For decades, the demand for one-rank one-pension (OROP) has been a problem that has trailed various governments at the Centre. On Saturday, the NDA government addressed this issue when defence minister Manohar Parrikar declared at a press conference that the government was accepting the 42-year-old demand by veterans for OROP, thereby removing the inconsistencies in pensions for veterans.
The veterans, however, are not entirely happy with the announcement, and have said that they will continue to protest till all their demands are met.
While on Sunday Prime Minister Narendra Modi made it clear that OROP will be given to armed forces personnel who retire prematurely, the veterans are not ready to accept several other terms put forward by the government.
Some of the points of contention are: The government has proposed that the pensions be reviewed every five years but the veterans want it every two years; the government has proposed a one-member judicial panel to oversee the implementation of OROP but the veterans want a five-member panel, three of whom should be veterans; and, the government has given the panel six months to submit a report but the veterans want it in a month.
The Narendra Modi government has come halfway — now it is for the veterans do their bit. It is a positive sign that on Sunday the veterans called off their fast unto death but they should now move from the protest mode to the negotiating table. Mr Parrikar said that the order will be out within a month’s time and the veterans should wait to see how things move from there.
To continue with protests at this time is to deny both parties the elbow room required for an amicable solution to this problem. Moreover, the government should be given time to work out the financial implications of such a move — if it has not yet done it.
The Modi government has overcome a major hurdle by announcing OROP, but this could encourage similar demands from employees from other government departments, like the paramilitary forces and the police forces.
If there is one lesson that political parties need to take away from the OROP agitation it is to keep the armed forces out of politics and politicking. The armed forces and the security of the nation are above politics.
When armies in our neighbouring countries have been attracted to politics like moths to a flame, and thereby compromising democracy in those nations, one of the hallmarks of India’s armed forces has been its neutrality.
The Modi government has fulfilled one of its poll promises (though it took more than 100 days since it came to power) and Saturday’s announcement should be seen as a victory for both the veterans and the government.