Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday clarified that soldiers who retire prematurely will benefit from implementation of the ‘One Rank One Pension’ (OROP) scheme.
Ex-servicemen, who have been agitating for the past 83 days at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar protest site, decided to discontinue their fast-unto-death following Modi’s announcement but said they will continue their agitation as all their demands have not been fulfilled.
Addressing a rally “Gati Pragati”, after inaugurating the Badarpur-Mujesar Delhi Metro line in Haryana, Modi said those trying to mislead on the issue of “VRS” (voluntary retirement scheme) were doing a wrong thing.
“Some people think that soldiers who left service after working for 15 to 17 years will not be covered under OROP. It is wrong,” he said.
Modi said personnel who suffered physical injuries and had to consequently leave the armed forces will not be left out of the ambit of OROP.
“We have promised to implement OROP for people who live and die for the country,” he said.
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Saturday announced the implementation of OROP and said “personnel who voluntarily retire will not be covered under the OROP scheme”. He clarified later that the clause on voluntary retirement will be removed.
Maj. Gen. Satbir Singh (retd), a key figure in the veterans’ campaign seeking implementation of OROP, on Sunday said the protesting ex-servicemen would call off their fast-unto-death but continue the relay hunger strike.
“We urge all those who are on hunger strike to withdraw it, as the prime minister has clarified on the issue of premature retirement. But our protest will continue,” he told media persons near Jantar Mantar.
He said the government announced implementation of OROP but it needed to do more.
The agitating ex-servicemen have differences with the government over its decision to go for revision every five years and over formation of the one-member judicial committee.
The veterans want that the committee must consist of five members — three retired veterans, one serving member of the forces and any one designated by the government.
Congress leader and former defence minister A.K. Antony on Sunday accused the government of diluting OROP.
“Yesterday’s (Saturday) statement of the defence minister is substantial dilution of OROP,” he told a news channel.
Modi talked about OROP at length in his speech in Faridabad.
He said he has delivered on his promise made to ex-servicemem at his rally in Rewari in September 2013 following his being made the prime ministerial candidate by the Bharatiya Janata Party.
He took veiled digs at the Congress over its criticism of the government.
“Those who didn’t do anything for 40 years have no right to speak on behalf of jawans,” Modi said.
He said his government has closely examined how much OROP will cost the exchequer and found that it would be Rs.8,000-10,000 crore.
Modi said OROP turned out to be a “difficult” issue and could have ramifications which were yet to be ascertained.
“There can be problems in the coming days but we made a promise to the soldiers of the country and we are fulfilling it,” he said.
Modi said that around 80 percent of the benefits of OROP would be available to soldiers of junior ranks such as naik and sepoy.
He said a significant proportion of soldiers were from Haryana and, therefore, the announcement of OROP would contribute significantly to the state’s economy.
A press statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said veterans of the armed forces welcomed and greeted Modi for Saturday’s announcement of OROP during the inauguration function of the Badarpur-Faridabad Metro line at Faridabad.
“They presented flowers to the prime minister and thanked him,” the release said.