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UPA DANGLES PENSION HIKE AS POLL BAIT FOR SOLDIERS.

Implementation of One Rank, One Pension is expected to please electorally significant community of ex- servicemen

LOST in the brouhaha over the government's announcement of meeting the longpending demand of the Armed Forces to have ' One Rank One Pension' ( OROP) was the moderate hike in defence spending whose share in the GDP slipped to 1.74 per cent from 1.79 last year.

Defence minister A. K. Antony thumped the desk with both hands in excitement when his colleague P. Chidambaram announced in Parliament that the Armed Forces will now have OROP, a key poll promise that is expected to please the electorally significant community of veterans.

However, in the interim budget, the finance minister announced only 10 per cent hike in defence allocation that now stands at ` 2,24,000 crore, up from ` 2,03,672 crore last year. The hike is marginal, as this year a cash- strapped defence ministry had to spend around ` 7,000 crore of the money kept for buying weapons to meet the growing expenses of salaries and rising fuel bill of the Armed Forces.

The new government that will be formed after May will have to take a re- look at the defence spending, considering the fact that a number bigticket purchases like helicopters, aircraft and guns are ready to be matured in the coming months.

Among the equipment defence ministry is expected to buy in the immediate future include 126 Rafale combat jets and 22 Apache attack helicopter. A large number of helicopters are to be bought for the Navy which would also expect to finalise construction of a new line of submarine as well.

The story of the defence budget 2014- 15 was the announcement of implementation of OROP system as the government chose to take the sting out of BJP's attack on the issue. If the promise had remained unfulfilled, the BJP, as in the past, would have made it a big election issue. Last year, BJP leader Narendra Modi had pressed for the issue at an exservicemen's rally in Haryana's Rewari, a prominent catchment area for the Armed Forces. But all does not seem to be pleased by the government's position on OROP. Sources said that more clarity is required on the issue but going merely by the finance minister's speech, it appears to be an eyewash. A serving officer said that at the most, the speech covered the cases of pensions of pre- and post- 2006 pensions, and not OROP. The Armed Forces personnel said that OROP should not be confused with modified parity of pension. The modified parity was an arrangement to address pension disparity between those who retired in the current Pay Commission and those who hung their uniform in previous Pay Commission.

For the past pensioners, it ( modified parity) ensures at least the minimum pension admissible for the rank/ post in the current pay commission.

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Date:Feb 18, 2014
Words:496
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