Blackmail Simpliciter — More Bitter Truths About OROP

I may be out of step with the times, but I am convinced that what has been happening at Jantar Mantar in Delhi over the last two months exemplifies neither discipline nor loyalty nor patriotism, notwithstanding the vaunted claims by the Ex-servicemen League( ESM). There is a regular torrent of abuse (of the government, the civil services and politicians) and vilification flowing from senior (retired) defense officers, and they have not spared even their Supreme Commander, the President of India – just yesterday he was sent a letter by the ESM holding him responsible for “any damage or mishap” that may occur to the hunger strikers, and accusing him that “under your rule a soldier’s life is at stake….”. So much for devotion to the country.

There is more. The tone and tenor of their statements  and that of some retired Chiefs who, having compromised themselves earlier by quietly accepting OROP for themselves and dumping their ” boys”, really have no moral right to protest now, are becoming noticeably menacing and threatening. One day we are warned that the ESM is in touch with serving soldiers and heaven help the country if disaffection spreads to the armed forces. The next day we are told that helping the civil administration in case of natural disasters is not the army’s job, and what will the government do if this assistance is denied? A retired Chief cautions the government on television that these guys are not trade unionists but soldiers, that they know how to fight and will not back down. To me this is coming uncomfortably close to incitement and downright blackmail.

And then there is the final irony – a group of ex-soldiers who claim to be totally apolitical now indicating that they could jump into the Bihar election to muster support for their cause ! Make up your minds, gentlemen – are you ex-soldiers or an aspiring political outfit, which is what you are increasingly looking like with your rebellious statements and open defiance of the government?

As I’ve categorically stated earlier (THE BITTER TRUTH ABOUT OROP) there is a strong case made out for compensating soldiers for their early retirement but this is limited to the jawans and ORs, not the officers. The former retire between the ages of 35 and 38 and constitute 85% of the total strength of the armed forces. The officers have it much better – every commissioned officer retires in the time scale of a Colonel at 54, and then has the option of 4 years of reemployment within the force itself. He effectively retires, therefore, at 58 (as against 60 for the civil services, not such a significant “discrimination” as the ESM is making it out to be), with the full notional benefit of 33 years service for computing his pension. Even these two years are the result of the doctrine of having a “young army” and not because of any conspiracy by the government to keep the army subjugated, as is being constantly made out by ESM. The sheer nature of their job demands a degree of physical fitness that declines with age. Take the converse – Doctors and Professors in higher medical and educational institutions retire at 65 because in their case the primary consideration is not physical fitness but intellectual ability and acquired expertise. Nobody – not even the IAS!- grudges them this because the rationale is reasonable. It is the same with the armed forces.

The ESM has been very economical with the truth when it talks about discrimination with the armed forces in the matter of pensions. It fails to mention, acknowledge or accept that the government has already provided them with a massive advantage over the civil services. Civil service officers who have joined service on 1.4.2004 and thereafter are no longer entitled to assured pensions from the government. They are now enrolled in the NPS (National Pension Scheme), a fund to which both the employee and the government contribute a fixed percentage of salary every month. The pension payable depends on the profits generated by the NPS fund. In other words, there is no longer an assured percentage of pension for civil employees. But the government has kept the armed forces out of the NPS – they continue to enjoy the benefit and security of assured pensions. Be honest to yourself at least, Generals, if not to the country.

Another myth that needs to be busted is that armed forces officers are denied the promotions that their civil counterparts are entitled to. I personally agree that the promotion bandwagon in the higher civil services has gone berserk and this self serving policy needs to be drastically pruned. But this does not render the ESM’s claims for a similar absurdity in their case legitimate. For the same reasons of operational effectiveness the army perforce has to have an acute pyramidal structure, which naturally puts limits on promotional avenues. This is an imperative of the service which all the members of the ESM were doubtless aware of when they joined NDA or IMA. Why try to smuggle this demand through the backdoor when you entered from the front?

