Military veterans are finally set to get their dues following Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar's assertion that the 'One Rank One Pension' scheme is just weeks away from being implemented, reports Nitin Gokhale.
The long-pending 'One Rank One Pension,' scheme meant to ensure that a uniform pension is paid to defence personnel who retire at the same rank with the same length of service, irrespective of their date of retirement, is now weeks away from actual implementation, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has said.
Speaking to this correspondent in Delhi on Thursday, April 9, the minister said: "All hurdles, including a political clearance on its financial implications, have been removed. Now the actual calculation and administrative details are being worked out. We are sure to get the scheme rolling in the next few weeks."
Admitting that there is huge scepticism over the implementation of the One Rank One Pension scheme, Parrikar said: "This time we have ensured that nothing goes wrong."
The long-standing demand has been an emotive issue with defence pensioners for almost half a decade with many of them even marching in protest several times to Rashtrapati Bhavan between 2008 and 2010 to return their gallantry medals.
While the United Progressive Alliance government tried damage control at the very fag end of its tenure by making a budgetary provision of Rs 500 crore (Rs 5 billion) in the interim budget of 2014-2015, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley too announced the Modi government's commitment to grant the pension at the earliest.
Parrikar, who took over as defence minister from Jaitley, made the issue one of his top priorities.
He, however, needed to get everyone -- the armed forces and the bureaucracy -- on the same page and arrive at a figure acceptable to all.
Now the calculations are being done.
In a statement, Minister of State for Defence Rao Inderjit Singh said the move is likely to cost somewhere between Rs 7,500 crore to Rs 10,000 crore (Rs 75 billion to Rs 100 billion).
Singh told Parliament in early March: 'The modalities for implementation have been discussed with various stakeholders and are presently under consideration of the government. Financial implication could be calculated once the modalities are finalised and approved by the government.'
With Parrikar now categorically making the announcement, military veterans are keeping their fingers crossed on an issue that has agitated them for a long time.