New Delhi: Thousands of army veterans, who held a rally here on Saturday, unanimously rejected the ‘One Rank One Pension’ (OROP) scheme approved by the government and threatened to intensify their agitation if the scheme’s anomalies were not removed.
“We have decided to continue the relay fast. If the government does not remove the anomalies in the scheme, we will intensify the protest,” United Front of Ex-servicemen spokesperson Col. Anil Kaul (retd) said.
He clarified that no new demands were being made, unlike what was being propagated.
Meanwhile, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said the expenditure for implementing the OROP will be just 2.2 percent more than the allocated budget for the defence ministry.
The united front claimed that about 50,000 army veterans from across the country participated in the rally.
Kaul further said at least 200 buses were stopped at the border of Delhi and thousands were stopped from participating.
The spokesperson said all problems were being created by bureaucrats.
“I wonder how much money they wanted to save by excluding premature retirements (PMRs),” he said.
Families of the veterans also joined the protests saying that the OROP announced by the government was misleading.
“I have come here from Lucknow to protest against the government’s offer. It is misleading. The scheme does not meet our demands completely,” Laxmi Singh, a family member of an ex-servicemen, told IANS.
“The government cannot ignore us. We have been on hunger strike since 90 days now. They will have to implement OROP the way we want,” said Surinder Singh, an ex-serviceman.
Parrikar said the OROP would not be “very heavy” for his ministry.
“A lot of people said OROP budget is going to be very heavy. I can tell you that total defence outlay was Rs.3.29 lakh crore. So it only forms about 2.2 percent additionally in defence outlay,” Parrikar said at a seminar organised by industrial chamber Ficci.
The minister said the cost can be recovered by using “innovative methods” and removing middlemen.
“And if I can, I promise also, I can bring that amount by saving the wastage or lowering cost by various other innovative ideas and by really preventing the middlemen from making money,” he added.
Later, responding to a question on the ongoing veterans’ agitation, he said: “It is a democratic right (to protest), you cannot take it away.”
Parrikar also reminded that it was the NDA government which implemented the scheme after 42 years.