The same logic applies to the constant outcry about hardship postings, non-family stations, casualties etc. It goes with the territory and the uniform, which is why the armed forces are respected. These conditions are not peculiar to the Indian army either but are part and parcel of all armies across the world. In fact, service conditions are much worse in the police and the CPMFs. The government has been making attempts to compensate for some of the harsher conditions by providing generous allowances, which the ESM is not factoring in in the discourse. It does not behove a fine and proud armed force like ours to constantly wail about these things. After all ours is not a conscripted armed force but a voluntary one, and if you can’t take the heat don’t enter the kitchen.

In fact, it is now clear that the officer cadre is riding piggy back on the jawan to extract the maximun benefits for themselves. It now appears that the jawans and ORs (including the NCOs and JCOs) have seen through this game: it was reported yesterday in the Hindustan Times that the ORs have now decided to float a separate body called the All-India Ex-servicemen (AIE).

This is what their coordinator Bir Bahadur Singh had to say: ” The OROP movement has been hijacked by the officers who normally have been given lots of advantages. It is our legitimate rights that have never been taken into consideration.”

This is a significant development, and the central government should take note of this, because it brings the spotlight exactly where it should have been focused all these days- on the jawan. It is precisely at this level that the healing touch and correction/rectification measures need to be applied (and not through OROP, which is a diversionary smoke screen). Not that the government has not made attempts to do so in the past. A little known fact is that till the Third Pay Commission a jawan served only for 5 years and was not entitled to any pension. (INDIA TODAY, August 17, 2015). It was only in 1973, on the recommendations of the TPC, that he was not only given a tenure of 15 years but also made entitled to pension. But much more needs to be done, because he still retires at 35.

The solution, as I’ve been maintaining, does not lie in the easy and financially disastrous OROP formula. A country which gives 50% pension to an individual for 50 years for having served for 15 years cannot but be both intellectually and financially bankrupt. The best solution to this vexed problem is already on the table before the government – lateral induction into the police and CPMFs. In fact this was suggested by the Sixth Pay Commission but the central government, no doubt under pressure from the police and CPMFs, chose to ignore it. Opposition from the latter is to be expected for a number of sordid reasons for which one does have the time here, but Mr. Modi has to override his bureaucracy and political colleagues and implement this recommendation of the SPC. It will at one stroke remove the just grievances of the ORs and jawans, improve exponentially the image and effectiveness of the police and CPMFs, eliminate the need for any OROP, prevent a similar agitation by the civilian employees, save the country thousands of crores and ensure we do not go the way of Greece.

It is time for the ESM to back down and enter into meaningful dialogue with the central government, show some flexibility, and cease putting themselves on a pedestal. They say they are not trade unionists but are behaving exactly like them. Stop this blackmail, for it is engendering indiscipline and tarnishing the image of the Indian soldier which we hold in high esteem. Discuss with the government the real issues that bedevil the jawan and do not try to feather your own nest by using him as a proxy. Don’t try to bankrupt a country you have sworn to protect.

As for Mr. Modi, we have been waiting for 16 months for him to show some real leadership. His time starts NOW.

Avay Shukla retired from the Indian Administrative Service in December 2010. He is a keen environmentalist and loves the mountains. He divides his time between Delhi and his cottage in a small village above Shimla. He used to play golf at one time but has now run out of balls. He blogs at http://avayshukla.blogspot.in/

13 Comments

  • I fail to understand why Mr Shukla does not refer to the OROP that 95% of IAS/IFS cadre get since they reach the Apex grade. Also there is no mention of Non Functional Up-gradation that the bureaucrat so cleverly managed for himself. In short IAS/IFS have not only protected their higher pay during the service (NFU) but also after retirement (OROP).However the fact that the Civil Servant – Political nexus has harmed the armed forces continually over the decades, that too by design, cannot be doubted. I hope Mr Shukla has no doubts in this regard. Till this OROP is withdrawn the civil servant or the government has no logic to deny it to the more needy – Military personnel. Wonder what Mr Shukla’s views are on this issue.

