The government is expected to announce by early next week its decision to remove disparities in pensions of veterans by effecting a revision every five years, a move that will likely set it on a collision course with ex-servicemen who said they wouldn’t accept a unilateral decision .
The veterans, who have been holding protests across the country for 82 days now, want the pension to be reworked every two years.
After protracted negotiations with ex-servicemen failed to iron out differences, government sources on Friday said necessary orders would be issued soon for the implementation of the one rank, one pension scheme from July 1, 2014. The veterans want April 1, 2014 as the kick-off date.
The scheme, expected to benefit three million pensioners, will guarantee equal pension to military personnel retiring in the same rank with same length of service, regardless of the date of retirement.
New pensions would be fixed with 2013 as the base year and “discrepancy between present and previous pensioners” settled every five years, sources said.
The plan, however, has angered the veterans who accused the government of turning the “accepted definition of OROP” on its head. “We reject this unilateral attempt to implement OROP. The move smacks of arrogance. We will not settle for anything less than pension revision every two years,” Maj Gen Satbir Singh (retd), who heads the Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement, said. The government would be implementing one rank, five pensions, he said, threatening to intensify the stir.
With all-important Bihar election looming, the Centre wants an end to the impasse that has seen ex-servicemen stay away from government functions and some sitting on a hunger strike.
The deadlock was also discussed during the RSS-BJP coordination committee meeting here. BJP president Amit Shah said the government would soon implement OROP, RSS joint general secretary Dattatreya Hosabele told mediapersons.
Later in the day, defence minister Manohar Parrikar cancelled a visit to a missile complex in Hyderabad on Saturday, being seen as an indication of an early announcement.
Sources said the government would constitute a single-member judicial committee to look into various aspects of OROP including inter-services matters. It will submit its report in six months.
The government’s calculations show that the annual payout towards implementing OROP would be in the range of Rs 8,000 crore to Rs 10,000 crore, with the figures spiralling upwards in the coming years. Also, sources said, arrears would amount to anywhere between Rs 10,000 crore and Rs 12,000 crore.
While widows will get arrears in lump-sum, others will be paid in four half-yearly installments. Army personnel who have taken voluntary retirement will not be covered under OROP.