Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday that military personnel who retired prematurely will benefit from one rank one pension (OROP), reaching out to veterans a day after his government announced the scheme but differences emerged over entitlements to those who opt for voluntary retirement.
"VRS (voluntary retirement scheme) key naam pe bhram failaya jaa raha hai (Some people are trying to spread confusion in the name of VRS)," Modi said at a rally in Faridabad, stressing his respect for the armed forces.
Modi’s olive branch, however, did not appear to deter veterans who want equal facilities for those who opt for VRS.
"Agitation will continue, and it will intensify further," Maj Gen (retired) Satbir Singh said in response to the Prime Minister’s announcement at a protest in Jantar Mantar. TV reports said veterans want a written assurance from the government on contentious points regarding OROP.
Read |Key features of OROP and why ex-servicemen are still complaining
Though the Centre announced on Saturday that the OROP scheme will be implemented from July 1, 2014 – with arrears amounting to anywhere between Rs 10,000 crore and Rs 12,000 crore – confusion persisted on certain key issues.
While announcing the scheme, defence minister Manohar Parrikar said pensions will 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 even to those who retire 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.
With the ex-servicemen showing no signs of budging, Modi said his government had delivered on the OROP promise, even though the scheme was stuck for more than four decades and previous regimes had failed to make any breakthrough.
Modi was speaking after he inaugurated an extension of a Delhi Metro line that will benefit nearly 200,000 commuters a day.
"Jinhone khud ney kaam nahi kiya, unhe haq hai kya bolney ka? (The people who have not worked don't have the right to say something in this regard)," Modi said, in a veiled dig at the opposition Congress, which accused the government of diluting several provisions related to OROP.
The scheme, expected to benefit three million pensioners, will guarantee equal pension to military personnel retiring in the same rank with the same length of service, regardless of the date of retirement.