Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar announced here that the government has decided to implement OROP – the grant of a uniform pension across a given rank regardless of when a soldier or officer retires – under which there would be revision of pension every five years as against every two years demanded by the ex-servicemen.
The base year for calculation of the OROP would be calendar year 2013 and the policy would be implemented with effect from July 2014, Parrikar said while making it clear that ex-servicemen who have taken voluntary retirement would not be eligible for the scheme.
The government is also setting up a one-member judicial committee to work out details of OROP implementation which will file a report in six months, the minister said.
Reacting to the announcement, the leader of agitating ex-servicemen Maj Gen (retd) Satbir Singh said that while the veterans were satisfied with government’s intention to implement OROP, the proposed benefits were not acceptable to them.
Rejecting the provisions for pension revision after every five years and keeping those who take VRS out of the scheme among others, Singh said, “According to us, the government has accepted one of our demands and rejected six…at this point we cannot withdraw the agitation based on these details.”
Top defence ministry sources said the interest of those armed forces personnel who had to take VRS due to injuries will be protected.
“OROP is a complex issue. A thorough examination of interests of retirees of different periods and different ranks is needed. The inter-service issues of the three forces also require consideration. This is not an administrative matter alone,” said Parrikar while maintaining that the estimated cost to implement the scheme would be Rs 8,000-10,000 crore.
On arrears, he said they will be paid in four half-yearly instalments. However, all widows, including war widows, will be paid arrears in one instalment.
Expressing dissatisfaction over the government’s proposed benefits under OROP, Singh said, “We do not accept the decisions not to give OROP benefits to those who have taken premature retirement.
“We also disapprove setting up of one-member judicial committee.”
Asserting that they needed clarification on various issues, Singh said the agitation will continue and the future course of action will be decided shortly.
Close to 26 lakh retired servicemen and over six lakh war widows stand to be immediate beneficiaries of the scheme.
The Defence Minister said Rs 10,000-12,000 crore would be required to pay arrears to the ex-servicemen.
“Pension will be re-fixed for all pensioners retiring in the same rank and with the same length of service as the average of minimum and maximum pension in 2013. Those drawing pensions above the average will be protected,” Parrikar said.
The three service chiefs and the Defence Secretary were also present at the press conference where Parrikar read out a statement. The Defence Minister did not take any question.
Defence Ministry sources said government will come out with a detailed order on OROP within next one month.
Parrikar said the government has held extensive consultations with experts and ex-servicemen and decided to implement OROP despite the huge financial burden.
“The previous government had estimated that OROP would be implemented with a budget provision of mere Rs 500 crore. The reality, however, is that to implement OROP, the estimated cost to exchequer would be Rs 8,000 to 10,000 crore at present and will increase further in future,” Parrikar said.
The Defence Minister said the OROP issue was pending for nearly four decades and though the previous UPA government had made an announcement to implement it in 2014-15, it had not specified what the scheme would be.
“It is a matter of deep anguish that various governments remained ambivalent on the issue of OROP,” he said.
The Defence Minister complimented the defence forces for their service to the country.