No closure to OROP issue, veterans say indefinite fast may resume

New Delhi, Sep 7 (IANS) A day after the indefinite hunger strike over ‘One Rank One Pension’ (OROP) was withdrawn, ex-servicemen on Monday said the agitation will continue till “anomalies” in the scheme are removed, and the indefinite fast may even resume if the issues are not sorted out.

“The agitation will continue till the government rectifies the anomalies in the scheme. If they don’t rectify it, the indefinite fast may also return,” spokesperson for the United Ex-Servicemen Movement, Col. Anil Kaul (retd), told IANS.

“We thank the government of India for finally making OROP a reality, after a wait of 42 years. But this is only the beginning, it has not been completely resolved,” he said.

The indefinite fast by a group of veterans, some on whom started it on August 17, ended on the 21st day on Sunday after Prime Minister Narendra Modi clarified that soldiers who retire prematurely will benefit from implementation of OROP.

According to the veterans, 46 percent of ex-servicemen opt for premature retirement.

Excluding them would have slashed the OROP budget by 50 percent — about Rs.4,000 crore of the estimated Rs.8,000-10,000 crore.

The veterans have said the agitation will continue for now, as different channels of talks remain open between the government and the ex-servicemen.

Col. Kaul told IANS that there will be a meeting of the core group of veterans on Wednesday.

“Communication channels with the government are on,” he said.

After Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar announced the scheme on Saturday, the veterans said they had several objections to what was announced, the biggest being the exclusion of those taking early retirement.

However, it was later clarified by the government that those taking premature retirement will not be excluded.

Other issues that have been objected to by the veterans include five years as time of review of pensions, while the veterans have said two years was the maximum period they can agree to for review.

The veterans have also questioned the decision to form a one-member committee.

“What will a one-member committee do? It does not make sense… The committee must have our representation,” Col. Kaul added.

Monday was the 85th day of the agitation at the Jantar Mantar protest site.

The estimated cost to the exchequer for the scheme will be Rs.8,000-10,000 crore, and the arrears will amount to around Rs.12,000 crore. It will take 2013 as the base year to calculate pensions and the date of implementation will be July 1, 2014.

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