Perturbed and distressed by the high-handed treatment of the veterans protesting at the Jantar Mantar over the One Rank One Pension (OROP) scheme, 10 former service chiefs have written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and urged the government to settle this issue expeditiously and in an urgent time frame.
“As much as the OROP, the respect and dignity of the soldier is at stake here, and let it be known that we have extreme concern for the veterans long pending demands. We would strongly urge the government to settle this issue expeditiously and in an urgent time frame,” says the letter signed by General V N Sharma, General Shankar Roy Choudhary, General S Padmanabhan, General N C Vij, General J J Singh, General Deepak Kapoor, General Bikram Singh, Admiral Madhvendera Singh, Air Chief Marshal N C Suri and Air Chief Marshal S P Tyagi.
“Any further delays, in our considered view, will be at the cost of damaging the pride of the veterans and lowering the morale of the armed forces. The Nation can ill afford such an imbroglio,” the letter adds.
The service chiefs in their letter said that these veterans have been on a peaceful demonstration at the Jantar Mantar and have been trying to make the government hear their voice since June 12, 2015.
“We unequivocally condemn the action by the police and urge the government to investigate and take immediate action,” the letter says.
Pointing out that this indiscretion on the part of the police has seriously impacted the pride and morale of all ranks of the three services and the veterans, the former service chiefs said it is pertinent to mention that these veterans are the same soldiers, who have displayed unflinching loyalty towards the Constitution and the nation during their service and still remain motivated to die for a noble cause.
“Unfortunately their dignity and pride today stand scarred and is a cause for serious concern,” the letter adds.
The former service chiefs said that they had earlier not approached the Prime Minister as they had full faith in the announcements made by the country’s senior political leadership from time to time.
“We were also hopeful that the announcement of the implementation of the OROP would be made to the nation on Independence Day. Regrettably this has not happened. Also, the high-handed attitude of the police on 14 August has prompted us to raise this issue to your esteemed office,” the letter says.
The former service chiefs further said there is only one definition of “One Rank One Pension” and that has been accepted both by the current and previous Parliaments and also by the Defence Minister in presence of the veterans.
“This is ‘uniform pension to be paid to the Armed Forces personnel retiring in the same rank with same length of service irrespective of their date of retirement’. Simultaneously, ‘Annual Review System’ would be required to be put in place for equalization of pension of the past and current retirees,” the letter says.
“Raksha Mantri had also after consultations with the Services Headquarters representatives, Veterans and MoD Officials approved a Rs 8300 Cr – Model in Feb 2014 based on formula of maximum pension data for each rank and Service as on Financial Year 2014,” the letter adds.
The former service chiefs further said the often quoted technical difficulties without ever being specified and discussed are thus bewildering.
“This is simple arithmetic based on the Standard Pension Tables of the Govt. These delays are construed to be only with a view to bring in changes in the parameters and dilute the entitlements, which will be grossly unjust and unacceptable,” the letter says.
“We have full faith in our political leadership but their inability to clinch the issue leaves us dismayed. We stand steadfastly by the side of our colleagues and fully support their just cause. Our silence so far was due to the need to observe propriety,” the letter adds.
OROP scheme has been a long-standing demand of nearly three-million ex-servicemen and war widows in the country. It seeks to ensure that a uniform pension is paid to defence personnel, who retire at the same rank with the same length of service irrespective of their date of retirement.