One of the key highlights of Modiji’s speech on August 15 from the ramparts of the Red Fort was in what he did not mention rather than what he spoke on. Yes you guessed it right, I am speaking about the One Rank One Pension issue. An election agenda for both BJP and the Congress last year, it unfortunately continues to gather dust in files travelling between the various offices of South Block.
Speaking about it during his Independence Day speech, Shri Narendra Modi said that, “The issue of ‘One Rank One Pension’ came up in front on every government. Some even made small promises. Issue could not be solved.” Given the fact that it is currently one of Congress Vice President, Rahul Gandhi’s pet project and he keeps talking about it at every occasion, I must say Modi clearly bagged a brownie with a reassurance to servicemen, “I assure the servicemen and I am saying it under the Tricolour from the Red Fort- we have accepted OROP. Some talks are still on.”
So why exactly has this issue alluded implementation thus far. Well this isn’t a new issue at all. For decades now ex-defence personnel have been demanding a special dispensation for them by which their pension should be pegged at the current salary of an officer with as much experience and position as against the current practice of pegging it to their last drawn salary.
However the Finance ministry has been for long against this practice as their contention is revising pension salaries at regular intervals to match rank could be a huge burden both financially as well as in terms of the infrastructure required to achieve it. The issue became highly politicised during the elections as the Congress accepted it after initial hesitation and the BJP too flashed it as a major trump card.
However the finance ministry burdened with the task of implementing it say that the proposed measures are not practical. Instead they suggested a broad 10-year period to achieve payment parity and indicated that the sheer act of pegging them at current rate year after year could very challenging.
As is quite evident the matter is unlikely to die anytime soon. Ex-officers of other services too like the Railways seem to be joining the protest bandwagon. It is time the Prime Minister’s office and the Finance Ministry tried looking at some holistic, long-term significant steps to fix this problem rather than shoving it under the carpet at every occasion.