Thursday, June 4, 2009

TOI : One rank-one pension report by month-end

Times of India
New Delhi
05 June 2009

One rank-one pension report by month-end

5 Jun 2009, 0247 hrs IST, TNN

NEW DELHI: After tying itself in knots over the long-standing demand for one rank-one pension (OROP) for armed forces during the run-up to the general elections, the UPA government has now promised to resolve the contentious matter by this month-end.

In her address to the joint sitting of Parliament on Friday, President Pratibha Patil said the committee headed by cabinet secretary K M Chandrasekhar had "already commenced its work and expects to complete it by the end of June 2009''.

Just before the crucial fourth phase of polling on May 7, the defence ministry had declared that a high-level committee headed by the cabinet secretary had been constituted to "reduce the gap in the pensionary benefits to officers and jawans, bringing it as close to OROP as possible''.

But slapped with a notice from the Election Commission for violating the model code of conduct, the government had swiftly backtracked and denied that the government has constituted any special committee for the purpose.

The grouse of ex-servicemen is that all political parties have used OROP to garner votes but have never implemented it after coming to office. The government had obviously announced the setting up of the committee to counter the BJP's strong `Jai Jawan' tune in its manifesto.

The defence community of 14 lakh serving and 23 lakh retired military personnel, after all, swells into a sizable votebank of around 1.5 crore people if family members are taken into account.

The UPA government, however, is promising only a partial implementation of OROP at best, with the defence ministry itself acknowledging that full implementation is simply not feasible "administratively''.

The defence ministry, however, admits that a case does exist for bringing the quantum of pension of pre-January 1996/October 1997 pensioners at par with post-January 1996/October 1997 and pre-January 2006 ones because the gap between the pensions of past and present retirees has considerably widened after the 6th Pay Commission.

This will entail an additional financial burden of only around Rs 500-600 crore annually, with the government keen to reduce the present four categories of pensioners to only two broad ones of pre and post January 2006 retirees.

"Full OROP implementation, in turn, could mean an annual outgo of around Rs 1,200-1,300 crore, apart from payment of arrears in the range of Rs 4,000 crore,'' said an official.

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