Politics

Is There Any Truth to What the Modi Government Is Saying About One Rank, One Pension?

There are many inconsistencies in what is officially said and what is actually happening.

Ex-servicemen during the 'Sainik Ekta' rally to press for their demands regarding 'one rank, one pension' scheme. Credit: Shahbaz Khan/PTI

Ex-servicemen during the ‘Sainik Ekta’ rally to press for their demands regarding ‘one rank, one pension’ scheme. Credit: Shahbaz Khan/PTI

The more you hear the statements of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, defence minister Manohar Parrikar and finance minister Arun Jaitley on the one rank, one pension (OROP) issue, you get the impression that they are repeating lies, much like the Goebbels did, hoping that everyone will believe them.

Unfortunately, some of our own brothers and sisters from the veteran community have fallen into the trap of the BJP and believe we have been granted OROP. Such innocent veterans are saying we must be grateful to the NDA-II government. Similarly, the BJP’s spokespersons who have participated in TV panel discussions on the suicide of subedar Ram Kishan Grewal from Haryana on November 2 have repeated the same lies – that OROP has been implemented. Let me compare what has been given and what we should get, and then you will realise how Modi, Parrikar and Jaitley are taking all of us for a ride.

I would have praised the BJP government if it had honestly admitted that it is not in a position to grant OROP due to financial constraints but has instead sanctioned a one-time increase in pensions. But terming this one-time increase as OROP is totally unacceptable.

OROP status

What the government says: We have implemented OROP

The truth: OROP was defined in the Lok Sabha as ‘same pension for the same rank for the same length of service, irrespective of the date of retirement’ and passing these benefits to all pensioners. But the BJP-led government, aided by bureaucrats, twisted OROP to mean a one-time increase.

It is not difficult to understand that OROP calls for pension equalisation every year and not just once in five years. Will the pensions of soldiers retiring in 2021 be the same as that of pre-2014 pensioners? The answer is no. Then why should we term this as OROP?

The UPA-I and UPA-II governments also increased pensions in January 2006, July 2009 and September 2012. Did they grant OROP thrice? If we look at this as per the BJP’s understanding of OROP, then yes. But it must be restated – a one-time increase to equalise pensions is not OROP

Junior commissioned officers and other ranks had a fixed pension at the maximum of scale from July 2009 until June 2014. The NDA-II fixed an average of the maximum and minimum pensions of those who retired in 2013 to determine the one-time increase. What is the significance of 2013? Nothing but to fool pensioners.

The UPA-II and NDA-II governments approved OROP in their respective budgets of 2014. The budget commences in April 2014 whereas the NDA-II paid arrears with effect from July 2014 on the false ground that they came to power only on May 26 of that year. But did NDA-II collect taxes only from July 2016?

Besides, those who take premature retirement cases are ineligible for OROP. So does OROP mean you have to work for your full term of engagement? This is another lie by the NDA-II government.

How does OROP relate to the length of service of disabled soldiers and the widows of soldiers who died in the line of service? The NDA-II government links the length of service to the pension paid to widows and disabled soldiers, completely twisting the meaning of OROP. This has resulted in the widows of young soldiers since 2014 getting a much lower pension than those who retired earlier.

OROP arrears

What the government says: We have disbursed OROP and only 1,50,313 ex-servicemen are yet to get OROP arrears.

The truth: Banks have informed that the Principal Controller of Defence Accounts (Pensions), Allahabad, or PCDA (P) has issued instructions not to pay OROP arrears unless the group, length of service and rank is mentioned in the pension payment order (PPO). I have advised Parrikar to give instructions to pay arrears at minimum of group so that all pensioners who received pension until July 2014 get some OROP arrears. Does the government not understand that if an ex-serviceman receives a pension it is because he has served the minimum period required to be eligible for a pension. Why must 1.5 lakh pensioners be denied a pension? If the government had considered this, perhaps Grewal would not have committed suicide. Will action be taken against the pension sanctioning authorities (PSAs) who did not give certain groups or qualifying services of the 1.5 lakh soldiers to the banks? Will action be taken against the PSAs for not issuing Corrigendum PPOs whenever pensions are enhanced giving all the latest details?

Processing arrears

What the government says: Pension cells are working over time to ensure all are paid OROP arrears

The truth: PSAs do not reply to any representatives of the veterans. How many grievances have been resolved since the time issue of Circular 555? The PCDA (P) Allahabad shamelessly admitted in response to an RTI query that they do not have rank-wise, group-wise and service-wise details of pensioners. How do the PSAs justify their salaries without doing this work?