Jawans win pension battle

The battle was fought over a decade during which hundreds of war medals had been surrendered and many courted arrests but the struggle of the former jawans of the Indian defence services ended only today with a victory.

Pranab Mukherjee, the country’s finance minister finally announced the government’s decision to accept the one-rank-one-pension system for retired personnel. This essentially means that all jawans of a particular rank will get the same pension irrespective of their year of retirement.

Jawans who retired after 1997 — just after the Fifth Pay Commission in 1995 — had been getting more pension than their counterparts who retired before the cut-odd year of 1997. The Sixth pay Commission only widened the gap.

Mukherjee, during his budget speech today, said: “Our country owes a deep debt of gratitude to our valiant ex-servicemen. The committee headed by the Cabinet Secretary on OROP (one rank one pension) has submitted its report and the recommendations of the committee have been accepted”.

The minister also spelt out the details of the OROP during his speech: “On the basis of these recommendations, the government has decided to substantially improve the pension of pre-1.1.2006 defence pensioners below officer rank (PBOR) and bring pre 10.10.1997 pensioners on par with post 10.10.1997 pensioners.

“Both these decisions will be implemented from 1st July 2009 resulting in enhanced pension for more than 12 lakh jawans and JCOs.”

For people, like Col (retd) K. Tshering, the president of the Indian Ex-Services League (Darjeeling branch), the announcement is momentous.

“We have been agitating for so long. In February, we went to the Jantar Mantar and staged a dharna there. More than 3,600 ex-servicemen surrendered their war medals to the President of India to demand implementation of this OROP system.

“Lt General (retd) Raj Kadyan, who has been leading the movement, had also courted arrest. Ultimately, our movement has borne fruit,” Tshering told The Telegraph over the phone from Cooch Behar.

“There was a huge gap,” he said.

According to Tshering, havildars who had retired before 1997 were getting a monthly pension of about Rs 3,700 while a jawan of the same rank is now entitled to Rs 7.600 as his monthly annuity benefit.

In fact, the decision to implement the OROP scheme will benefit around 40,000 retired jawans in the hills.

Before the Lok Sabha elections this year, the BJP, had in its manifesto promised to implement the OROP if voted to power. The UPA manifesto, was however, silent on the ex-serviceman’s demand.

Tshering said the Indian Ex-servicemen Movement for the welfare of retired soldiers has been fighting for five demands. “One of the most important one has now been fulfilled.”

The other four demands are:

1.Employment in the army till the age of 60 (jawans now retire at 33 years)

2.Setting up of a separate Army Pay Commission

3.An Army Welfare Commission on the lines of the Minority Commission

4.Annual Leave Travel Concession to continue after retirement like the Indian Railways does for its employees

Source: The Telegraph


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