New Delhi: The protest by ex-servicemen demanding One Rank One Pension (OROP) went on for the 78th day on Monday, as a group of veterans vented their anger on Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, blaming him for the non-implementation of the scheme. Jaitley on Monday ruled out annual revision of pensions under OROP, one of the points of contention between the government and the veterans.
The minister told television channel ET Now that annual revision in pensions do not happen anywhere in the world, and that while the government was committed to OROP, the “only difficulty” was the “arithmetical translation”.
“I have been very vigilant about fiscal prudence and therefore my job is really that of a housewife in the sense that you must measure every rupee that the house spends so that you don’t overspend and then borrow and if you start borrowing beyond a point and indulge in fiscal indiscipline,” Jaitley said.
The minister said the definition of OROP may vary. “I have my own formula on what OROP means. Somebody else may have their own formula on OROP but it has to be within reasonable and rational criteria. You can’t have an OROP where pensions are revised every month or every year,” he said. In an open letter released on Monday, the veterans slammed the finance minister for his comments and questioned how his definition can be different from that of parliament and the Supreme Court.
“Mr. Arun Jaitley who has had the temerity of questioning the very definition of OROP as accepted by parliaments thrice over and pulled up by the Supreme Court of India. “It would be interesting to note that the defence ministry which is the nodal point for all matters relating to the defence forces has completed all the calculations and permutations to the last detail and submitted to the finance ministry as far back as March 17 this year,” said the open letter sent by United Ex-Servicemen Front spokesperson Col.
Anil Kaul (retd). “It is, therefore, quite surprising that five months down the line, the finance ministry has not shown the ability to give the ‘All Clear’ to the PMO for implementation,” the letter said. “What is further shocking is the kind of excuses and issues being brought up from time to time to somehow derail any modicum of talk or understanding between stakeholders that could have resulted in a resolution by now.”
Earlier on Monday, former BJP member Ram Jethmalani met the veterans at Jantar Mantar and launched a sharp attack on Jaitley. Saying he was there to support the veterans, Jethmalani said the finance minister was an “enemy” of the veterans as well as the nation. “Throughout the campaign (for the Lok Sabha election), I went round the country and said Modi is a gift of god. I am ashamed to say that Modi has frustrated my dream, and every day I get more and more evidence that he has no intention of fulfilling this promise,” Jethmalani said.
“I have already told him (Modi) that my love and respect for him has all gone,” the senior Supreme Court lawyer said. He then slammed the finance minister. “The finance minister is the greatest curse of god that has come to us. He is your enemy and he is the enemy of the nation,” he said. The protest at Jantar Mantar continued on Monday, with more veterans joining the indefinite fast.
Subedar Major and Honorary Lieutenant Ganga Singh Arya, Havaldar Ram Niwas Yadav and and Sipahi Vijaypal Singh joined the hunger strike on Monday. Col. Pushpender Singh (retd), Hav. Ashok Chauhan (retd), Maj. Piar Chand Rana (retd)and Hav. Sahib Singh (retd) were also stable.
All four continue to be on fast. Hav. Major Singh, who began his fast last Monday, is still at the Jantar Mantar despite deteriorating condition. Also on an indefinite fast at the Jantar Mantar are Naik Udai Singh Rawat, Sawal Ram Yadav, father of martyr Lance Naik Sunil Kumar Yadav, Cdr. A.K. Sharma, Subedar Vijay Singh Yadav and Subedar Keshaw Singh, all retired soldiers.
There are around 24 lakh ex-servicemen in India and around 6.5 lakh widows who will benefit if OROP is implemented.