Come this Independence Day, we might see our own influential Prime Minister, Narendra Modi surrounded by ex-servicemen not for appreciation, but for the only reason of One Rank One Pension which was being promised by the ruling government in the Lok Sabha Elections last year. Earlier it was speculated that OROP might be declared on May 25th in Mathura where the NDA government celebrated their one year in office. Now with the final announcement nowhere in sight, the defence services are in the news for all the wrong reasons.
The demand for this scheme goes back over three decades, with servicemen are still feeling the heat of political apathy by successive governments, be it UPA or NDA. There are still huge irregularities in the current scheme exist between pensions drawn by ex-servicemen depending from when they have retired from the force. For example, a major who retired before 1996 gets 53% less pension than a major who retired after 2006.
While the government has given in-principle clearance to the proposal, the process of completing the administrative procedures across different departments seems to be an unending one. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has clarified that his ministry had finished the part of work and is now under the Finance Ministry. OROP essentially seeks parity for all service personnel retiring on the same rank and tenure irrespective of when they retire, and is expected to benefit two and a half million ex-servicemen and women immediately.
Given the large payout that OROP demands, there is a dire need to streamline the expenditures such as doing away with the orderly system for officers and curtailing the practice of deploying soldiers for escort duties, is imperative. Along with OROP, there should be a detailed review of armed forces manpower and infrastructure.
It is high time the government came out with a clear road map and a firm date for its implementation, and then adhere to it. This country owes its defence forces as much.