New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi acknowledged in his Independence Day address at the Red Fort today that he is yet to reach a resolution on the One Rank One Pension demand of ex-servicemen, but promised that his government had "accepted OROP in principle."
Not far from where he addressed the nation, ex-servicemen sitting on a relay hunger strike at Jantar Mantar, the designated site for protests, watched the PM's speech keenly on a large TV screen. They switched it off the moment his brief OROP mention ended and said they "reject the PM's speech".
An announcement on the implementation of One Rank One Pension or OROP was expected to be the centrepiece of the PM's address. But talks between ex-servicemen and the government got stuck at the last minute on what the PM today called "nitty gritty details".
"It has been stuck for 20 years... OROP was considered by all governments, but there is no resolution yet. Even I haven't been able to solve it yet," the PM said at the end of his 90-minute address.
But he promised, "Let me assure all veterans... we are committed and we are in the final stages of deciding."
"PM says Team India , Team India. Are we not Team India?" asked an angry army veteran, referring to the term the Prime Minister used repeatedly in his speech this morning to emphasise collective power.
An 80-year-old protester said, "This is a direct insult." The veterans said they want a date announced for OROP.
Former Army officers and soldiers want the same pension as those of the same rank who are retiring now. Right now, a soldier who retired many years ago is paid far less than someone several ranks junior to him retiring now.
The veterans want pensions benchmarked at the 2014 rates and reject the government offer of 2011 rates. Government sources say that will mean budgeting Rs 20,000 crore for OROP rather than the Rs 8,000 crore that it is otherwise expected to cost.