It was a key poll promise and promises are meant to be kept. And when they are not, people get disappointed and even agitate.
The relay-hunger strike by ex-servicemen, which started on Sunday and is underway in more about 20 places across the country, demands that the policy of ‘One Rank, One Pension’ (OROP) be implemented at the earliest. The OROP demand has been pending for more than four decades and if military veterans are now upping the ante against the NDA government, it is because of two reasons.
One, it was the BJP’s poll promise. During the 2014 general elections the party promised to implement the OROP, but has failed to do so even one year after forming the government.
Two, as with all things associated with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, expectations are sky high. As no date for its implementation has been announced, the ex-servicemen feel disappointed. According to the chairman of the Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement, major general Satbir Singh (Retd), “the question is about honouring the assurances and so far those have been not implemented on the ground... ”
It is not that the NDA government has ignored the OROP demand. In his radio address to the nation, Mann ki Baat, on May 31, Mr Modi said that the OROP was a complex issue but his government was committed to resolving it. Defence minister Manohar Parrikar reflected the same concerns and recently said that the file had been sent to the finance ministry for its approval.
The OROP has been a long-pending demand that previous governments have either not addressed or have looked at in a piecemeal fashion. In 2009, the UPA government allocated Rs 2,200 crore annually to bolster the pension of jawans. The Modi government has allocated Rs 1,000 crore annually while some estimates suggest that it will not be enough.
The present protests across the country are expected to put pressure on the government. Military veterans have decided to hold a mega-rally in Bihar which assumes significance in the light of the fact that the state will be going to the polls later this year.
It is unfortunate that our men who have served the nation are forced to protest and turn to political options to gain the attention of our leaders. The Centre might be working towards implementing the scheme but it has clearly not been able to convince our military veterans that it is doing all that is within its powers to do so.