The government has ruled out annual revision of pension under the ‘One Rank One Pension’ (OROP) scheme for ex-servicemen even as the protesting veterans said they are ready for a biennial increase.
Underlining that the government will safeguard interests of soldiers retiring at an early age through higher pensions, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that annul revision in pensions does not happen anywhere in the world.
He said the government was committed to OROP but the “only difficulty” is the “arithmetical translation”.
“I have my own formula on what OROP means. Somebody else may have their own formula on OROP but it has to be within reasonable and rational criteria. You can’t have an OROP where pensions are revised every month or every year,” he said.
He said that recommendations of 7th Pay Commission for government employees were coming shortly.
“I have been very vigilant about fiscal prudence and therefore my job is really that of a housewife in the sense that you must measure every rupee that the house spends so that you don’t overspend and then borrow and if you start borrowing beyond a point and indulge in fiscal indiscipline,” Jaitley told ET NOW.
Ex-servicemen have been agitating for 78 days at Jantar Mantar here demanding implementation of OROP.
Reacting to Jaitley’s statement, Lt Gen Balbir Singh (Retd), President of Indian Ex-Service Movement, who has been leading the back channel talks along with Maj Gen Satbir Singh (Retd) with the government said the veterans are ready for biennial increase.
“We have already told the government that we are ready for an increase of pension every two years. Since we have not heard anything from the government on this, we have kept quite,” he told PTI here.
Asked if further talks would be held with the government, he said they would if the government seeks so.
“We have to talk. Ultimately a solution has to be found. OROP cannot remain in wilderness forever,” he said.
The developments came even as three more ex-servicemen joined the fast-unto-death agitation, taking the figure to 12.
Meanwhile, senior lawyer and former BJP leader Ram Jethmalani also extended his support to the protesting ex-servicemen and visited them at Jantar Mantar.
“If you don’t show loyalty to them, if any sacrifice is required then it should be done to make the country strong. We are surrounded by enemies and we can only combat them if the soldiers are happy… they can protect the country with all their might. You (the government) are infuriating them over minor issues. This is a small things,” Jethmalani said.
He claimed that the incident was a proof that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was not fulfilling his promises.
The government has accepted OROP in-principle but is still to implement it.
“We accept the principle (of OROP). We will implement the principle but then let us not create incidence which are going to set (precedent for) other segments of the society to also start demanding (the same),” Jaitley said.
He, however, said, “we would like to safeguard the interests of those soldiers who retire at age of 35 or 38 years and the society must protect them… and therefore some higher pension on a special formulation is understandable but then it can’t be revised every year.”
Noting that the Indian political thought process that thinks rationally will not make “unreasonable concessions” merely on emotions, he said such a move can set precedent for others to seek similar benefits.
“Can the BSF do it? Can the CRPF do it? Obviously the thinking India will say it’s not the right step to take. You can’t create a liability that the future generations will have to pay. Therefore on a rational criteria OROP, we should certainly be able to implement,” he said.