It all started with a very sad demise of 70-year-old retired soldier, Ram Kishan Grewal. The retired soldier allegedly swallowed sulphas tablets on Tuesday afternoon and was rushed to RML hospital where he died on Wednesday morning. Anticipating trouble, paramilitary troops, police vans and buses were stationed outside the hospital in the morning itself.
It took no time for the news to spread like fire. The politics over the suicide started heating up soon after.
Several leaders of the Congress including Rahul Ghandi and Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia were detainted by the police, when they were on their way to meet the family of Ram Grewal.
With the veteran’s body now in Bhiwani, politicalians like Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal reached ex-soldier Subedar Ram Kishan Grewal’s native Bamla village to attend the cremation.
Back Drop of OROP:
One Rank One Pension (OROP) scheme is the new pension scheme for the India Armed Forces. OROP was announced by the Bhartiya Janta Party government on September 5, 2015 and the scheme became effective from Feburary 2016. But ex-servicemen say that it failed to address their concerns.
Armed Forces in India have been getting pensions since 1973, but when Indira Gandhi-led Indian National Congress (INC) government without discussion with the Armed Force headquaters or veteran representatives, drastically reduced armed forces pension. This resulted in protests by the armed forces and veterans for OROP.
However, after pronlonged delay of more than 40 years, the scheme was finally implemented this year, which promised equal pension to military personnel retiring in the same rank with the same length of service, regardless of the date of retirement. Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently said the first installment of nearly Rs 5,500 crore was paid towards OROP.
“What has been implemented is not OROP but one-time increase in pensions. If the anomalies are not removed, senior defence personnel will start drawing less pension than their juniors, a system unacceptable constitutionally, fairly and justifiably,” said major general Satbir Singh (retd), who is at the forefront of the OROP agitation.
Protesting ex-servicemen suspended their 320-day old agitation, which started on 14 June 2015 and ended on 30 April 2016, for complete implementation of OROP, as senior lawyer Ram Jethmalini assured them of leading the battle in Supreme Court.
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had in September 2015 announced implementation of the long delayed OROP for ex-servicemen but the veterans have been continuing with their protest demanding “complete” implementation of the scheme.
Goverment proposed…. OROP Scheme
- To begin with pension of the past pensioners would be re-fixed on the basis of retirees of the calendar year 2013, taking into account the average of minimum and maximum pension of the personnel retired, and benefit will be effective with effect from 1.7.2014.
- OROP will be average of minimum and maximum pension scale in 2013.
- The scheme to be revised every 5 years.
- One-member judicial commision to submit report every six months.
- Pension for those drawing above the average shall be protected.
- Arrears will be paid in four installments, calculated on half-yearly basis. However, exceptions will be given to all family pensioners including those in receipt of Special/Liberalized family pension and Gallantry award winners for whom the arrears will be paid in a single installment.
Army veterans demands… want it part of OROP
- The scheme is effective July 1, 2014, with 2013 as the base year. The veterans wanted OROP from April 1, 2014 and 2015 as the base year.
- Base for pension should be maximum of the pension scale in 2013.
- The scheme should be revised every 1 or 2 year.
- Five member team under Defense Minister to submit report on monthly basis.
- Around three million military personnel covered under the OROP scheme. The arrears are to be paid in four half-yearly installments and all widows, including war widows, will get arrears in one go.
- The estimated cost to exchequer is expected to be Rs 8,000 to 10,000 crore and will increase in future.
- Senior officials argue that a senior officer can never receive a smaller pension than a junior officer.
- The government initially said soldiers who took “voluntary retirement” would not be entitled to OROP. This hit a raw nerve as at least 40% of servicemen retire early. Only those who retired before the plan kicked in would be entitled to OROP, the government has said.