Aggrieved over the delay in the roll-out of ‘one rank, one pension’ for the armed forces, ex-servicemen plan to hold a nationwide agitation, even as 1971 war veteran Wing Commander(retd) Suresh Karnik boycotted a function attended by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. As the resentment over the delay grew, Navy chief Admiral R K Dhowan advised ex-servicemen to be “patient” on the long-pending demand for OROP, saying that the government was seized of the matter. “We are planning to hold a rally on June 14. It would not only be held in Delhi but also in various parts of the country,” Maj Gen Satbir Singh (retd), who had led a delegation of war veterans to meet Parrikar earlier this year, told PTI in Delhi. He said the veterans plan to go on hunger strike if the government does not keep its promise. While saying that Parrikar had good intentions on the OROP issue, Karnik, a recipient of the Vir Chakra—third highest award for gallantry—blamed the bureaucracy for dragging the matter to the disappointment of lakhs of ex-service personnel across the country.
“The government is paying lip service to ex-servicemen’s cause. Bureaucracy is playing its own game on one rank, one pension issue,” he told PTI in Pune. He also said he was not attending a gallantry award function in Pune that was addressed by Parrikar. Admiral Dhowan stressed that OROP has been a “priority area” and the issue has been taken up with the Defence Ministry. “We look forward to that announcement,” he told reporters in Delhi. “The Ministry of Defence is very much seized of the problem. To the best of my knowledge, a lot of progress has been made on the OROP. It is up to the government to take a final decision on it,” he said. OROP has been a long-standing demand of the over 2 million ex-servicemen of India. It seeks to ensure that a uniform pension is paid to the defence personnel retiring in the same rank with the same length of service, irrespective of their date of retirement. The scheme is estimated to cost around Rs 8,600 crore initially and subsequently several crore rupees annually. Currently, all pre 2006 (the year the 6th Pay Panel recommendations became effective) pensioners receive lesser pension than not only their counterparts but also their juniors. — PTI