With the government appearing to be ready with draft One Rank, One Pension (OROP) proposal, India’s military veterans said on Friday said they would scale up their agitation if the government’s version diluted their demands.
According to sources, the Narendra Modi government has an OROP draft ready, and an announcement may come soon.
On Friday, RSS joint general secretary Dattatreya Hosabele also said that they have been informed by Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah that the scheme will be worked out soon.
The government has readied the draft even its talks with representatives of the ex-servicemen remain inconclusive, despite attempts by several mediators.
Informed sources said the government is under pressure over the OROP scheme in the light of the veterans’ protest for its implementation entering its 82nd day and the approaching Bihar assembly polls, and thus, it may soon announce the scheme.
The veterans however said whatever they have heard of the government’s version of the scheme so far is not acceptable to them and nothing has been conveyed to them officially.
“We will intensify our agitation if OROP is not in conformity with what we are asking,” said Maj. Gen. Satbir Singh (retd.), chairman of the Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement, but added they were willing to make minor concessions.
In an interview to IANS, the retired soldier said they had high hopes from the government but were totally disappointed.
“We took Modi and his assurances at face value. They were not expecting 280 seats in the Lok Sabha. They got it because of the support of soldiers. Soldiers are the opinion makers in villages. We are totally disappointed,” he said.
Meanwhile, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological mentor of ruling BJP, said they have been assured that OROP will be worked out soon.
“We have been told by Amit Shah that OROP will be worked out soon,” Hosabele told reporters here.
Sources said some mediators from the government’s side have approached the ex-servicemen and offered to arrange a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi but the veterans said they first wanted information about the government’s stand before meeting the prime minister.
The government’s version of the OROP apparently takes 2013 as a base year, and July 2014 as date of implementation, along with provision for review every five years.
This is, however, not acceptable to veterans, who say July 2014 as date of implementation can be acceptable only when base year is 2014 as well. They also object to revision after five years, and say they can, at the most, agree to a review every two years.
Even this would mean that 11 percent of the seniors, who have retired, would get lower pension than their juniors for a year, they said.
A key demand of the ex-servicemen is that juniors should not get higher pension than the seniors any time.
Another offer made by the veterans is of four revisions between two successive Pay Commissions, which is 10 years, and then in the 10th year, a review by the commission.
Earlier in the day, Maj. Gen. Singh told media persons that they had written five times to the prime minister for a meeting but there had been no response.
Addressing retired soldiers at the Jantar Mantar protest venue, he said they were fighting against “injustice” and were not against any government or political party, noting that unlike civil servants, only one percent of military personnel serve up to the age of 60 and that 85 percent retire before the age of 40.
He described the Jantar Mantar protest site in the heart of the national capital as a “Sainik parliament”.
As he spoke, hundreds of former soldiers repeatedly chanted “Bharat Mata ki Jai” and raised slogan like “Sainik Ekta Zindabad!”
Ex-servicemen began their protest here demanding implementation of OROP in June. Some have been on an indefinite fast since August 17. Relay hunger strikes in solidarity are being observed in some 60 cities.