India celebrated her 69th Independence Day recently, amidst much pomp and jubilation. While our country has reached great heights in such a short period of times, and that too after suffering much at the hands of the colonizers, there have been times when it seems that the State has let society down. The ‘One Rank One Pension (OROP)’ scheme is one such instance.
What is the OROP?
The controversial scheme provided for the same amount of pension for the same rank and same length of service, irrespective of the date of retirement. Sounds fair? Apparently, some people don’t think so. This scheme isn’t a new thing either. It was the norm until 1973, when the Indian National Congress, headed by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, terminated the OROP, in an ex-parte decision. Since then, this has become a bone of contention between veterans from the armed forces and the government at the center.
In the run-up to the 2014 General Elections, both the Congress and the BJP promised that they would support the OROP, and help in its implementation. However, daily protests by army veterans are a norm, and the Jantar Mantar in Delhi is like a second home to these hapless souls.
One of the alleged hindrances to implement the One Rank One Pension scheme is the massive expenditure it might entail. However, repeated studies and reports have found that it will be an economically feasible scheme. The Koshyari Committee, for instance, suggested that it was an economical and that this scheme should be implemented at the earliest.
On 31st May, 2015, Prime Minister Modi assured the protestors that he was paving the way to implementation, by overcoming bureaucratic hurdles. However, these protests continue unabated, as nothing concrete has transpired till now. 80 year old war veteran Wing Commander Suresh Damodar Karnik accused the government of following a NATO (No Action, Talk Only) policy, and insisted that the bureaucracy is making the Defense Force into a Defiant Force.
A New Hope
On 15th August, 2015, Mr. Modi assured that the government had accepted the OROP scheme in principle. Whether these words transform into decisive action remains to be seen, but it is only fair that the current government be given some time to rise over the stagnancy of the previous rule to reach an agreeable conclusion to this sordid affair.
Till then, we will rest in peace knowing that our soldiers are keeping our borders safe. It is true when they say that India lives on not because of its politicians, but in spite of them.
Army veterans deserve our respect and support, and whether the government makes this dream a reality remains to be seen.
Views presented in the article are those of the author and not of ED.