    The fact that post 2004 civil servants have no government pension is again a well thought out scheme that is more modern in practice than just pensions since pension pay-out can be disastrous for governments with people living longer and pensioner numbers increasing with each year. That is a wise move for any government and please do not forget the government contributes to that fund through out the person’s service. So it is not as if the government has washed its hands of the civil servant.

    Also I think Mr Shukla is being mischievous when he bifurcates the military between other ranks and officers in typical ‘divide and rule’ policy. ESM and others have stated clearly that in case there is a crunch of resources, please give OROP to other ranks now and officers later. On lateral induction, it is myth since firstly there are no vacancies for the nearly 55,000 military personnel who retire every year, secondly vacancies at correct levels are even fewer, lastly no organisation is ready for accepting lateral placement. so the whole concept is flawed and un-implementable, at least as on date.

    Next re-employments is not a right of any officer who retires, it is only at the discretion of the service if there is a need. On the contrary most IAS/IFS officers manage to serve for 2-5 years beyond 60 years by taking up positions in hundreds of commissions and other similar organisations created mainly to rehabilitate retired IAS/IFS officers.

    However I do agree that most past Chiefs did not do their bit since OROP was never pursued vigorously. Also oblique remarks on morale, unrest, etc among active military personnel are unwarranted and in poor taste from such senior officers.

    Lastly as I have always maintained, there is no equation between civil and military. Both are poles apart in their roles, terms of duties and environment in which they work. So best not to equate.

  • dear sir,
    i wonder why defence personal are not allowed to resign. If anyone thought that non commissioned rank enjoy any kind of liberty then i must say he is just ignorant. Moreover,it is now 20 yrs of service (compulsory)for certain category . No service can be compared with armed forces. Sir. simply include a clause in service rule whereby a solder or a sailor or an airman can resign after 2years of service without any benifit with grace. Just see the result with in one month.

  • Mr Shukla,May I inform you that the Army officers(Colonels/Lt Colonels) who retire at age of 54 continue to get their last salary drawn ONLY ( their pay is frozen at last pay drawn) and don’t get any increment like all other Govt servants including the AIS and other Gp A services.Their pension is determined by the LAST PAY DRAWN at 54 age and they get pension lesser by an amount equal to SIX increments.In fact,practically they serve the nation at HALF THE SALARY because their pension ( which they have earned by virtue of achieving their age of superannuation) is DEDUCTED from their salary.This is the clever manipulation of mighty civil servants( or Masters) of your class.Thus an officer on REEMPLOYMENT is under double disadvantage.They don’t get post retirement benefit by jobs in CAT/numerous commission etc.so,what you have written is highly distorted and mischievous.Your class has NOT even spared your own brethren of IPS and other Gp A organized by taking TWO increments on almost all promotions and all of you retire in HAG+ grade.If it was not for greedy Generals of the services looking for Governors’ appointments and shown their might once,you would have not been there to write this article.You inherit the British habit DIVIDE & RULE.Believe me you,whether the OROP is given or NOT,you will NOT be able to divide the veteran class.

  • You only prove my point, Mr. Joshi. You accept that Colonels on retirement at 54 get reemployment for four years. Secondly, deduction of pension from salary on reemployment is standard practice for ALL reemployed govt. officials, including civil officials and judges. You can’t expect a double benefit: pension plus full salary. So there is no discrimination against armed forces officers on this count. The rest of your comments, unfortunately, consists of the same ranting and raving that has made a rational discourse on this subject almost impossible and has held up a solution to this vexed problem.

    • Pity… You have only chosen to reply an inadvertent error / irrelevant point. Read the the other comments too but surely your ego will not allow to delve further.
      Sure the higher ups in the armed forces who accepted the OROP are guilty, but the whole process of upward selection / sieving,selection of pliable person with divide and rule policy is not lost to any person with common sense.

