OROP protesters write to President

OROP protesters write to President

With no sign of an end to OROP impasse in sight, ex-servicemen on Saturday wrote an emotional letter to President Pranab Mukherjee in which they said the government would be responsible if any “untoward incident” happened with the retired soldiers, who are on the indefinite hunger strike for the last 14 days.

“This is the 14th day of indefinite hunger strike and veterans on hunger strike were developing medical complications. If any untoward incident happens, the government will be responsible for the same because it was unnecessarily delaying the final decision on the one rank, one pension,” says the letter sent to Mukherjee, the Supreme Commander of the armed forces.

Copies of the letter were also sent to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and BJP president Amit Shah.

The ex-servicemen are on the street for the last 76 days demanding fast implementation of the OROP scheme that will led to upward revision of their pension.

On Saturday, another retired soldier, Hav Avilash Singh, was taken to hospital as his health deteriorated. But he was not among those who were on the hunger strike. One of the first two retired soldiers who began the fast-unto-death protest, Hav Major Singh, refused to be evacuated to a hospital.

The negotiation with the government was stuck on three core issues. On Friday, Parrikar said the government needed more time to plug the small gaps.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Saturday was also positive. “The government is absolutely committed to OROP. The gap has narrowed down significantly,” Jaitley said in a television interview.

In its letter, the United Front of Ex-servicemen requested Mukherjee to instruct the government to implement OROP as per the Ministry of Defence letter dated February 26, 2014.

During the veterans’ meeting with Parrikar, the minister informed them that the proposal for implementation of OROP costing Rs 8,298.48 crore had been approved by him and forwarded to the Ministry of Finance on March 17, 2015. “It is here, where OROP file seems to have been stuck,” the letter said.

The government initially wanted 2011 as the base year for pension calculation but then agreed to the veterans demand of 2013-14 as the base year. Moreover, the government wanted the pay out date be pushed forward from April 1, 2014 to April 1, 2015, but the veterans rejected the idea.

In subsequent talks, the government proposed to push the payout date from April 1, 2014 to September 1, 2014, but the veterans did not agree. Another sticking point was review of pensions once every five years against the veterans’ proposal of once in one or two years.

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