Rahul says PM ‘lying’ on OROP, Jaitley targets ‘politically motivated sympathy’
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Friday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of “lying” to the nation over the implementation of a pension scheme for the armed forces, ratcheting up his battle with the BJP government over the contentious issue.india Updated: Nov 05, 2016 00:44 IST
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Friday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of “lying” to the nation over the implementation of a pension scheme for the armed forces, ratcheting up his battle with the BJP government over the contentious issue.
Gandhi also sought an apology from the government for police’s manhandling of the family of ex-serviceman Ram Kishan Grewal, who committed suicide on Wednesday over pension woes.
The Congress leader’s remarks drew a strong reaction from the government with finance minister Arun Jaitley saying that “a political party with sinking fortunes should not try to encash the personal tragedy of one person”.
Earlier in the day, Gandhi interacted with a group of 60-70 ex-servicemen at the Congress headquarters in Delhi at 24, Akbar Road.
“He wanted to understand the issue. We apprised him of the subject and our demands,” said retired Maj Gen Satbir Singh of the Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement, which is leading the fight for total implementation of the one rank-one pension (OROP).
“Hope he raises our issue. It is the duty of every parliamentarian to raise the issue and help ex-servicemen get their rights.”
At the forefront of the agitation on the issue following Grewal’s suicide, Gandhi had been detained thrice in two days by the Delhi Police during protests.
“What (the) PM says is one rank-one pension is actually pension enhancement. The PM should stop lying on the issue,” a combative Gandhi told reporters after his meeting with the retired military personnel. “OROP is the right of armed forces personnel and government will have to give it.”
OROP enables retired soldiers of the same rank and the same length of service get the same pension, irrespective of when they retired.
The Congress V-P also accused the government of waiving loans of a staggering Rs 1.10 lakh crore of 15 big industrialists.
“The government has not given respect and the right which is due to soldiers. Had it done so, these ex-servicemen won’t have been protesting at Jantar-Mantar for the last 509 days,” he said.
The Congress has decided to take the issue to the streets and also raise it in Parliament during the winter session, beginning November 16.
On Friday, scores of Youth Congress workers tried to take out a march to the Prime Minister’s Office but were stopped by police.
The incident has put the BJP on a mat after it appeared to have seized political advantage from the September 29 surgical strikes against terror launchpads across the Line of Control (LoC), the de-facto border with Pakistan.
OROP is likely to dominate the campaign in poll-bound states of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Uttarakhand where the armed forces enjoy mass appeal.
However, Jaitley said the UPA government had done little to implement the one rank, one pension (OROP) for ex-servicemen during its 10-year term which was evident from a “meagre” allocation of Rs 550 crore for the scheme.
For the first time, the finance minister said, the NDA government accepted the OROP demand with the provision for reviewing the pension every five years.
Jaitley indicated administrative lapse on the part of the bank for not remitting the pension former soldier Grewal was entitled to.
“It obviously seems to be an administrative lapse. It is not a lapse where the OROP was not granted… Obviously, there seems to be some (communication) gap…He was given pension for one part of the service and not for other part which he was legitimately entitled to,” Jaitley said.
“So the (Congress) sympathy that has arisen today is politically motivated and the NDA is the first government which has not only accepted OROP demand, but implemented it.”
Defence minister Manohar Parrikar indicated that some demands of the veterans could be met as the government was examining the report prepared by L Narasimha Reddy. The government had appointed the Reddy panel to look into the anomalies in OROP.
It submitted its report to the government on October 26. Parrikar said wherever feasible the panel’s recommendations could be implemented in the quickest possible time.