OROP is in, only the details remain

Ruling party has taken a bold step, one their predecessors in power did not even think

Veterans of the armed forces have been given the opportunity of a lifetime. They can spend the autumn and winter of their lives in some comfort now that the One Rank, One Pension scheme has been accepted in principle. Not only the Prime Minister and his government, but his party supremo and the ideological wing have been solidly behind a historic decision on an issue that had lain on the shelf for four decades. It is now up to the veterans to call off their agitation in toto and help the government to sort out anomalies. Massive details have to be tackled if OROP is to be fair to the 24-lakh ex-servicemen, six lakh war widows and about 13 lakh serving personnel.

True, the major pension scheme step need not have been announced in such a hurry, but it was done under political compulsions because the Bihar Assembly elections are due and an announcement of polls would come with the coming into force of the model code of conduct. Had the atmosphere been more relaxed, particularly at a time when the armed forces are celebrating their 1965 war victory against Pakistan, the issue would not have been complicated by the emotions surrounding the negative approach of the veterans towards what is a very positive reform.

With inflation and the rapidly rising cost of living hitting not only pensions but even pay packets, it is only fair that those who served the nation by risking their lives should be the first to be comforted with fair compensation during their old age, especially since most, except the top generals, retire early. The sticking point now will be the revision of pensions after every five years. But the burden of OROP is expected to be not less than Rs 10,000 crore per year already and the Centre would have to apportion resources. The prospect of others claiming such privileges for courting danger on behalf of the nation, for instance firefighters, has increased many times.

The ruling party has taken a bold step, one their predecessors in power did not even think of fulfilling. A historic wrong in civilian pay packets overtaking armed forces pensions thanks to the pay commission of 1973 being unduly influenced by the bureaucracy has been righted. The devil, they say, lies in the details, which is what those tasked with setting the OROP in motion would have to take on with a clear mind and a positive outlook so that a situation need not recur in which war veterans have to threaten to fast unto death for the system to reform.

( Source : deccan chronicle )
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