Tuesday, 22 September 2015

After 100 days of agitation, ex-servicemen ready for long haul

Seven demands presented, government finalising notification

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 22nd Sept 15

Mrs SP Singh, a tiny, rounded woman with laugh lines at the corners of her eyes, seems an ordinary housewife, on her way to buy groceries from a middle-class marketplace. But this wife of a retired lieutenant colonel from the Sikh regiment has found a new routine, travelling to New Delhi’s Jantar Mantar every morning to join hundreds of others like her, from disparate ex-servicemen’s groups, agitating for “one rank one pension” (OROP).

On Tuesday, the public agitation launched on 6th June by the United Front of Ex-Servicemen, completes 100 days.

On September 5, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had announced government’s acceptance of the basic principle of OROP: “that uniform pension be paid to the armed forces personnel retiring in the same rank with the same length of service, regardless of their date of retirement”. But key ex-servicemen’s demands remained unaddressed, and the agitation continues.

Nor are ex-servicemen taking solace from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s assurances the day after Parrikar accepted OROP. There was little clarity in Modi’s statement, say ex-servicemen, and no official notification has followed.

“We will go on for 1,000 days if needed. The government has tried to create a rift between ex-servicemen by announcing an award that pleases some sections. But we have a culture of fighting together and we will remain united”, says Mrs Singh.

Since Parrikar announced OROP, the mood has only become feistier. Initially spearheaded by officers, the movement has become more broad-based, with even village-based ex-servicemen associations --- composed mainly of rank-and-file former soldiers --- pledging support and sending representatives to Jantar Mantar.

Major General Satbir Singh, the Indian Ex-Servicemen’s Movement (IESM) chief, who has emerged as the face of the agitation, says the IESM has over 50,000 members and is now supported by over 160 ex-servicemen organisations.

According to General Satbir, the government’s acceptance of OROP, which will cost Rs 18,000-22,000 crore to implement this year, has seven key shortfalls.

These include the government’s exclusion from OROP of servicemen who opt for premature retirement (PMR), before reaching the age of superannuation. On the evening of September 5, Parrikar had done a U-turn, assuring ex-servicemen that those who took PMR would be entitled to OROP. However, this has not yet been officially notified.

Second, ex-servicemen have rejected the government’s offer to “equalise”, or adjust old and new pensions, every five years. Instead, they demand annual “equalisation”.

“The government says annual equalisation will be too complicated. Yet, last week, Mr Parrikar was shown software in Bengaluru, developed by an ex-navy admiral, which takes just seven seconds to calculate an individual’s adjusted pension”, says General Satbir.

Third, ex-servicemen had negotiated that pensions as on March 31, 2014 would be passed on to all pensioners. Yet, Parrikar announced the average pension paid in calendar year 2013 would be paid, holding back one full annual increment.

Fourth, Parrikar announced that OROP would be effective from July 1, 2014, not April 1, as had been agreed in negotiations. With each month’s additional pension amounting to Rs 700 crore, the government was looking to save Rs 2,100 crore.

Fifth, Parrikar wants the average of each pay grade to form the basis for calculating pension of that grade. The ex-servicemen are demanding the top of the scale. Sixth, ex-servicemen demand that OROP be “implemented in perpetuity”, with successive pay commissions “integrating”, not “adjudicating” pensions. Finally, Parrikar announced a one-person judicial commission to adjust pension anomalies over the next six months. Ex-servicemen’s groups, however are demanding a five-member commission, with three of their representatives and one each from the serving military and the defence ministry. This would be disbanded after one month.

Contacted for a comment, defence ministry spokesperson, Sitanshu Kar, responded, “The PM has provided assurances and the ministry is working very hard to produce a notification that will reconcile expectations. This should be out very soon.”

OROP: Seven sticking points

Servicemen who retire prematurely should also get pension after completing qualifying service (officers: 20 years; other ranks: 15 years)
Old and new pensions should be “equalised” annually, not once every five years as government has announced
Date for calculating pensions should be March 31, 2014, not average pension paid in 2013, as Parrikar announced
OROP should be effective from April 1, 2014, not July 1, as Parrikar announced. Each soldier would get three months more of enhanced pension
Pension for each pay grade should be the maximum pension of that grade, not average of maximum and minimum, as government has announced
OROP must be implemented in perpetuity, as a principle. Successive pay commissions could “integrate” pensions, but not “adjudicate” on them
Instead of one-person judicial commission to adjust pension anomalies, five-member commission, with three ex-servicemen members.