  • Mr Shukla, why have you suddenly felt the urge to save the nation from the clutches of the Armed Forces? You have quoted everything out of context to misrepresent the facts to portray a wrong picture of the entire issue, something your cadre has been doing all along. It is the likes of you who have been manipulating and exploiting the political classes to your advantages and getting your pound of flesh by allowing the politicians to be corrupt. Your capabilities exist only in writing notes on the files to mislead the ministers, something you are adept at. The nation has made whatever progress, not because of you but inspite of you all. The inept bureaucratic handling of nearly every issue is the reason that the nation has gone to dogs. That is the reason that in one year 3 home secretaries had to be booted ….. shame on you. So, stop giving sermons to the Armed Forces and do something to correct the malaise in civil services, if you have the to do.

  • A wily Mr Shukla has spoken exactly what people like him write on files to convince the ministers. They have let down even their own IPS buddies although some of them had topped the Civil Service exam but chose to join IPS and not IAS. Re-employment beyond 54 years age is not given to every one but depends on the requirement of service. But for the Indian Army, the map of India could have been without J & K, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and all the North Eastern states all because of ill advise and ill conceived plans of people like Shukla. The tri-colour still flying in these states is not because of the wind but with the last breath of the martyrs who have laid down their lives saving these states. Our fight is not only for money but mainly for the status of the Armed Forces as we want the best men to continue joining the forces.Let the government do away with OROP for IAS and restore pre-1973 status for three services we will give up demand for OROP. A lot more can be written but I find it more interesting to follow our selfless leaders like Maj Gen Satbir Singh at Ground Zero than to try convince some one like Mr Shukla who wants to divide the IESM movement.

  • Wish all Government Servants….
    if not all Citizens were given a few months feel of the Army
    Like that given to Dhoni ….the cricket captain …..
    It would certainly give them an inkling of things Military…

  • Deliver that which was promised…

    Many Times Over…

    Else Apologies ….

    If you can’t….or , don’t want to….. understand the Arithmetic

    And then Renegotiate the non negotiable…

    Set up a Constitutional Authority ….

    A Constitutional Pay Commission to fix
    Pay Pensions , Perks , Entitlements ,
    Facilities , Status parity and all else for ….
    All The Constitutional Authorities , the Judiciary ,
    the Politician , the MILITARY, the IAS , IPS , All Government Services.

    No Government Servant should fall outside its ambit….

    Today the Country is suffering on account of the Leadership……

    and on account of the information let lose by the Leadership ,

    the Government and its Institutions , the varied hues of Media….,

    All of them giving the info its own convenient twist , for their own benefit….

    Currently the word around is that the Military Personnel ….

    The Greedy Cry Babies are out to make a BONANZA ….a WINDFALL ….
    From a drained out system….scammed out by the very people …
    the Politician and Bureaucrat that are
    Giving the OROP its Twists and Turns…..to MALIGN the Military…

    In 1973 when the Government surreptitiously
    Changed the Pay Pension of the Military ….

    Brought down the pension from 70% to 50%…of pay

    The System normally improves the Militaries Lot as you go along or ,
    you bring down their financial conditions as you go along….

    Which , the Government , at the hands of the
    Ill informed Politician and the Willy Bureaucrat have consistently
    Connived to whittle down at each available opportunity …

    Our Spineless Compromised Senior Officers got their dues ….OROP….
    Could they not have insisted on having it
    for all the retiring serving personnel and veterans….

    Many Parliaments, Governments and Political Parties in power,
    and the Supreme Court had insisted
    That the OROP should be universal for ALL ….

    All along it was the MATHEMATICAL TRANSLATION OF OROP
    That was coming in the way ….inexplicable and not disclosed even today….

    The young officers in 1973….at least most of them didn’t know of the downgrading…

    I didn’t….till only now when all the info started spilling out…
    We have to Accept that our Senior Officers Sold us down the river….
    Along with the Government of the day….

    Had we known….and had we resigned….most of us would have….
    Just on account of A serious change in Service Conditions….

    What would the other Cry Babies in Government have had on their hands….

