What is pretty amazing about this UPA government and the Congress is that with only three months to go for the face-off elections this May and in the midst of all types of political and financial irregularities, it is still making last minute gambles to remain in the run to win the Lok Sabha Polls 2014. From the Interim Budget 2014-15 placed by Chidambaram, it is pretty apparent that the Finance Minister has, by heart-and-soul, tried to woo the defence community, comprising of more than 40 lakh military personnel by giving nod to the long awaited and much-promised but never-implemented one-rank, one-pension (OROP) rabbit out of its hat in the run-up to general elections.
The Finance minister said that the OROP decision would be “implemented prospectively” for armed forces from 2014-2015. He also added that the government will soon be transferring Rs 500 crore to the defence pension account in the current fiscal to “close the gap for all retirees (pre-2006 and post-2006) in all ranks”.
It should be remembered that the Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi told a group of ex-servicemen last week about his intense backing for OROP demand. It should be remembered that if family members are also taken into account, the defence community, after all, swells into a sizeable and vocal vote bank of close to two crore people.
Now, what is OROP that was yanked by the government at such a crucial juncture? Why has it been done so? The payment of uniform pension to personnel retiring in the same rank with the same length of service irrespective of their date of retirement is basically termed as OROP, i.e. One-Rank-One-Pension. Consequently, the past pensioners will be benefited from any further hike in pension rates in future too.
This movement by the Indian Army was a long fought one with the Central Government. To protest against the non-implementation of OROP, irate ex-servicemen have been returning their medals and holding rallies over the last four-five years. This also included one with BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and former Army chief General V K Singh at Rewari last September.
On Monday, army personnel were skeptic as to whether that is proposed is full OROP or just, yet again an “eyewash of modified parity”.
The government, however, chose to keep mum on the legal and administrative reasons used in the past to junk the OROP proposal. It had held that civilian pensioners, for instance, would demand the same with “a heavy financial implication of Rs 8,000-9,000 crore per annum”. Thus with UPA taking such crucial steps and trying to save itself, it remains to be seen whether it becomes successful in getting the overwhelming support of the huge military community to pull off an upset win over BJP in the national elections.