FILE: Ex-servicemen in Ahmedabad protest to demand One Rank One Pension scheme (Press Trust of India photo)
New Delhi: One Rank One Pension or OROP, a longstanding demand of ex-servicemen, will grant retired armed forces personnel pension parity with officers and jawans of the same rank who are retiring now. Gandhian activist Anna Hazare has announced an indefinite fast in support of OROP from October 2.
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Retired services personnel also expect a year's back pay in pensions at the new rate, which if approved will be a windfall for pensioners.
Unlike the civil services, where the retirement age is 60, 85 per cent soldiers are compulsorily retired between 35 and 37 years of age. Another 12-13 per cent soldiers retire between 40 and 54 years.
Protesters demanding OROP also point out that civil servants cannot be discharged by the government on account of disability until they reach their retirement age. But soldiers can be discharged any time on account of disability.
Currently, the pension for retired personnel is based on the Pay Commission recommendations at the time when they retired. So, a Major General who retired in 1996 draws less pension than a Lt. Colonel who retired after 1996.
Implementing OROP will cost the government at least an estimated Rs 8,300 crore annually and the Finance Ministry has to take the final call on it now. One Rank One Pension will benefit 25 lakh ex-servicemen.
One Rank One Pension was an election promise of the BJP. Ex-servicemen are now demanding that it fulfil that promise.
In its last Budget in 2014, months before the national election, the Congress-led UPA government announced that OROP would be implemented, but allocated a meagre Rs 500 crore.
The BJP government says that was grossly inadequate and that it has, since it came to power, been working hard to implement OROP.
The Supreme Court had ordered the implementation of OROP six years ago in 2009, and in February this year, reminded the government that it is yet to do so. In 1983, the Supreme Court said, "Pension is not a bounty nor a matter of grace depending upon the sweet will of the employer."
A group of ex-servicemen leading protests at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi claim ex-jawans are willing to fast unto death for OROP. With Anna Hazare on board, the ex-servicemen say they will also protest in election-bound states such as Bihar.