The OROP struggle

>Thousands of ex-servicemen converged on the national capital over the past weekend to protest against the >delay on the part of the government in announcing a firm timeline for the implementation of the One Rank One Pension (OROP) scheme. Others have gone on a relay-hunger strike across the country, saying they would do so till their demand is met. In the run-up to the 2014 elections and after, the Bharatiya Janata Party held out several assurances on OROP, raising expectations among the community of veterans. OROP is meant to bring parity among retired military personnel based only on rank and tenure and irrespective of the date of retirement. As >Prime Minister Narendra Modi accepted in his “Mann Ki Baat” broadcast, the government had underestimated the complexity of the process. One of the major concerns of the government as it works out the details relates to similar demands that could potentially come from the Central police and paramilitary forces. The logic of OROP stems from the fact that unlike in other government services where the retirement age is 55, 58 or 60, in the military services a soldier retires around 35. So extending the scheme to non-military cadres will nullify its very rationale. In order to pre-empt any legal issues in the future, the government is working to call it military pension, making it a provision that applies only to the armed forces. Another issue relates to allocating finances for the immediate rollout phase and making the necessary provision for enhancements in future. Wary of any bid by the government to redefine OROP, veterans are demanding that it stick to the accepted definition.

The scheme, once implemented, is expected to benefit two and a half million ex-servicemen and women immediately. While the veterans’ anguish over the delay is understandable, they should appreciate the complexity of the process. Also, with OROP being one of the BJP’s top election promises, commitment for its implementation had been reiterated at the highest level by Mr. Modi. The issue, pending for four decades, has seen more progress in the last one year than over the last few decades. So while keeping up pressure on the government, it would be wise to give it room to work out the details. The government, on its part, should realise that these veterans fought for this country while in service, and it is indeed their legitimate right. In addition, they represent a strong voter base, as the last Lok Sabha elections proved. This is pertinent as protesting organisations have announced they would agitate in Bihar, where Assembly elections are due this year. The government should come out with a clear road map in the interests of the nation as well as its own. The existing mismatch between expectations and delivery could prove problematic in more ways than one.

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Printable version | Jul 10, 2020 6:55:33 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/the-orop-struggle/article7322625.ece

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