Parliamentary affairs minister M Venkaiah Naidu has appealed to veterans to end their protest after the Centre
the one rank one pension scheme, but confusion prevails over the 40-year-old demand of the former military personnel.
“It is a tribute to the people who are at the forefront, guarding the security of the country. I appeal to the veterans to give up their agitation and join the government in discussions,” Naidu said, praising Prime Minister Narendra Modi for resolving the OROP issue.
Naidu criticised at the main opposition Congress for “criticising the government for everything” even as some veterans said they were upset with what the government had offered.
“The government has betrayed us. They promised us something else and have announced something else,” veteran Skattar Singh Dhariwal said on Sunday, adding that retired military personnel will intensify their protest.
Highlighting differences between the government and protestors over the scheme, former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah described the Centre’s OROP declaration as a failure.
"Review every 5 years - rejected. One man commission - Rejected, VRS takers omitted - Rejected, starting years proposed - Rejected. #OROPfail," Abdullah tweeted after the NDA government’s announcement on Saturday.
The government said the scheme will be implemented with effect from July 1, 2014, with arrears amounting to anywhere between Rs 10,000 crore and Rs 12,000 crore.
While war widows will get arrears in total, others will be paid in four half-yearly instalments. While announcing the scheme, defence minister Manohar Parrikar said pensions would be re-calculated every five years but military personnel who took “voluntary retirement” will not be entitled to OROP.
The veterans, who have been holding protests across the country for more than two months, want the pension to be reviewed every two years and the benefits of the scheme extended to those who retired voluntarily or prematurely from the armed forces.
Another bone of contention is the government's decision to set up a single-member judicial committee to look into different aspects of OROP, including inter-services matters. The government said the panel will submit its report in six months but veterans want a deadline of 30 days. They also demanded that the panel have five members, including three veterans.
As the Congress targeted the government over the differences, some struck a note of caution over various provisions of the scheme.
Former army chief Gen Deepak Kapoor described the government’s announcement as a "substantial step” but said other issues which were worrying the veterans are a "cause of concern".
"It would have been better if those issues too could have been addressed. For the sources to say that about 98% of aspirations have been met, may not be fully correct," he said.
The OROP scheme is expected to benefit nearly 3 million defence pensioners and 600,000 widows.
All personnel who retired before 2006, the year the 6th pay panel’s report became effective, receive smaller pensions than their counterparts and their juniors. A major general who retired in 1995, for instance, draws a basic pension of Rs 30,350 but an officer retiring in the same rank after 2006 gets Rs 38,500.
(With agency inputs)