OROP scheme: Annual relook, top-of-scale pension major issues

New Delhi, Nov 2 (IANS) A day after a soldier committed suicide over One Rank-One Pension (OROP) issue, veterans protesting at Jantar Mantar for removal of anomalies in the scheme say the major point of contention is annual revision of pensions.

The ex-servicemen point to four main anomalies in the scheme as announced by the government.

The major sticking point is the time period for revision of pensions. While the government’s version of OROP provides for revision every five years, veterans have demanded annual rationalisation of pensions.

If annual revisions do not happen, “it is one rank-five pension”, Brigadier J.S. Sandhu (retired) told IANS.

The second major demand is fixing pensions at top of the scale against the current fixation of mean average.

In the current shape, the OROP scheme has a mechanism to fix pensions by calculating the average of highest and lowest pensions for a rank, with protection to those with higher pension.

“Annual revision and fixing pensions at top of the scale are the major issues,” Brigadier Sandhu added.

Third demand is to implement the scheme w.e.f April 1, 2014, and not July 1, 2014, as provided for in the government version.

The government has said it has taken July 1 as the date of implementation as it came to power in May 2014.

The fourth demand is fixing 2013-14 financial year as the base year for implementation of the scheme and not on the basis of calendar year, as suggested by the government.

Wednesday was the second day of relay hunger strike by the United Front of Indian Ex-Servicemen at Jantar Mantar.

The ex-servicemen first started the relay hunger strike at Jantar Mantar on June 15, 2015. On August 17, 2015, two veterans started indefinite fast and they were subsequently joined by more ex-soldiers.

The government, in the meantime, announced the scheme on September 5, 2015, which treated 2013 as the base year to calculate pensions, and date of implementation was July 1, 2014. The period for review was kept at five years.

On September 6, 2015, the indefinite hunger strike ended, but protests continued along with the relay hunger strikes. A one-man judicial committee was also formed under the Chairmanship of Justice L. Narasimha Reddy, retired Chief Justice of the Patna High Court, to look ino the issue.

The committee finally submitted its report to the Defence Ministry on October 26, 2016.

Although on April 29, 2016, the relay hunger strike at Jantar Mantar was called off after 320 days, it resumed on Tuesday and on Wednesday, 11 veterans and wives of former soldiers sat on hunger strike.