For more than 40 years, one rank-one pension was a pipe dream. The NDA government, under intense pressure from veterans, made it come true on Saturday.
But instead of celebrating, the veterans have announced their stir will continue; to them OROP has been accepted only in a diluted form. Harsh criticism of unresolved issues has overshadowed a sense of gratitude and relief among some in the veterans' camp.
Without getting into the nitty-gritty of calculations and formulae adopted to implement the pension scheme, there's no denying that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has, in some sense, achieved what none of his predecessors could, and made good on an election promise. It took its time coming, and there were many false dawns on the way, but OROP now seems to be here.
The veterans need to appreciate that and slam the brakes on their ongoing protest, at least for the time being, and give the government elbow room to reconsider the issues raised by them. Mutual trust and respect is required.
The veterans’ main concerns centre around premature retirees, pension revision, mode of re-calculation and base year for reworking pensions.
They have been assured that premature retirees will not be deprived of OROP, but there's no word from the government yet on the other demands. The government should not hesitate to take a relook at the concerns flagged by veterans to resolve the issue in a manner favourable to both sides.
There needs to be a realisation among the veterans that this is a costly affair: The government will spend up to Rs 10,000 crore every year to implement the scheme and arrears to be given out in the first two years will add up to a further Rs 10,000 crore to Rs 12,000 crore. The financial burden will spiral upwards in the coming years.
The armed forces are among the few institutions that still enjoy widespread respect, and there’s been no shortage of goodwill among the public for the veterans in their fight for OROP. But now, people are now watching every move they make.
Honour and dignity are the military's core values, values which the country expects they will uphold. The stir cannot be allowed to a new shape at this stage.
Modi's assurance on Sunday that premature retirees will not be treated unfairly has allayed some fears; the decision to end the fast unto death is a good start for a process of reconciliation.
The veterans have fought hard in the twilight of their lives and hopefully they will pop the cork and spray champagne over each other at the earliest. Imagine those images from Jantar Mantar beaming live on your TV screens.