New Delhi: Former Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi, Rajeev Gandhi and VP Singh – all in principle agreed that there should be no disparity when it comes to One Rank One Pension (OROP) for the soldiers, but none had the political will, financial courage and the desire to take on bureaucracy effectively on this.
Blood soaked letters, returned gallantry medals, dharnas and threats… none had so much impact on the governments as much as the new fear of the UPA Government of eroding mass base this time. The Congress led ruling UPA government finally has realized that the ex-servicemen are in decisive positions in some of the important seats that it will be contesting this year in the general elections. Hence, the sop.
In the election year, even though reluctantly, the UPA government finally had to bite the bullet. Realising the power of ex-servicemen votes, in his interim budget Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said government accepted the principle of OROP, thus putting an end to 42 year old wait of the ex-sevicemen of the three forces. Chidambaram said that OROP was an emotive issue, with legal implications, and announced Rs 500 crore to the defence pension account for implementing the OROP scheme and bridging the gaps that are still left behind despite three corrective steps taken in 2006, 2010 and 2013. The new OROP will be effective from 1 April, 2014. The scheme will benefit about 30 lakh retired ex-servicemen. This will lead to a hike in pensions between Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000 per month for ex-servicemen.
The UPA government has tried to win over the voters from armed forces and Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, who personally pushed this demand, will have a face saver when he addresses a rally of ex-servicemen in Uttarakhand this Saturday.
While the timing of the announcement is understandable what is baffling is the meager amount of Rs 500 crore allocated as of now for OROP implementation. This amount appears to be less than one third of the demand of Rs 1730 crores placed by the armed forces before the Rajya Sabha Petitions Committee. While the Defence Ministry and even Chidmabaram maintained that this amount is only to get the ball rolling, officials in military were skeptical and feared that this may again be another “bridging the gap” means rather than correcting the anomaly forever. “In the coming week the entire contour of the scheme and its implication will be worked out. The political intent has been made clear,” said one MoD official.
A blogger on the ex-airman.blogspot has claimed that Chiadambaram’s announcement may be just old wine in new bottle. “Mr.Chidambaram has cheated the nation by telling a lie in Lok Saba that one rank one pension has already been granted to Havildars and equivalent ranks of armed forces and needs to be done only in case of Sepoy ,Naik , Major and above .It is a blatant lie. The minimum basic bay of an X group sergeant (Havildar) of air force with 15 years of service as per 6th CPC is Rs.15,500. Hence, his present basic pension as per 6th CPC is Rs.7750 (50% of 15,500) .Whereas, a pre -2006 sergeant of same group and length of service gets only a basic pension ofRs. 6,374,” wrote M.B. Chandran Menon. In the coming days more such outpours are expected which might reopen the Pandora’s Box.
However, the work is only half done. The Petitions Committee had also recommended that for future, the pay, allowances, pension, family pension etc. in respect of the defense personnel should be determined by a separate commission so that their peculiar terms and conditions of service, the nature of duties they are required to perform, etc., which are quite different from the civilian work force, are duly taken into account while taking decision on the same. The government is yet to take a decision on this. Another announcement in this regard will mean Mission Accomplished!!
||What is One Rank One Pay: Uniform pension to be paid to the Defence forces personnel retiring at the same rank with the same length of service, irrespective of their date of retirement. Any future enhancement in the rates of pension will be automatically passed on to the past pensioners.”
||Who is effected: Those who retired before January 1, 2006 get lesser pension than those retiring later at same rank and same years of service.