    A Soldier should be given the opportunity to resign ….
    take premature retirement ….after 2 or 5 or 10 years of service ….
    The poor chap very often realizes that all that was entitled is never available…
    Accommodation and Leave were major issues….
    Just like many other things…. essentials like…. electricity ….
    telephone lines and LPG in earlier times… that are not available to the Citizens…

    Because by then the Soldier would become more aware
    of existing actual Service Conditions…

    And would take the opportunity to pursue another interesting rewarding career….

    When we joined NDA as kids….
    At age 17 we were on a different planet ….
    didn’t know then what was the full story…
    Most of what we experienced wasn’t there in the script…much was to unfold latter….
    We were consistently confronted with strange inconsistencies…..

    We were let down badly by all the Democratic Systems in place ….
    placed to protect the interests of the very people
    All the Country were depending on to protect them against Foreign Threats….
    and then responsibility overflowed gradually to jump in to sort out
    all kinds of situations that the Civil Authorities meant to do the job failed to do so….
    just screwed up …..ran away from….or , just put their hands up and disappeared…
    non – communicable authorities….
    When they found themselves…. unable to save themselves…. swimming in their own poop…

    Now the Nation should DECIDE

    What Military it can AFFORD….

    WHAT Quality and Numbers of Soldiers it Needs , and afford to attract , to protect them from the Enemy.

    What current …not obsolete ….Effective Arms and Equipment it can afford and make available .

    What resolve the Nation has to take necessary decisions
    to have zero tolerance
    for loss of MILITARY and CIVILIAN LIVES on the front lines and internally….
    Surely they were not raised as gun fodder….as is the current perception today….

    A Sheena murdered ruthlessly means so much more…..

    than what should equally shake the national conscience…
    losses of Military Lives …
    USUALLY Taken and accepted as a given….

    Sure they VOLUNTEERED to serve with Honour , Pride and Dignity ….

    Ready to make all the necessary Sacrifices….

    They and their Families have normal Aspirations too….

    Does the Nation always expect and NEED the Military
    to stand in for The Politician ….IAS…..IPS….
    Police….Fire Services…Floods ….Earthquakes….All Calamities …and what have you….
    To Stand in for and rescue any Institutions , put in place to deliver , that fail to deliver….

    Then You Want the Soldier to better perform than those accumulated FAILURES….
    Who’s trained manpower jump ship much before the rats…
    and leave all and sundry to their own fate….

    If You Want Better, DO Make them Better….

    Or , Make the Soldier Better to Serve you better…

    The Greedy Cry Babies have left it to you to ponder….
    decide and CREATE the manpower to deliver….

    The Politician gets a pension after serving one term of 5 years….
    now even if he is an MP or MLA for ONE DAY….
    He is entitled to a pension…

    Just on the other hand consider their performances and
    Achievements in Parliament and the Assemblies….

    All Bureaucrats retire at 60 at a pay stage equivalent to a Lt. Gen…

    Most Soldiers Retires at age 33…37 years…
    Most Military Officers Retire at 48 years….
    Later 54 years
    See and compare the pay pensions….

    Very few opt for re-employment back into Servive….

    To rationalize all these Anomalies
    All Government Services, including Politicians in power,
    Should be represented in a Constitutional Pay Commission
    to decide across the cross section the relative pay parity
    and all other matters like pension, facilities, and status,
    VIP Facilities included….

    These Entitlements should be reviewed for ALL together as per a single schedule.

    “The willingness with which
    our young people
    are likely to serve in any war,
    no matter how justified,
    shall be directly proportional
    to how they perceive the
    Veterans of earlier wars
    were treated and appreciated
    by their nation.”
    – George Washington

    Besides all that Chanakya and many other worthies had to say
    Regarding Military Soldiers and Veterans ….

