s government too the question is bigger than mere rhetorics. Pumping in Rs.8,500 crore even if it is in incremental way, would mean a huge burden diverting funds from the developmental plans. Secondly, OROP would also undercut the cost of military expenditure on armaments but shows bigger than any other nation in the short run.
Finally, the government has no choice left either now but to implement it. The question is from where will the finance minister draw the funds?