Libra said...

I don't think the GOI can give anything more on OROP other than what has already been announced. Its time for retired servicemen to stop being greedy and stop making anymore mess around this issue.

There are people surviving on berries and bats in India, they have the first right on the national exchequer. With all defence quota, defence preference and defence facilities already available to ex-servicemen, agreeing to a little less than their maximal demand would not kill them overnight. There should be an immediate end to this mockery of democratic rights.

Ranjit Tiwary said...

I am veteran too and I feel politically motivated veterans have hijacked the genuine agitation and started behaving like labour unions. Can anyone monetise the services made to nation? Answer is no. The GoI has given maximum and veterans should not be prey in hands of politicians. Slowly but steadily, people will lose respect for Armed forces. At least this government addressed the issue in right earnest . Expecting that all demands will be fulfilled is too naive. Let us all move forward

abc said...

well for somebody like me, who has the highest respect for the indian armed forces , it is extremely hard to say this, but , the obstinate manner in which the ex-servicemen are protesting devoid of much reasoning, even when the central govt. has shown much inclination to resolve the issue , they stand to lose public support which they enjoy.

the ex-servicemen should understand that govt. is willing to walk the distance & the veterans should now exercise some patience.

Anonymous said...

Just like in Pakistan, our armed forces and veterans are becoming a political force who want to hog the nation's scarce resources. It's time for this spineless baniya Govt to stop playing politics and govern the nation. The nation cannot afford a pension bill of more than 70,000 crores. It's appalling that veterans are behaving like union leaders and BJP seems more like a saffron CPIM.

Alok Asthana said...

3 comments here show that the govt has succeeded in showing that we ex-servicemen have an unfair demand and Modi has already been a nice guy to us. Well guys the gloves are off. We are asking only for implementation of a parliamentary body recommendation in toto, approved by 2 cabinets, called Koshiyari commission report. Many of these wellwishers of Modi do not know that Koshiyari was an MP from BJP, not Congress! So, cool off. We'll fight and get our rights. Don't need your support.

Alok Asthana said...

Three comments here show that the govt has succeeded in showing that we ex-servicemen have an unfair demand and Modi has already been a nice guy to us. Well guys the gloves are off. We are asking only for implementation of a parliamentary body recommendation in toto, approved by 2 cabinets, called Koshiyari commission report. Many of these wellwishers of Modi do not know that Koshiyari was an MP from BJP, not Congress! So, cool off. We'll fight and get our rights. Don't need your support.

Anonymous said...

Govt all these years hv been dodging defence. Yes this Govt has done something. Who forced disciplined forces to go on streets ?it is secondary tt opposition & politically motivated ppl will eventually bake their cake. This country white population ,baboons & politicians generally are erring to look down upon service personnel pushing tm against the wall. Ty demonstrated peacefully not like' Patel reservation' blowing national property overnight. Grant defence its respect more tn money. Ty r disciplined motivated & ready for ultimate sacrifice .Don't make fool out of them. R t baboos & selective classes of the society drawing OROP superior class?

Anonymous said...

The veterans are supposed to show some satisfaction atleast some relief but they are adamant on there demands,they shold atleast wait for the final draft notification.This NDA govt has atleast cleared the orop demands even though its not exactly point to point ,some appreciation for the government would be good

M said...

Civil servants have given themselves non functional up gradation which is costing thousands of crores exchequer. They are enjoying quick promotions,perks and looting the country. Public must question the corrupt civil servants and politicians. We must extend our support to armed forces and veterans. They were only dependable in all disasters and emergencies.

anonymous said...

Dear sir, with all due respect, do you think these politicians or babu's care!! They're just covering up for the blunder of ordering police action. This country is ungrateful to ex servicemen. Period!! You want to see respect for armed forces, just visit the US or Europe or even Pakistan.

Why should veterans not demand adequate compensation for their sacrifices. They need to do it coz of the indifference that our successive govts have shown to our veterans. They are still the most disciplined agitators...no one has disturbed the public, no traffic jams, no damage to public property. No killings... Just Gandhi giri..... Only when the services stop accepting non sense, will there be respect. The veterans don't demand more than the civil servants, they want to be equal. Equality inspite of greater sacrifices, a tougher life....is that an unfair demand. At least I don't think so.

jatinder singh said...

To all above, humbly, what had the govt given. Do you even know before shooting comments. They hand you berries wrapped in a glitzy paper and you say take it and move on. Thanks for the paper to munch on. Guys if you don't know don't comment. You profess you have respect for the forces. You probably never had it in the first place. Only lip service.