    Wish all Government Servants….
    if not all Citizens were given a few months feel of the Army
    Like that given to Dhoni ….the cricket captain …..
    It would certainly give them an inkling of things Military…

  • Avay Shukla

    You need to read what you wrote in Nov 2013

    “BUREAUCRATS DON’T NEED FIXED TENURES-THEY NEED STRONGER SPINES”

    I am putting the whole post here for every reader to make his / her own decision as to your IAS IPS IFS cadres service conditions which you have clearly said it and I quote
    “There are two types of transfers- those which involve just a change of job in the same place, and those which which entail both- change of job as well as station. Now, 90% of IAS and IPS officers are invariably located at the state capital and for most of them a transfer does not even mean changing their room, personal staff or residence-only their files change, nothing else. I simply fail to understand how a transfer is a ” hardship” in such cases, or why it should conjure up images of Dante’s Inferno!”

    You a self confessed lackey with no backbone – you did perform for your seniors as mentioned in your article how did you suddenly gain insight into working conditions of the Army. A man who by his own admission was assured of highest pay scale pre retirement; could not be dismisssed; could not be harmed by bad ACR by even CM what do you know of real life?

    Anyway I am placing you whole article for you to read or at least the world to know what you are and from where you speak

    View from [Greater] Kailash

    Monday, 4 November 2013
    BUREAUCRATS DON’T NEED FIXED TENURES-THEY NEED STRONGER SPINES.

    [ The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that all bureaucrats should have fixed tenures and that states must set up Civil Services Boards to decide on transfers, promotions and disciplinary action. This would improve professionalism, efficiency and transparency. It has asked the Center to frame appropriate statutes for this and report back within three months.- News report.]

