High time politicians stop taking ex-servicemen for a ride over OROP, they have waited long enough to die
In a country where on one hand salaries of the Members of Parliament get hiked in mere four days of deliberations, on the other hand, Retired Army Officers have to wait for more than 40 years to see One Rank One Pension (OROP) to come into effect.
Scores of ex-servicemen are currently protesting over the delay in implementation of the promised OROP for nearly three weeks now along with a relay hunger-strike by 75 ex-servicemen at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, speaks a lot about India’s political and bureaucratic mind-set. The jawans and officers who once fought with their all might to keep our borders safe amidst torrid conditions are today battling for their right, for their own survival.
It’s indeed sad to see these brave hearts sitting on a hunger strike to demand what they rightfully deserve. After all the sacrifices and pains they undergo in order to protect our borders, till this date what they have got in return are ‘false’ promises and hopes. So much so that some have even proposed to return their gallantry medals back in frustration. Can a country like India and mainly its politicians afford make merry at the cost of ex-servicemen? Guess, no country should. Why can’t the MPs denounce their hike in the salaries and unanimously state that until the ex-servicemen gets their demands met they all not accept the salary hike.
The Congress Party has no moral right to question the current BJP led NDA government at the Centre over the delay in implementation of the OROP. They were at the helm of country’s affairs for 40-long-years, party president Sonia Gandhi had promised the same to the army personals way back on 2002 and currently her son Rahul Gandhi too had sang to the same tunes. Why they didn’t do it when they had all the time and opportunities at their disposal?
Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his general election campaign had not just promised OROP once elected to power, but had also demanded White Paper on the issue from the Congress. What happened to your promise Mr. Prime Minister? Otherwise a star orator of your government, why are you silent on the issue? If Modi government is really serious on the issue, then why delay?
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar who claims to have cleared all the decks to implement OROP does not have time to even walk down his South Block office and meet these respected ex-servicemen at Jantar Mantar. What more do you want Defence Minister? A 95-year-old widow of a martyr sitting on dharna and 82-year-old writing to the ex-servicemen stating that he is ready to sit on fast unto death, is this not enough to move your heart? You and your government have spoken enough, now it is time to deliver Mr. Parrikar.
Currently, the pension for retired defence forces personnel is based on the pay commission recommendations prevalent at the time of his/her retirement. This leads to a difference in pensions of officers of the same rank who retire on different dates. Under OROP, retired personnel would draw same pensions as officers and jawans of the same rank who are retiring now. They would also be entitled to a year’s back pensions at the new rate, which would be a windfall for pensioners. OROP will benefit 25 lakh ex-servicemen. It is expected to cost the government around Rs.8,500 crore.
Apparently it is believed that financial assistance Parrikar had sought from Finance Minister Arun Jaitley with regard to OROP has been modified. It is learnt that when the ex-servicemen delegation called upon Jaitley, he told them to tone down their expectations. Finance Minster does not hesitate in sanctioning crores of rupees to hike MPs salaries, but finds coffers empty for OROP scheme. It is clear that even if OROP is implemented, it will be in a modified and diluted form.
On one of the popular news channel the ex-servicemen drew parallel among them and the peons working in government offices. And, stated that a peon in any government office draws 8 crore more in pension than a jawan. If this holds true, then it’s high time we do a re-think.
Was this only a poll gimmick? Are we expecting the announcement just on the onset of the coming Bihar elections? If Prime Minister and Defence Minister wants to prove that they are much sincere than their previous counterparts, then they must announce OROP scheme not wasting a single day and also announce the date from which it will come into force.
With the delay, the trust of our bravehearts is fading out. It is not a good sign for the armed forces in our country. The generation next shall think twice about joining the forces if such a treatment continues to be given to the Indian soldiers.