Anonymous said...

Well Libra to csll ESM greedy shows that ur paid agent. Bet neither u nor ur legitimate father serve in forces

Anonymous said...

@Anon 21:59

What sacrifices?? Armed forces is a means for vast majority to get out of poverty and to improve their social standing. To get your "demands" after retirement you want to resort to hooliganism?? You are aware what you are getting into when you join the forces. If you are not satisfied with the pay, perks and retirement benefits that go with a sarkari naukri, you need to look for better alternatives. The armed forces are paid much better than the vast majority of this country.

@Jatinder Singh
With a string of corruption scams perpetrated by the forces be it army, navy or air force yes the masses have lost all respect for the armed forces.It amazes me to what extent our armed forces will go to ensure over expensive kickback generating imports... Arjun, Tejas, Adarsh Housing, Coffin, land scams are few of the many. The quality of our armed forces have deteriorated abysmally... no wonder they're behaving like union leaders and unionized workers not like warriors.

Anonymous said...

There is no end to the great human quality called greed.

It's true that when you join army they take your brain, give you the gun and when you leave they take the gun back but don't return your brain

Much of Indian population is still BPL , country is crippled with farmer suicides , poor health and educational infrastructure, malnutrition, poverty, many remote areas are cut off from rest of the nation by all means.

These retired servicemen are acting like traitors rather than patriots
I don't think they mean below
Your country comes first always and every time.

@Alok asthana
BJP govt knows about Koshiyari commission.

STOP being GREEDY!!!!

Libra said...

All genuine OROP supporter ex-servicemen are satisfied and gone home. Probably, these few remaining and highly politicized ex-servicemen protesters don't see the obvious. The nation has started feeling disgusted of their greed and has realized that the issue of OROP (one rank one pension) is resolved. Now this continuing fight for ORHP (one rank highest pension) is not fair, unwarranted and below their dignity.

Already, ex-servicemen are the most pampered lot, with defence quotas, defence canteen, defence preferences and numerous other goodies. Now, for the first time and among all government owned agencies, its only for the armed services that the issue of OROP has been accepted at humongous cost. The Seventh Pay Commission increases are about to come but even before that the defence pension has crossed 70,000 crore. Compare it with the salary budget of serving uniformed personnel i,e. about 100,000 crore and see the enormity of this issue. Only defence pensions will be about 1% of GDP this year if arrears are combined.

This massive increase in pensions are happening when majority in India and many generations coming after them will not even have a proper pension. They will have to satisfy themselves with NPS and private sector annuity schemes.

So, a message to all remaining political ex-servicemen protesters, please go home and don't make it ugly and disgusting. You are losing respect for every additional day you sit at Jantar Mantar. The more you hog the social media, more you vilify established authors, journalists and objective opinion makers, more the nation gets disgusted. The common people know much more on your OROP and ORHP than you would ever imagine and they don't like it.

Please, Go home and be satisfied with what GOI has already given. Any other non-serious government would have kept you hanging for another 100 years...

anonymous said...

I think that as a free country, all of us have a right to having an opinion. I respect yours, but don't agree a bit with you. I won't try to convince you but let me tell u as someone who has seen all this up close and personal, please don't demean service personnel..... By saying what sacrifice??

Who needs paki terrorists when we have people like you. Cheers!!!! Enjoy your freedom.... But don't take it for granted.... People die for it everyday.....

anonymous said...

Who is giving a lesson of patriotism to whom???? Haha... Beats me!!! Does any of these anonymous people have the balls to day this to a veteran, looking into his eyes.... I don't think so. Just keep commenting, if u have it in u...go out and oppose them.

Anonymous said...

...and now Paramilitary veterans demand OROP


Where does this stop ? Any chaukidars, doormen, liftmen - raise your hands please !

Anonymous said...

@Anon 22.39 & 22:45

My father died serving this nation. SO STFU.... stop your emotional atyachar.

Anonymous said...

@Anon 22:39

If you think job in the army is a "sacrifice" then you are not meant for the army. Job in the armed forces is a privilege and not a sacrifice that few in this nation of 1.3 billion get. I don't know how people like you get selected and promoted in the armed forces.

cato kaiser said...

Ok the jawan is corrupt.he is scamster.But at the top of ministry of defence are sincere babus.working tirelessly so that the corrupt jawan can get a rifle that does not jam,he is safe with good quality bulletproof jackets,bullet froof helmet