Whither OROP for ex-servicemen?
The demand for one rank one pension (OROP) was accepted by the previous government and a provision of Rs. 500 crore was made in the interim budget. The new government, stating its intention to implement the demand many times, has also provided for it in the regular budget. However, veterans are nowhere near getting the enhanced pensions envisaged. What is the current status on OROP?
A high-level meeting was taken by the defence minister on July 16 to thrash out issues with Service Chiefs, staff of Services headquarters and the top brass of the defence ministry, including defence accounts and the department of ex-servicemen’s welfare attending.
Also present were the representatives of four major ex-servicemen’s organisations to give inputs and plead their case. Regrettably, the meeting was inconclusive. A deadlock was created over the most basic issue, the very definition of OROP between bureaucrats of the MOD on one side and the uniformed fraternity plus the veterans on the other. The defence minister stated that the Koshiyari Committee’s definition of OROP might not be acceptable to the government now. His remark to veterans to lower their expectations reveals the stand of the government on the issue, causing consternation among them.
The political executive as well as the people of this country must realise that OROP is not a concession but is meant to offset restricted terms of service to soldiers wherein they are retired at a very young age. Here, the definition set by the Koshiyari Committee must prevail in that OROP implies that uniform pension be paid to Armed Forces personnel retiring in the same rank with the same length of service, irrespective of their date of retirement, and any future enhancement in the rates of pension to be automatically passed on to past pensioners. It is significant that this explanation had already been accepted by the government. My take is that the government needs to show political will and make good on its promises.
NAVAL REGIMENTAL SYSTEM
The Indian Navy looks after its own. Through the Naval Regimental System (NRS), an institutionalised support system has been set up to provide practical help to widows and next of kin of naval personnel. Seven Command Regimental System Officers and their teams are on the job, getting in touch with families of deceased naval personnel, whether retired or serving, to look after them and make certain that they receive all their entitlements. Regimental state units exist on the ground to meet veterans and widows: while updating their database, they educate them on their rights. They make sure all widows have canteen cards and ECHS memberships besides other documents, enabling them to exercise their rights and privileges.
Started in 2011, the NRS has now been instituted all over the country and has been successful in providing substantial assistance to a number of naval widows. As part of the targets set for the ‘Year of Ex-Servicemen’ in 2012, the outreach programme for veterans and widows was put into motion.
The next year this was extended to the scheme to undertake full responsibility for the welfare of widows and next of kin. The results have been very satisfying.
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