Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said, “The government is committed to OROP. Only arithmetic translation of the principle is being worked out.”
The demand for the One Rank, One Pension (OROP) policy took a political turn Friday as about 200 officers of the Delhi Police tried to get former servicemen protesting at Jantar Mantar to vacate the spot, citing security protocol ahead of Independence Day. As police action evoked criticism, frantic calls were made by ex-servicemen to Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, Minister of State for External Affairs Gen (retd) V K Singh and Delhi Police Commissioner B S Bassi, following which policemen left the venue and allowed the ex-servicemen to continue their protests. Parrikar said there were “technical difficulties” in the implementation of OROP, but added, “Welfare measures pertaining to pension, including broad-banding, ex-gratia compensation and OROP, are receiving highest priority of the government.” INDEPENDENCE DAY COVERAGE: OROP accepted in principle, talks are on, says PM Modi Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, too, said, “The government is committed to OROP. Only arithmetic translation of the principle is being worked out.” As the government tried to pacify the protesters, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi made a visit to the venue to extend support to the protesters. Some ex-servicemen, however, asked him why the UPA did not implement OROP during its tenure. “This is a black day in Indian democracy. The guardians of national security have been asked to vacate the venue citing security. We told the policemen, you are teaching the guardians a lesson on security,” said Group Captain (retd) V K Gandhi, general secretary of the Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement (IESM).
Police arrived at 8.50 am and urged the 60-odd veterans to vacate the spot. When organisers showed the police the permissions they had obtained from Bassi, a scuffle ensued and two veterans reportedly suffered minor injuries. It was only after Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju called Bassi and instructed him not to evict ex-servicemen that the police left the spot. “I called up the Delhi Police Commissioner and said they should not be removed,” said Rijiju. Stating that the government was not insensitive to their demands, Rijiju said, “I was told that as part of a regular drill on the eve of Independence Day, police are instructed to clear the area and sanitise it. That is what led to a scuffle. But we immediately intervened and told the police not to remove them.” IESM chairman Maj Gen (retd) Satbir Singh said, “In three hours, I must have made about 100-110 calls. I spoke to Gen V K Singh’s officer on special duty. His office conveyed it to Home Minister Rajnath Singh. I sent three frantic messages to the Delhi Police Commissioner, who finally called up the men on the ground.” Rahul, who visited the venue at about 1 pm, tweeted with a hashtag WeStandWithVeterans: “The Prime Minister should give a date for the implementation of OROP. These people are doing nothing wrong, they are protesting, they shouldn’t be removed.” But Group Captain Gandhi said the Congress vice-president was “booed” by some people and “not allowed to hold the mic”. Instead, he was asked why his party did not implement OROP when it was in power. Meanwhile, amid rising expectations that the PM may announce OROP in his Independence Day address, the government tried to break the deadlock by involving General (retd) V P Malik in the talks.