Finance minister P Chidambaram on Monday declared that the UPA government had accepted the long-standing demand of veteran soldiers for “one rank, one pension (OROP),” four days after HT broke a story confirming that the government was on course to implementing the proposal that would benefit around 3 million pensioners.
The move will ensure that retired soldiers of the same rank and the same length of service receive the same pension, irrespective of their retirement date.
In his interim budget speech, Chidambaram said Rs. 500 crore has been earmarked to kick off the scheme in 2014-15. The defence budget has been raised from Rs. 203,672 crore to Rs. 224, 000 crore, a 10% rise over last fiscal year’s outlay.
“We need a young fighting force, we need young jawans and we need young officers. We also need to take care of those who served in the defence forces only for a limited numbers of years. The government has therefore decided to walk the last mile and closed the gap for all retirees in all ranks,” the finance minister announced.
HT was the first to report on February 14 that Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi was firmly backing the OROP demand and his intervention was likely to produce results, a stance that could boost the Congress’ fortunes in an election year.
The implementation of OROP has been described by Rahul Gandhi as “historic and necessary”.
At present, all pre-2006 (the year the 6th Pay Commission report became effective) pensioners receive lesser pension than not only their counterparts but also their juniors. A major general who retired in 1995 draws a basic pension of Rs. 30,350, but a colonel who retired after 2006 gets Rs. 34,000.
Veteran groups are, however, unsure if the decision will bring about “absolute parity” between past and current pensioners.
“The government has set aside Rs. 500 crore for OROP, but the cost of complete implementation is estimated to be Rs. 1,800 crore,” a retired brigadier said.
Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar, who has resolutely campaigned for the OROP, welcomed the step saying it was triumph for the armed forces.
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