One Rank One Pension – Modi government set to keep the promise made to Ex-Servicemen
The Narendra Modi government is expected to deliver on its “one rank, one pension” (OROP) promise, a promise the prime minister himself made to armed forces veterans when he kicked off his election campaign in Rewari, a southern district of Haryana with a strong tradition of sending men into the armed forces. According to a source, defence minister Manohar Parrikar has approved the policy and payments are to be made with arrears, which will altogether cost the government Rs 8,000 crore.
The pension payment would be linked to an ex-serviceman’s last salary drawn and the government has promised to put a previously retired veteran’s pension at par with that of a freshly retired ex-serviceman of the same rank and years of service. This will partly assuage a 40-year-old grievance of officers and ranks from the three forces.
The government is expected to table the proposal during the ongoing budget session of Parliament, with the release of funds to be announced when the government marks one year in office. Based on the Sixth Pay Commission’s recommendations in 2008, the then government adopted a discriminatory pension policy for ex-servicemen of the same rank and length of service. Simply put, since 2006, ex-servicemen of the same rank and number of years in service have been paid different pension amounts, based on when they had retired.
Ex-servicemen object to this disparity since the cost of living today is the same for everyone, regardless of when they retired. It seemed the government expected that a general, air-marshal or jawan who retired in the 1990s should have a different lifestyle from their successors of the same rank and length of service who retired later with a higher last drawn salary.
Former defence personnel had previously organised themselves and lobbied with the government at different times. But the disparity in pension hurt veterans across ranks and they held a protest rally at India Gate, much to the embarrassment of the then UPA government. A day after his nomination was announced in September 2013 as BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Modi’s first speech was not at a party event. The Indian Ex-Servicemen’s Movement (iesm) had organised the event in Haryana and with thousands of ex-servicemen in attendance, Modi had played to the gallery promising he would implement the OROP policy. A week before that, former chief of army staff and now Union minister of state for external affairs, General (retd) V.K. Singh had made the same promise. Both played up the issue because it affects around 24 lakh ex-servicemen, 6.5 lakh martyrs’ widows and the 14 lakh men and women in uniform protecting the country. Ten days after Modi’s speech, then Congress MP Rao Inderjeet Singh, from Gurgaon, gave up his Congress membership and joined the BJP.