    Many, many years ago when I was a pimply faced Deputy Secretary in Shimla a group of us blisters put up a skit for the annual IAS Association Night. The skit opened with the victim of a hit and run accident lying dead on the road. The police identified the body as being that of a very senior IAS officer on the basis of the post mortem report revealing that it had no backbone! This one scene from a long forgotten and much derided skit comes closer to the truth than does the Supreme Court, I dare say.
    However well intentioned the Court’s order is it won’t stand the test of a reality check: not only will it not be effective, it may just worsen the situation. Consider the following.
    The root of misgovernance, corruption and lack of transparency is not the politician but the bureaucrat, not only because of what he does, but mainly because of what he does not do. He does not express his own mind but goes along with what the politician wants. He does not take a stand based on principles or the law. He does not say that he will not do what is wrong. He does not enforce discipline and integrity for fear of rocking the boat.
    WHY?
    The assumption behind the Supreme Court order is that the bureaucrat cannot act because he is intimidated by the prospect of transfer, denial of promotion, dismissal by the political executive. Nothing can be further from the truth for the following reasons:
    [1] Insofar as the All_India Services are concerned I can assert with all responsibility that there is no job in India which offers greater security of service- it is practically impossible to dismiss an IAS/IPS or IFS officer( the same is true of the Central Services). The services themselves have ensured this- even if the political or administrative will to take action is present( it rarely is) the process is so cumbersome( like impeaching a judge!)– consultations with state govt., central govt.,UPSC, Vigilance Commission, Law Ministry, followed up with appeals to the President of India, Administrative Tribunal, High Court, Supreme Court-that no one even wants to initiate the process. Getting into govt. service is tough-but getting out is even tougher! Forget dismissal-even someone who wants to resign can find that its not easy to leave the govt.– a friend from the UP cadre submitted his resignation six years ago: he has since retired in the normal course but his resignation has not yet been accepted! Dismissal from service, therefore, is no threat to a bureaucrat.
    [2] ALL promotions in the AIS and Central services are time bound- that is to say, one is promoted almost automatically after certain years of service at every succeeding level. Performance has very little to do with it; the only relevant factor is the ACR( Annual Confidential Report) and it is extremely rare for someone to have an adverse ACR- peer pressures ensure this. As long as the assessments at the superior officer level are okay, there is very little a politician-even a Chief Minister- can do to hold back a promotion. Even if he over-rules the Secretary/ Chief Secretary he has to give detailed reasons for doing so, and any DPC ( Departmental Promotion Committee) in any case goes more by the assessment of the Chief Secretary than a CM or Minister. Proof of this is not far to seek: 99 out of 100 IAS officers retire at the maximum ( Apex) scale of Rupees 80000 per month; the same holds true of the other services. This is almost their fundamental right, no politician can deny them this, and they know it. No threat here, either.
    [3] This leaves us to consider only the alleged threat of the dreaded T word-Transfers. The effect of this politician’s ” brahmashastra”, as it were, has been grossly exaggerated and sensationalised by the media and their expert panels. There are two types of transfers- those which involve just a change of job in the same place, and those which which entail both- change of job as well as station. Now, 90% of IAS and IPS officers are invariably located at the state capital and for most of them a transfer does not even mean changing their room, personal staff or residence-only their files change, nothing else. I simply fail to understand how a transfer is a ” hardship” in such cases, or why it should conjure up images of Dante’s Inferno! Yes, frequent transfers for those in the field- District Magistrates, SPs, SDMs- do cause great inconvenience, especially if they are ordered in such numbers as in UP under both Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav, but here also it is the timidity of senior bureaucrats which is to blame as much as the politicians. It is in the nature of a politician- a Minister or an MLA or even a Party worker- to try and get rid of an inconvenient officer: we can’t blame a leopard for having spots. It is for the senior bureaucracy to resist such efforts and to protect the junior officer who is doing his job. This just doesn’t happen. It is extremely rare for a Chief Secretary or a DG police to speak up on behalf of one of their officers in such cases, primarily because they want to hang on to their own posts! ( Remember how the UP Secretariat was opened up at mid-night to enable the issue of Durga Shakti’s suspension orders?) But then, why pin all the blame on the politician when the bureaucracy is just as complicit? And why build barricades all around when the enemy is actually within?!
    The actual fact of the matter is that the bureaucracy in India has developed an auto-immune disease and is destroying itself-the politician is only a virus that takes advantage of the former’s weakened immune systems to invade it. It is my assessment( I could be wrong, but not far off the mark) that only about ten percent of the senior bureaucracy is actually corrupt, but the vast majority is simply pusillanimous and not bothered at what is happening to their colleagues just so long as they can hang on to their own posts. They do more harm by their silence and indifference than what their more courageous comrades do by their cupidity. I remember an incident pertaining to roughly the same time as the skit referred to in the first paragraph. A senior Secretary was transferred because he had taken a decision( the right one, as it later turned out) which was seen to be against the interests of Scheduled caste employees. Some of us young bloods in the IAS Association decided that we must convey our protest to the Chief Minister and took an appointment to meet him the next day. The whole day was spent in drumming up support from the Secretary level officers, all of whom assured us that they would also join us the next day in our meeting with the CM. The next day not a single one of these senior officers turned up!
    Tra nsfers are not such a big thing as they are made out to be and an honest, forthright officer should take them in his stride- if a price has to be paid in terms of inconveniencing the family, so be it. Why else should the IAS be called a premier service, if their members have the vision and commitment of only a sanitary inspector? If the truth be told, bureaucrats today lack the breadth of vision, the underpinning of values, the sense of mission and the feeling for history that their predecessors of even twenty years ago proudly possessed and worked for. Today it is for them just a ten to five job in which the perks of office have to be protected at all costs and the devil take the hindmost. They have vacated the space where values,sense of destiny and feeling for the country should reside in favour of the politician who therefore now calls the shots.
    It is in this context that the prescription of the Supreme Court should be assessed.
    A ” fixed tenure” will change nothing because those who have ” plum posts” will not vacate them( a fixed tenure provides a minimum term and not a maximum one!), and those who are out of favour will be rotated among the unwanted posts. ( In any case, bureaucracy is not the second oldest profession in the world without reason: it can adapt to changing contexts with amazing versatility. It has so adapted to the transfer syndrome too: every five years, when governments change, their positions are reversed- those who were out in the cold now come in to warmth of plum postings, and vice-versa! In a way, they find this an equitable system as the loaves of office are, in the long run, fairly distributed to all!). There is a negative side too in assuring an officer of a fixed tenure, regardless of his or her performance. Not all transfers are politically motivated. Not all transfers are bad. Many of them are necessary in the public interest and based on the officer’s lack of performance. What does the government now do with an officer who is corrupt, does not behave properly with the public, whose work is grossly unsatisfactory ? Non-performance is not chargesheetable and there is not always evidence of corruption. In such situations the only option before the govt. is to shift the officer, but with fixed tenures that will no longer be possible. Taking away a govt’s powers of superintendence over its officials can never be a healthy antidote to the disease. We have just recently witnessed the consequences of such quick-fix solutions: the CBI’s infamous and highly dubious case against Kumaramanglam Birla and Mr. Parakh. Without a shred of evidence, and acting solely on presumptions of wrong-doing it has filed FIRs against both of them. Though its Ministers were critical of it on the media, the govt. itself was a helpless spectator and could do nothing to rein in the agency because it has suddenly acquired an ” autonomous” halo. ( I had warned against just such a possibility in my earlier blog- CBI-CAGED PARROT, SWOOPING EAGLE OR SITTING DUCK?). The fixed tenure rule will only end up creating similar rogue officers. A Civil Services Board will change nothing because all those who will be on it are answerable( and owe their positions) to the Chief Minister and will do nothing that displeases him . It will only endorse the Chief Minister’s wishes: this is precisely what is happening with the Police Boards that have been set up in some states after the Supreme Court’s orders in 2006. They are rarely consulted: Muzzafarnagar is the latest example of their vestigiousness- how else could four SPs have been transferred within one month before, during and after the riots, purely for reasons that are now known to be political?
    We appreciate and laud the Supreme Court’s earnest desire to make the bureaucracy more efficient, professional and transparent. But there is no instant cure, and the primary villain is not the politician- it is the bureaucrat himself. The cure lies within. He is paid handsomely; he has been given more than adequate protection; he enjoys the highest status in society- what more does he need to be upright and do his work fearlessly? All he needs, actually, is a backbone. Character cannot be legislated or decreed by courts.

