Aug 19, 2015, 04.50 AM IST, NEW DELHI: The Prime Minister's Office on Tuesday morning intervened in the ongoing one rank, one pension (OROP) imbroglio and asked the military veterans to call off their agitation and end the fast-unto-death being undertaken by three ex-servicemen.
Though the veterans agreed not to escalate their agitation for the next 10 days, they stuck to their guns that the stir would be called off only when the government announced a firm date for implementation of the much-promised but long-delayed OROP without any dilution whatsoever.
Grant of full OROP to the over 25 lakh veterans in the country will cost around Rs 8,300 crore per year. Considering that the government had earlier promised to implement it from April 1, 2014, it will add up to at least Rs 16,600 crore now, ahead of the 7th Pay Commission to be implemented from 2016 onwards, as earlier reported by TOI.
The hour-long meeting at 10 am on Tuesday between the PM's principal secretary Nripendra Misra and representatives of the veterans, Lt-General (retd) Balbir Singh and Major-General (retd) Satbir Singh, was held at the PMO's behest with Army chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag acting as the intermediary.
The veterans, who had also met defence minister Manohar Parrikar on August 16, asked for "a firm date" for announcement of OROP. "We sought an assured date for implementation, as also that the date from which it will take effect will remain April 1, 2014, as was earlier agreed by the government," Maj-Gen Satbir Singh said.
Lt-Gen Balbir Singh added, "Mishra stressed that normalcy should be restored. Asked what he meant by that, he said the fast-unto-death should be called off. We told him that if there is a concrete assurance, we will stop it."
Though Mishra was unable to give a firm date or assurance, the veterans agreed to "wait for 10 more days" before further stepping up their agitation. "We also tried to persuade Colonel (retd) Pushpender Singh, Haviladar (retd) Major Singh and Havildar (retd) Ashok Chauhan to call off their fast-unto-death. But the three said they would go ahead with it due to the government's failure to implement OROP," said Col (retd) Anil Kaul, spokesperson of the United Front of Ex-Servicemen.
Even since the veterans' dharna began at Jantar Mantar 65 days ago, the government has been maintaining that OROP would be implemented as soon as the "technical difficulties" are resolved. But the miffed veterans, backed by 14 former Service chiefs, say they now want the country's political leadership to walk their talk.
Incidentally, after earning widespread condemnation for ham-handedly trying to evict the veterans from their dharna site on Independence Day-eve, the Delhi Police on Tuesday apologized to the agitating ex-servicemen.
"On August 14, a misunderstanding had taken place. We have discussed the issue in detail. At times, some confusion takes place. We will try to mend. Our intention was not to hurt the soldiers," joint commissioner of police (New Delhi) M K Meena said at the protest venue.