Editorial

OROP and after

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Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s announcement that the government has decided to implement the > One Rank One Pension scheme came as a huge relief to the veterans of the armed forces and also to those now in the services. There remain some wrinkles that need to be ironed out and gaps in clarity that have to be filled. Most of the doubts are bound to be put to rest when the formal government order is issued. Credit must be given to the government for bringing a sense of closure to an issue that has been hanging fire for over 40 years. That the Prime Minister’s Office finally had to step in after nearly three months of wrenching agitations by the veterans is a telling commentary on the complicated nature of the issue and the hardened, almost intransigent, positions that had to be addressed. Yet it must be said that the government could have handled this better. The same could be said about the timing of the announcement too. By dragging the issue to a point nearly coinciding with the run-up to the Bihar Assembly elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi risked pushing it squarely into the political arena, but he acted deftly. In the time it took for the government to take a decision, the Congress, the Aam Aadmi Party and sections of the Left were raring to move into the breach by beating a path to Jantar Mantar where the veterans were on a hunger strike in a determined attempt to goad the government into action. The veterans should not be allowed to become tools in the hands of politicians. Indeed, by fielding a former Defence Minister to mount a nit-picking attack after the announcement was made, the Congress showed a certain inability to grasp the reality. The fact is that the Congress did not come through when it could have; instead it cited administrative, technical and funding difficulties.

Now that most of the expectations on OROP have been met, a spirit of give-and-take should inform the rest of the engagement. Maximalist positions should be shunned. A pension review every year is desirable, but it should be asked if it would really be practical. The announcement of a single-member judicial committee to examine the interests of retirees may not be the ideal way forward. Given the complexities involved, the government should rather consider an appropriate advisory committee to expedite the process. It would be a pity if the opportunity is not utilised to close the perceived gap between the bureaucracy and the armed services in terms of the compensation package. The government must meanwhile remain determined to discourage any unrealistic expectations and demands that may now come up from other sectors following the OROP announcement.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2020 10:43:30 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/editorial-on-one-rank-one-pension-scheme/article7625871.ece

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