A skilfully crafted statement by the Finance Minister Mr Pranab Mukherjee on the long standing demand of the Defence Forces for One Rank One Pension (OROP), while presenting the 2009-10 budget, has created a wholly erroneous impression that OROP has finally been granted by the Govt. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, available information indicates that the issue of OROP has not been even remotely addressed.
By bringing pre 1996 pensioners at par with the post 1996 pensioners, the Finance Minister has only rectified a 13 years old anomaly, which should have been done long ago. Revised pensions announced after the VI CPC had created three distinct classes of pensioners; pre 1996 retirees, 01 Jan 1996 to 31 Dec 2005 retirees and post 01 Jan 2006 retirees. As a result, similar personnel in each class received widely differing pensions. Equity and natural justice demanded that these artificial distinctions should have been removed whenever pensions were revised; post V and VI CPCs. In a litigation relating to equity between pre and post 1996 defence pensioners, even the Supreme Court had ruled in Sep 2008 that such distinctions violated Article 14 of our Constitution. In fact, one may argue that Mr Mukherjee’s reported magnanimity is guided more by the apex court judgment than any serious concern for the Defence Pensioners.
Importantly, the distinction between pre and post 2006 pensioners remains un-addressed. It needs reminding that the demand of the Defence Forces and Defence Pensioners for OROP was, in fact, ONLY for removal of this distinction. Such indifference of the Govt for the Defence Forces and veterans is all the more galling, when viewed against the President’s statement, assuring early resolution of OROP, at the recent combined session of the Parliament. And, what is one to make of repeated statements of the MoD and the Raksha Mantri that the gap in pensions between the old and new pensioners will be substantially reduced and pensionery benefits of officers and jawans brought as close to OROP as possible?