New Delhi: Two war veterans today boycotted a function where they were to be felicitated by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, to protest against the delay in implementation of "one rank, one pension" for the armed forces.
One of them is Wing Commander SD Karnik, a 1971 war veteran who was awarded the Vir Chakra, one of India's top gallantry medals. "Since 1973 we haven't got any support from the government. This is downgrading the armed forces. I am hurt," he said. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was widely expected to announce it on Monday when he addressed a rally in Mathura in Uttar Pradesh, but he didn't. NDTV has learnt that the file on one rank, one pension, a BJP election promise, is currently shuttling between the Finance and Defence Ministries after several queries were raised.
Sources tell NDTV that the government doesn't want to announce anything that can be challenged in court. "One rank, one pension" means that the same pension will be paid to personnel retiring in the same rank with the same length of service, irrespective of when they retired. "I may not like ex-servicemen protesting but they are being pushed into it," said former Army Chief General VP Mallik. Ex-servicemen say they call it NATO - "No Action, Talk Only." Currently, the pension for retired personnel is based on the pay commission recommendations at the time when the personnel retired. For instance, a Major General who retired in 1996 draws less pension than a Lt. Colonel who retired after 1996. With one rank, one pension, retired personnel would draw the same pension as officers and jawans of the same rank who are retiring now. They would also be entitled to a year's back pay in pensions at the new rate, which would be a windfall for pensioners.
Six years ago, the Supreme Court directed the government to follow a one rank, one pension principal for retired servicemen. In February this year, the court said failure to implement it within three months would mean contempt of court. One rank, one pension will benefit 25 lakh ex-servicemen. It is expected to cost the government more than Rs. 8300 crore a year. In its Budget last year, months before the national election, the Congress-led UPA government announced that one-rank-one pay would be implemented, but allocated meagre Rs. 500 crore seen as inadequate funds for the initiative.