No country for war veterans
Dhoop was a movie released in 2003. It tells the real life story of Late Captain Anuj Nayyar who had perished in combat during the Kargil War. Most of the movie deals with the aftermath of the valiant Captain’s untimely death. The latter half of the film highlights the appalling treatment meted out to the families of courageous Indian soldiers, who gave their lives in protecting the nation. That our nation could do a lot more for our war veterans, their families and serving soldiers is a massive understatement. After Wing Commander Suresh Damodar Karnik (<g data-gr-id="36">retd</g>) refused to attend a function with defence minister Manohar Parrikar in Pune on Thursday, almost all ex-servicemen’s organisations across the country have risen in unison and decided to boycott future government functions.
This is part of the growing resentment amongst servicemen against the present ruling dispensation for not implementing the “one rank, one pension” (OROP) scheme. It must be noted that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had pledged to implement OROP in his first election rally at Rewari in September 2013 after he was declared BJP’s prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The delay in the implementation of this scheme is perplexing to say the least. The OROP scheme is important for a variety of reasons. It will ensure that soldiers of the same rank and the same length of service receive the same pension, irrespective of their retirement date.
The long-standing demand of the defence forces and ex-servicemen associations was that a uniform pension be paid to the defence personnel retiring in the same rank with the same length of service, irrespective of their date of retirement, and that any future enhancement in the rates of pension be automatically passed on to the past pensioners. The difference in the pension of present and past pensioners in the same rank occurs on account of the number of increments earned by the defence personnel in that rank. It will likely to benefit around three million defence pensioners and was supposed to come into effect from 2014-2015. The scheme is estimated to cost around Rs 8,600 crore initially and subsequently several crore rupees annually. Currently, all pre-2006 pensioners receive lesser pension than not only their counterparts but also their juniors. This status quo is not something India as a nation would be proud of. That we treat our soldiers as an afterthought says a lot about the nature of realpolitik in our country.
The apathy of politicians towards retired veterans has led to a gradual deterioration in their living standards, with many unable to meet rising costs in their twilight years. The least we can do for our soldiers is ensure that they live their sunset years with comfort and dignity. And for this ensuring that the OROP scheme becomes a reality is a must. It’s time Prime Minister Modi fulfilled the first of his long list of promises.