On the same day, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) was directly handling the issue, and Home Minister Rajnath Singh also assured the veterans during a meet.
“Now the small gaps are being filled. Give it some time for completion. In principle, the prime minister on August 15 (in his Independence Day speech) has given an approval. Now, the PMO is directly involved… then by saying that ‘do it in these many days’ will not help,” Parrikar told reporters on the sidelines of an event on Friday.
The home minister was, meanwhile, reminded by the veterans of his promise of OROP when he was the BJP president.
“The minister said he will do his best in sorting out the issue,” spokesperson of the ex-servicemen front Col. Anil Kaul (retd) told IANS.
At Jantar Mantar, the ex-servicemen refused to give up the protest and questioned the government’s intentions.
“The government does not intend to implement OROP,” Major General (retd) Satbir Singh, chairman of the United Forum of Ex-Servicemen, told his protesting colleagues.
He also said some people in the government were making the OROP issue a difficult one.
Satbir Singh said talks met a dead end as the government did not agree to budge from its position on revising pensions every five years.
He said that initially, the government said pensions would be revised every 10 years, and the veterans pressed for a revision every two years.
The defence force retirees also wanted an annual increment of three percent.
However, when representatives of the ex-servicemen, including Maj. Gen. (retd) Singh, went for a scheduled meeting, Nripendra Misra, principal secretary to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, did not meet them on Thursday evening.
“However, a message was sent through a joint secretary that the revision in pensions will be done only after five years. We refused to compromise,” said the veteran.
“The first proposal the government came out with did not pertain to OROP and we rejected it. On the second day, the talks proceeded positively, and we thought a breakthrough can be reached.
“A point of contention between the government and the ex-servicemen is the date of implementation of the OROP.”
While veterans want it to be implemented from April 2014, the government wants it to come into force from April 2015. If implemented from April 2014, around Rs.12,000 crore in arrears would have to be paid to the ex-servicemen.
The veterans agreed to give up two months of arrears but the government asked the date of implementation to be fixed at September 2014. This was also rejected.
“They want us to take the OROP from 2015, at the 2011 scale, which is not possible,” Satbir Singh said.
The veterans also rejected the offer that the pensions be revised under the 7th Pay Commission.
“We are now not ready to compromise any more. We are also taking back the offers of compromise we made. The agitation will continue,” he said.
Meanwhile, the protest by ex-servicemen continued for the 75th day on Friday. While four protesters are in hospital, six are on indefinite fast.
Col. Pushpender Singh (retd), Hav. Ashok Chauhan (retd), Maj. Piar Chand Rana and Hav. Sahib Singh were also stable. All four continue to be on fast.
Hav. Major Singh, who began his fast last Monday, is still at the Jantar Mantar despite deteriorating condition.
Also on an indefinite fast at the Jantar Mantar are Naik Udai Singh Rawat, Sawal Ram Yadav, father of martyr Lance Naik Sunil Kumar Yadav, Cdr. A.K. Sharma, Subedar Vijay Singh Yadav and Subedar Keshaw Singh, all retired soldiers.
On Friday, many of the veterans said they would boycott the government’s commemoration of the 1965 India-Pakistan war and felicitated war veterans separately, offering flowers to them as well as some families of the martyrs.
There are around 24 lakh ex-servicemen in India and around 6.5 lakh widows who will benefit if OROP is implemented.