Centre mulls clearing arrears of defence pensioners

New Delhi: The government is readying to roll out arrears for defence pensioners under the One Rank One Pension (OROP) policy, according to people aware of the matter, even as the debate on the radical change in recruitment policies under the Agnipath scheme continues.

Defence pensioners are set to get arrears in excess of Rs 2,000 crore as the government will revise all scales with effect from 2019, with disbursement likely to take place in the coming weeks. The revision had been held up for the past three years as a group of ex-servicemen had taken the government to the Supreme Court, demanding changes in the OROP policy.

In a ruling in March, the Supreme Court rejected the appeal for changes and upheld the government’s view that all pension scales should be revised once in five years, against the demand of petitioners for an annual increment.

Concrete progress has been made and final approvals for disbursement are being processed to roll out the arrears at the earliest, said the people cited earlier, adding that an official announcement is expected soon.

The OROP policy is broadly aimed at giving uniform pension to retired soldiers, irrespective of the date they left service. Earlier, recently retired soldiers got significantly higher pensions than those who retired at the same rank in the past. OROP was a major highlight in the BJP’s election manifesto for 2014 and the scheme was rolled out in September 2015, adding to the pension bill of the armed forces by Rs 10,392.35 crore.According to official records, the budget allocation for defence pensions for 2020-21 was Rs 1,33,825 crore, which amounted to 28.39 per cent of the total defence budget. Salaries and pensions together accounted for almost 63 per cent of the defence budget estimates for the financial year.

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William Murphy

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