NEW DELHI: The Deadlock over 'One rank, One Pension' (OROP) persisted today with agitating ex servicemen accusing the government of "constantly shifting goalpost" and "wasting time" even as a fresh round of back-channel talks were held.
The veterans also accused the government of not coming out with any "concrete proposal" to resolve the issue. Some sections in the government were also giving misleading figures about financial ramifications in implementing the scheme, they alleged.
Asked what would be their reaction if the government unilaterally announces OROP on its own conditions, Col (Retd) Anil Kaul, media adviser to the United Front of Ex-Servicemen, said, "We will not accept it if it is against the agreed definition of OROP".
Hours after the press conference, Lt Gen (Retd) Balbir Singh, President of Indian Ex-servicemen Movement met Army Chief Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag at his South Block Office along with Maj Gen (Retd) Satbir Singh. "No progress as such were made today. We reiterated our stand," Balbir told PTI.
Asked if there has been any change in its committed position that they are ready to accept revision of pension once in two years, he said, "My stand has been that if a commitment is given, then it remains. These negotiations are not being carried out by children".
There were reports that a particular section of ex-servicemen wanted to go back on the commitment and stick to their original demand of revising pension every year.
Meanwhile, asked about their protest rally in poll-bound Bihar, Captain V K Gandhi (Retd), general secretary of Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement, said, "We are not taking a political stand. But we will urge people to vote for a party which will fulfil their promises".
The veterans, whose agitation entered the 81st day today, said government has sent seven mediators to talk to them but all had come with "different concessions". "Where do we go for negotiations. People from the government offer one thing and the next day another person comes up with another statement.
They are constantly shifting goalpost. There is no clear signal of intent from the government or any concrete proposal," said Kaul. "We are not asking for three per cent increment. This is a misnomer being floated," he said.
Asked if the government was buying time, Wing Commander (Retd) C K Sharma, a senior official of the veteran grouping, said, "The correct word is prevaricate. The government is not buying time but is wasting time".
Kaul said that cost of implementing OROP will come to around Rs 8,294 crore which he said was worked out by "three service pay cells and figures estimated by the Ministry of Defence. Why is there ambiguity now. Something must be wrong somewhere."
He claimed that the pension equalisation will only cost around Rs 33 crore annually. "The total amount of Rs 33 crore annually is nothing and our basic demand is that no junior should draw more pension than his senior," he said. The OROP has been stuck for a while despite hectic back channel talks between the government and the veterans.
The veterans have been insisting on pegging the base year at 2013-14 with implementation date of April one, 2014. But government had initially wanted the pay out date be pushed forward from April 1, 2014 to April 1, 2015, a proposal rejected by the veterans. In subsequent talks, the government had pushed the payout date from April 1, 2014 to September 1, 2014, the veterans had said.
Close to 26 lakh retired servicemen and over six lakh war widows stand to be immediate beneficiaries of the scheme, which envisages a uniform pension for the defence personnel who retire in the same rank with the same length of service, irrespective of their date of retirement.
Currently, the pension for retired personnel is based on the Pay Commission recommendations of the time when he or she retired. So, a Major General who retired in 1996 draws less pension than a Lt Colonel who retired after 1996.