In a sign of further division among the protesting ex-servicemen, a section of them met Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Thursday and expressed willingness to compromise further on the One Rank One Pension (OROP) demand.
Leading faces of the OROP protest in New Delhi decried the meeting, saying it was reflective of the government’s efforts to divide the ex-servicemen community.
A group of veterans led by Lt. Gen. Raj Kadyan, former Deputy Chief of Army Staff, conveyed its concerns on OROP notification to Mr. Parrikar. Lt. Gen. Kadyan claimed that they represented the United Front of Ex-Servicemen Movement (UFESM), the umbrella organisation of various ex-servicemen groups.
However, veterans protesting at Jantar Mantar led by Maj. Gen. Satbir Singh (retd), Chairman of Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement, denounced the claims. Grp. Capt. V.K. Gandhi of IESM said the section led by Lt. Gen. Kadyan was a ‘splinter group’ and it was diluting the stand of the veterans.
The notification issued by the government on November 7 implementing OROP is “fine in the long term,” Lt. Gen. Kadyan said. However, there were three issues of concern which were conveyed to the Minister.
On the contentious issue of Pre-Mature Retirement (PMR), or Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) as referred to by the government, the ‘Kadyan group’ sounded a note of compromise. It observed that the interests of the people whose exit from service was in the interest of the organisation should be protected and those who quit for better opportunities outside could be out of the ambit of OROP.
The notification on OROP stated that “Personnel who opt to get discharged henceforth on their own request” will not be entitled to the benefits of OROP, effectively drawing a distinction between those who have opted for PMR in the past and those who will do so in future.
Other issues of concern include equalisation of pension annually instead of every five years as proposed by the government and taking the highest pay scale of 2013 as the benchmark for calculation of pension and not the average as proposed in the notification.
“He [Mr. Parikar] was very positive and said he would keep meeting. The Ministry will very soon issue a clarification on the concerns,” Lt. Gen. Kadyan told The Hindu after the meeting.
Referring to the veterans protesting at Jantar Mantar, Lt. Gen. Kadyan said: “The clear indication is that had some of our misguided colleagues who were agitating been more forthcoming, perhaps the government would have been quicker in addressing the grievances.”
Mr. Parrikar promised to resolve as soon as possible the issue of pension arrears of veterans from the earlier pay commission due from January 1, 2006 to June 30, 2009.