    Posted by Avay Shukla at 19:23 5 comments:
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    About Me

    Avay Shukla
    The author retired from the Indian Administrative Service in December 2010. He is a keen environmentalist and loves the mountains- he has made them his home.
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  • It is sad that there is lack of complete truth in what is stated. I hope he knows the background of OROP.He must have read the Koshyari Committee roport.
    The public is largely unaware that officers are just 1% of those affected by non-implementation of OROP besides the military pensions were drastically reduced from 70% of pay to 50% in 1973. Commission into armed forces is given by the President of India and commissioned rank structures are well explained in the Koshiyari Committee report.

    Is next recommendation going to be that Jawans should be getting equal pay as officers.

    Now let us take this business of why annual revision of pension cannot be done. Born in 1952, he is probably unaware that a Jawan who retired in say 1950 had his pension automatically revised every year without waiting for a pay commission. Pre-1973, this was in vogue for 26 years, since 1947. Plain and simple, the OROP was being given to the military prior to 1973 but then the bureaucracy struck in not only stopping OROP for the military but brought the military pensions down from 70% of basic pay to 50% through the 3rd Central Pay Commission (CPC).

    At the same time an organization like Railways whose manpower is as large large as the India Army continued to get the benefit of OROP perhaps because the Railway Board that manages Railways does not have any bureaucrats posted. The Koshiyari Committee specifically lambasted the MoD and Finance that when for 26 years the OROP with automatic annual revision of pension was in vogue, why was it discontinued without justification and more significantly no justification could be provided to the Koshiyari Committee.

    The statement that before 3CPC the Jawans served for only five years is also not true
    .

  • A biased and knowledgewise hollow … Mr Avay should learn to read and understand before writing…unless he doesn’t want to bringout what his cader quitely enjoys and also makes the politicians enjoy. ..probably given them pension as a matter of buttering, while snatchinfrom jawans..

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