RETURNING MEDALS AN INSULT TO NATION: MANOHAR PARRIKAR

NEW DELHI (TIP): The government is fast losing patience with military veterans who continue to protest against what they say is a “diluted” one rank, one pension (OROP). Holding that attempts by some to burn their medals was “an insult” to the nation, defence minister Manohar Parrikar put the onus on the ex-servicemen to prove there was no political motive behind their continuing agitation.

“If I say anything, it will become an allegation. Let them prove that it is not political,” Parrikar said in response to queries if he saw any political linkage to the continuing agitation after the government first announced OROP on September 5 and then notified it on November 7.

Speaking after dedicating the first squadron of P-8I long-range maritime patrol aircraft in Arakkonam in Tamil Nadu on Friday, Parrikar said medals were awarded to military personnel for bravery and recognition of their sacrifices for the nation. “Burning and returning them is an insult to the nation and the armed forces… I don’t appreciate it,” he said.

Instead, the veterans should submit their grievances to the one-person judicial commission that was being set up to look into the anomalies arising out of OROP implementation. “We have given the maximum possible, and fulfilled the promise made by BJP during the elections,” he said.

The OROP notified for the over 24 lakh ex-servicemen and six lakh widows in the country will entail an additional outgo of over Rs 8,000 crore every year. OROP basically means payment of uniform pension to personnel retiring in the same rank with the same length of service, irrespective of their date of retirement.

But the veterans say the government has not resolved any of the seven main anomalies pointed out by them. They are particularly incensed that the government did not accept their case for “pension equalization or adjustment” every year, and instead notified that it will be done only at five-year intervals. This, the veterans say, will mean “one rank, five pensions” and not OROP as it has been consistently defined.

An even bigger worry for the armed forces is the notification clause that serving personnel who now opt for premature retirement (PMR) or discharge will not get OROP benefits. “This is totally against the overarching aim to keep the armed forces young and fighting fit,” said a senior officer.

“The entire cadre management of the forces, which have a steeply-pyramidal promotional structure, is dependent on hundreds of officers and thousands of jawans taking PMR every year after finishing their pensionable service. This ensures recruitment of young and fresh blood,” he added.

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