After turning down the demand for one-rank-one-pension (OROP) the UPA is making fresh efforts to woo back the war veterans. The move comes after the BJP-led coalition found support from the ex-servicemen after the party promised to implement OROP.
The government has constituted a high-level committee — defence secretary, home secretary, secretary (personnel), secretary (expenditure) and secretary (ex-servicemen’s welfare) — under the Cabinet Secretary to work out a formula to reduce the disparity in pensions by partially implementing the OROP demand.
A defence ministry source, who did not wish to be named, said: “There are currently four categories of pensioners -— pre-1996, post-1996, pre-January 2006 and post-January 2006. The intention is to have only two broad categories — pre- and post-January 2006 pensioners.”
The Ministry of Defence, which initially rejected the demand, now thinks partial implementation is financially viable as it will entail an additional burden of only Rs 500-600 crore per annum. Accepting the demand in its entirety would entail a one-time burden of around Rs 4,000 crore with a recurring yearly expenditure of around Rs 1,000 crore.
However, Lieutenant General Raj Kadyan (retd), who heads the Indian Ex-servicemen Movement, said: “Half-baked measures are no good. Mere setting up of a committee inspires no confidence...”
A fact none of the parties can ignore is that there are around 25 lakh defence pensioners in the country — a sizeable vote bank. Ex-servicemen groups have claimed that soldiers and ex-servicemen could make around four crore voters.