Even as ex-servicemen take the extreme step of returning their medals demanding one-rank-one-pension, the government on Wednesday clarified that it may not come very soon.
Replying to a zero hour mention by Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley (Bharatiya Janata Party) and supported by members across party lines including the Congress, Defence Minister A.K. Antony said that the implementation of one-rank-one-pension is an ongoing process.
"At the time we cannot implement one-rank-one-pension, but we are nearing the goal. It is a long process," Antony added.
Raising the issue, Jaitley said that though it was mentioned in the budget speech of Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, no steps have been taken so far for implementing the one-rank-one-pension system.
"Neither the 5th nor the 6th Pay Commission addressed the issue. The finance minister also indicated in his budget speech that a committee will be formed but nothing happened," Jaitley pointed out.
He also saud that ex-servicemen should not take extreme steps like returning their medals.
"The medal is an honour given to them by the nation. I therefore appeal to them not to return the medals," Jaitley said.
He was supported by Communist Party of India-Marxist member Sitaram Yechury and Congress member P.J. Kurien, among others.
"I would also request the government to look in the issue of thousands of jawans (soldiers) being retired before the age of 40," Kurien said.
The defence minister, however, said that though one-rank-one-pension was still far, a number of steps have been taken by the government to ensure that ex-servicemen are benefitted.
"The prime minister appointed a committee to look into the issues of the ex-servicemen. The committee gave recommendations in five areas and all have been accepted," Antony said.
"Government has increased the pension of nearly 12 lakh ex-servicemen. We are also starting 197 additional polyclinics for them across the country," he pointed out.
The opposition, however, remained unsatisfied with the reply as BJP member S.S. Ahluwalia urged the government to talk to the ex-servicemen and settle the issue.
Over 5,000 ex-servicemen Sunday returned their medals to protest the government's reluctance to accept their one-rank-one-pension demand. They also submitted a memorandum on the issue to President Pratibha Patil, the supreme commander of the armed forces.