Narendra Modi (centre) meeting military personnel on an official visit (file photo: India TV)
The One Rank One Pension scheme for the armed forces is expected to be cleared by the government, but the delay in doing so is keeping the country’s 2.5 million veterans on tenderhooks. Media rumours circulated that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would announce the scheme at his speech in Mathura on Monday, but he eventually made no such announcement.
One Rank One Pension (OROP) implies the payment of a uniform pension to military personnel retiring in the same rank with the same length of service, irrespective of when they retired. Right now, the pension is based on the Pay Commission’s recommendations at the time when they retired. So pensioners who retired before 2006 draw a lower pension than their counterparts and juniors who retired afterwards.
The disparity has grown with every successive Pay Commission. A sepoy who retired before 1996 gets 82 percent less pension than a sepoy who retired after 2006. Among officers, a major who retired pre-1996 gets 53% less pension than a major who retired post-2006.
Implementing OROP is expected to cost the government a whopping Rs. 8,300 crore ($1.3 billion) annually, which is why earlier administrations opposed the scheme as being financially unfeasible.
Nevertheless, six years ago the Supreme Court had directed the previous UPA government to implement OROP. In February this year, the court said failure to implement it within three months would mean contempt of court.
The delay is inexplicable, since OROP was part of the BJP's election manifesto in 2014 and Modi repeatedly assured veterans during his election campaign that their demands would be prioritised.
The government has already made it clear that ex-servicemen would receive arrears from April 2014. This has pacified some sections, but not everyone is convinced.
On Saturday, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi met ex-servicemen and attacked the government over the delay.
"One year has passed of the NDA government, of the Modi government and it has not proceeded ahead with the issue...Army, Navy, Air Force take care of the nation, secure our borders, their demands should be met," Gandhi declared.
He claimed that the UPA had made provisions for OROP and had even allocated Rs. 500 crore ($78 million) for it.
However, given the scale of the scheme Rs. 500 crore would have been inadequate. Gandhi also did not specify why his UPA administration had failed to implement the Supreme Court order for 5 years.