The Government’s announcement to implement the ‘One Rank One Pension’ scheme certainly came as relief to the veterans of the armed forces but there still remain some deliberations which need to be sorted out. The centre fulfilling its major election promise, propounded it to be a matter of distress stating that various governments remained indecisive about OROP, thereby seeking credit for the closure of this four decades of undying protests. The primary purpose to culminate the strike however remains unresolved as the veterans rejected the policy embowering the scheme for the reason that it deviates from the core issues from the accepted notion.
The implication of this scheme is that uniform pension be paid to the personnel of the armed forces retiring in the same rank with same length of service regardless of their date of retirement. This bridges the breach between the rate of pension receivable by both the current and past pensioners and further the future augmentations in the rate of pension be automatically passed on to the past pensioners.
The Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar in his statement has enumerated that the Government respects the devotion of those veterans of the armed forces displaying exemplary courage in various challenging circumstances. Further it has been provided that the government held widespread consultations with the experts and the ex-servicemen and despite the huge financial burden considering the economy backlashing, the decision has been taken to implement this scheme. Though certain implementations pertaining to the constitution of judicial committee and reviewing of the policy have been side-tracked for what has been claimed by the veterans but that would soon be itemized in the detailed Government Order as per the Ministry.
The reason for the extensive protests and public appeals was the termination of the OROP during the tenure of the INC led by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi which later witnessed drastic decrease in the Armed forces pension from 70% to 37% based on the last salary drawn. This unending protest led to the setting up of Koshyari Committee, a ten member all party Parliamentary Panel to probe into the situation, which after the enquiry found merit in the scheme and strongly recommended the Government to implement the same at earliest. Regardless of the Committee report and the evident restlessness amongst the veterans, the UPA Government due to reasons unknown was dawdling in the implementation of OROP.
Thereafter, post the elections, the Government at the centre changed but it led to further concern as to the consideration of this scheme as promised in the party manifesto during the election campaigns. Though there arose uncertainties pertaining to the matter but after few divergences, the Government stalledthe enactment of the policy with the expectation of meeting the demands of the veterans. The Governmental offer included the effectiveness of such scheme from July 1, 2014 with the equalisation of pensions at every 5 years and the appointment of the one member judicial commission for submitting his report in six months.
The rolling out of the scheme was reiterated as the Government’s commitment towards the ex-servicemen but the veterans still want more as their contention signifies that the base for the pension should be maximum of the pension scale as compared to the average of pension scale offered by Government. Further their demand for the annual revision of such policy though seems extravagant but the five member committee under the direction of Defence Minister to submit its report however would be acceptable considering the complexities in the governmental policies and the issues in question thereon.
The potential beneficiaries of OROP include 3.2 million combined total of ex-servicemen and war widows for which an estimate of about INR 8400 crores has been sanctioned by the government in order to fulfil the projected demand. Though the estimation is sought to be one-time payment, which will substantially increase with every pay commission thereby extricating the purpose of this scheme, the top position has been made as to the exclusion of those ex-servicemen who had opted for pre-mature retirement from the ambit of OROP, on grounds such as recruitment of the young army and the curtailed career results of those who have provided their best years to the service of the nation and society.
There has been no such explanation for delaying the implementation of this pension scheme except blaming the other political parties for their ambivalent approach. Further, administrative and financial difficulties were projected as roadblocks wherein the cost structure and pre-requisite thorough analysis were not subject to interpretation. Despite of the inadequate structure, the Government was however able to provide a chunk of the economy so that these issues could be resolved substantially but despite this move, the ex-servicemen were dissatisfied with the scheme and continued with the protest, thereby defeating the very purpose of such implementation.
Although, most expectations from the OROP scheme have been met, the rest of the arrangements need to be resolved with deliberations. Efforts must be made by the ex-servicemen to understand the essence of such progressive steps, instead of throttling the efforts by standing firm on their approach. The various amendments though would only enhance the strata of the scheme since the announcement of the one-member judicial committee examining; the issues of retirees would not be a rational approach, provided the intricacies in the process. Further, the review of such scheme annually would be an unrealistic approach since the review panel working on such scale would not be able to submit its report considering the amount of ex-servicemen and veterans claiming the benefit under the scheme.
Thus, the government should be opportunist in this regard for the purpose of closing the unseen gaps between the ex-servicemen army personnel and the bureaucracy regarding the compensation paygrade. Further, it is also to be noted that the beneficiaries should lower their improbable expectations from the government as it has remained determined for the advancement of the pension beneficiaries. and there shall be nothing incorrect in the approach to discourage the demands that may rise from other sectors following such availed benefits. Thus, it is indeed an ardent approach considering the disengagement from the governmental promises by the veterans and the governments’ transcendental acknowledgement of the countrymen where promises aredelayed but not denied.