Saturday, 7 November 2015

Government’s Diwali OROP award seeks to defang ex-servicemen agitation

By Ajai Shukla
New Delhi
Business Standard, 8th Nov 2015

On Saturday, four days before Diwali, the government has reached out to the agitating ex-servicemen community, by issuing a notification implementing “One Rank One Pension” (OROP).

The government says the award will benefit 25 lakh ex-servicemen, and involve an annual outgo of Rs 8,000-10,000 lakhs. “Notwithstanding the financial constraints, true to its commitment the present Government has issued the Government order to implement the OROP in true spirit”, the defence ministry release says.

On September 5, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had announced the grant of OROP, but ex-servicemen groups rejected that saying it fell short of their demands.

The chief of United Ex-Servicemen League (UESL), Major General Satbir Singh identified seven major objections to Parrikar’s award. These included non-award of OROP to personnel who had retired voluntarily; the “equalization” of pensions, or adjustment of old and new pensions only once in five years, instead of annually; fixation of pensions as the average of pension drawn in the year 2013, instead of pension drawn on March 31, 2014, as the ex-servicemen demanded; making OROP effective from July 1, 2014, instead of March 31, 2014, depriving ex-servicemen of three months pension; fixing pension in each grade as the average of that grade, instead of the maximum as demanded; granting successive pay commissions the right to fix pensions, which ex-servicemen fear might result in OROP gains being temporary; and constituting a one-member judicial commission to regularize anomalies in pension within six months, instead of a five-member committee that would remove anomalies within one month.

It is unclear if ex-servicemen groups would be satisfied by the current notification, which ignores at least five of these demands. While apparently granting OROP to pensioners who had taken voluntary retirement in the past, it excluded those who chose to leave the military in the future. The notification says: “Personnel who opt to get discharged henceforth on their own request… will not be entitled to the benefits of OROP. It will be effective prospectively.”

That means the government has conceded OROP to those voluntary retirees who are there to fight for it, but not to those who are not there yet, i.e. those who opt for premature retirement in the future.

The government has partly conceded the demand for a five-member committee to adjudicate on pension anomalies. But it has granted the committee six months, instead of the month demanded by ex-servicemen groups.

In the other five aspects, the government has stuck to its guns. A defence ministry release says: “pension of the past pensioners would be re-fixed on the basis of pension of retirees of calendar year 2013 and the benefit will be effective with effect from 1.7.2014 (July 1, 2014)”. This is what Parrikar announced on September 5.

On the amount of pension, the notification says: “Pension will be re-fixed for all pensioners on the basis of the average of minimum and maximum pension of personnel retiring in 2013 in the same rank and with the same length of service… Pension for those drawing above the average shall be protected.”

On the key “equalization” demand, the government has maintained its position, that “In future, the pension would be re-fixed every 5 years”.

An ex-serviceman influential in the agitation argues: “This means that for one year we will have OROP and then, for the next four years, we will keep slipping backwards until pensions are equalized again after a five-year interval. This is a fake OROP”.

The way the award will affect individual ex-servicemen will become clear later. The government announcement says: “Detailed instructions along with tables indicating revised pension for each rank and each category, shall be issued separately… directly by Pension Disbursing Agencies.”

The core principle of OROP, as enunciated by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on September 5, is: “OROP implies 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. Future enhancements in the rates of pension would be automatically passed on to the past pensioners.”

The ex-servicemen community, traditionally supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has been alienated from the party over the course of a high-visibility public agitation that began on June 5. On Friday, the ex-servicemen had upped the ante, announcing they would return medals awarded for military service and gallantry. 


Ravi said...

Isnt the function of government to provide services to the people and to remedy injustices?

Why then does our government act like the simplest actions are being taken as a huge favor to the citizens?

And why does the government so seldom seat all stakeholders at the negotiating table and get their buy-in, instead of acting like a secret durbar where decisions made are opaque and are often ill-thought out/irrational?

We the citizens pay the government servant's wages. Its time govt embraced modern management and understand they work for us, not the other around.

On a completely irrelevant note, the daughter of a colleague is a US Navy nuclear propulsion engineer. She is up for reenlistment. To keep her jumping to the private sector, the Navy is giving her a $50,000 incentive package for a 4-yr reenlistment and has offered to pay for her graduate engineering studies. BTW, she is enlisted, not an officer.

Why cant we come up with something like this and end the officer shortage, and to encourage enlisted to take on more and more technical roles as required in modern warfare?

R Singh said...

The Govt of India has gone out of its way to satisfy ex-servicemen. Even when exports are falling, the revenue is down and the market is going through invisible recession, the Indian Govt has notified and initiated the process for OROP. That's a great achievement for all of us.

It should be better for remaining ex-servicemen to now fold up their agitation and realise how much they have achieved. If it was a Congress government, not even 10% was possible for them to achieve. Moreover, in a democracy, no interest group achieves all of its demands. Both sides have compromised here, the government in this case much more than the ex-servicemen.

As far as its visible, nothing else will come out of this part-political agitation, rather it is being further politicised. The issue is taking a different turn with ex-paramilitary pensioners demanding the same, even though they serve till full 60 years. That demand is unreal but politicians and babus behind them, will push even railways, post and everyone else to start a parallel movement. That will kill OROP initiative right in its tracks.

I know politicians and hidden congressi-s among ex-servicemen will relish that opportunity, however, innocent jawans and their families will suffer if OROP is rescinded, just because the ex-servicemen didn't GET EVERYTHING.

Ranjit Tiwary said...

Let us be fair to Govt. It has given almost everything except for Equalisation every year.
Let us move forward and issues like equalisation everyyear needs to be put to GoI through committtee instead of resorting to strikes / agitation where few veterans are making it political event

Anonymous said...

Following the humiliating defeat in Bihar, I hope the government decides not to listen to the bureaucracy. The government has alientaed the people of the mnation. Hopefully they'll learn from these mistakes and not suffer a similar situation in Punjab, West Bengal and UP. Hopefully, we'll have a true OROP sooner rather than later.

Jean Luc Picard said...

@ R Singh :

1. The govt is not going out of its way to 'satisfy' the veterans. It is merely doing its duty by fulfilling its promise. The promise was made 30 years ago.

2. Why this promise is made ? because Life in Military service is harder than in any other service, including paramilitary forces. others dont even compare. Other govts have things like NFU, and retirement at age 62.Only defence services dont and should not as they are a merit based organization.

3. If ever OROP is "rescinded", that govt will commit instant political suicide by doing so be it congress or BJP. Govt better do its job and deliver other wise it will drop from power faster than it came to power.

Make a Difference said...

R SINGH and Ranjit Tiwary, please check your facts before commenting on an extremely sensitive and long standing issue. The OROP was announced by the previous Govt in Feb 2014 and services hqs and the MOD together prepared a draft Govt letter for implementation in Apr 2014. However, as usual the bureaucrats dilly dallied and the govt changed in May. What was announced by the govt last year was as per the Koshuary committee report which has been approved by the Parliament and also upheld by the Supreme Court. What this Govt has announced now goes back in several terms from the original announcement last year. So much for the credibility of this govt.