OROP – is it really granted ?

The Union Minister for Defence, Shri Manohar Parrikar announcing the One Rank One Pension scheme for the Ex-Servicemen, at South Block, in New Delhi on September 05, 2015. The Minister of State for Planning (Independent Charge) and Defence, Shri Rao Inderjit Singh, the three Service Chiefs, General Dalbir Singh, Admiral R.K. Dhowan and Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha and the Defence Secretary, Shri G. Mohan Kumar are also seen.

Flanked by the three Service Chiefs finally came the Defence Minister’s press briefing on OROP on afternoon of September 5. The media was agog past two days that the “deal” was being finalized. To put the record straight OROP is no “deal”. It is the right of military veterans that was given from 1947 for the next 26 years. Then in 1973, the 3rd CPC that arbitrarily reduced the pension of military veterans from 70% of pay to 50%, discontinued OROP and automatic yearly revision of pension without any justification. Among the political skullduggery on OROP including police action against legally and peacefully protesting military veterans at Jantar Mantar on August 14, the public would not know that the MoD under AK Anthony, MoF under Pranab Mukherjee and Ministry of Personnel under Manmohan Singh then PM in their written and oral submissions opposed grant of OROP to the Armed Forces while Secretary MoD (DESW), Secretary Department of Expenditure (Ministry of Finance) and Secretary Department of Pensions and Pensioner’s Welfare (Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions deposed before the Koshyari Committee on behalf of respective ministries. The Koshyari Committee lambasted them all for “Bureaucratic Apathy” shown to the Armed Forces since 1973 and arbitrary decision by the 3rd CPC to stop OROP for which they were unable to provide any justification to the Koshyari Committee that was headed by veteran BJP MP Bhagat Singh Koshyari had 10 MPs drawn from all major political parties including BJP, INC, CPM, Samajwadi Party and Anna DMK.

The Defence Minister in his press briefing stated that the estimated cost to the exchequer would be Rs. 8,000 to 10,000 crore at present, and will increase further in future. Incidentally very recently the MoD and Defence Accounts had worked out that the finances required or OROP is Rs 8,293 crores. The OROP announced included: benefit will be wef 1st July 2014; arrears will be paid in four half-yearly installments – single installment for widows; 2013 taken as base year; pension re-fixed for all retiring in same rank and with the same length of service as the average of minimum and maximum pension in 2013. Those drawing pensions above the average will be protected; personnel who voluntarily retire will not get OROP; pension would be re-fixed every 5-years, and to examine interests of retirees of different periods and different ranks and inter-service issues a One Member Judicial Committee would be constituted which will give its report in six months; PM’s commitment to OROP is fulfilled and MoD will soon issue implementation orders.

Those who have read the Koshiyari Committee Report accepted by both the erstwhile government would know that a 5-year equalization of pay defeats the very definition of OROP as every 5-year window would find earlier retirees getting less pension from the later retiring junior counterparts. The annual equalization amount in a four year period is only Rs 165.86 crores taking the present required amount of Rs 8,293 crores. Therefore, the only reason of denying it is the politico-bureaucratic obduracy at the Finance Ministry level. More importantly 100 percent of Railways, bureaucracy, judiciary, parliamentarians and civil defence employees are getting OROP and annual equalization of pensions, so why is the military being singled out to deny this benefit especially when annual equalization was very much part of the Koshyari Committee who had also explained in detail why the military cannot be compared with any other government service. So if the military is to be denied annual equalization of pension, would the government rescind the same from others mentioned herein? The bottom-line is that what has been granted is cannot be classified as OROP with the stipulation of 5-year equalization of pensions. Both the Finance Minister and the Defence Minister would be hard put to explain why 45 percent of existing defence pension outlay is being consumed by 22 percent of civilian employees of the MoD. Can there be any justification for this?

As mentioned in these columns earlier, money is never the constraint to deny annual equalization of pensions. In the period 2007-2013 government banks accumulated bad debts amounting to Rs 5,00,000,00,00,000 which were written off by the Finance Ministry. More significantly, RBI revealed that ‘95%’ were large loans to ‘big companies ‘. This is just one example which perhaps is standard practice by all governments. Then look at the bad debts of sick PSUs including Air India being written off – some even inflated for understandable reasons. Incidentally, MoD surrendered Rs 6000 crores on 31st March this year as also Rs 1000 crores or the National War Memorial lapsed same day.

The Defence minister has announced that personnel who voluntarily retire will not get OROP. Considering that he was reading out from a script, the ambiguity that would be created by such language is a clear mischief of the bureaucracy – which the Defence Minister would perhaps be unaware of. There is no VRS in the military. Pre-mature retirement can be sought without completing minimum pensionable service or after completing minimum pensionable service. Obviously personnel in the latter category draw pensions and should logically be entitled to OROP. But by just mentioning “early retirement” the bureaucrat has clubbed both and ruled out OROP. This will open the Pandora box for those who had completed minimum pensionable service and draw pension to resort to prolonged correspondence and knock on the doors of Courts, some winning individually and some carry on fighting till they are exhausted or leave for their heavenly abode.
Coming to the announcement that a One member Judicial Committee would be appointed to examine interests of retirees of different periods and different ranks and inter-service issues with the mandate to give its report in six months, this does appear very strange and is being viewed as taking the veterans up the gum tree. What exactly was happening past these many months that interests of retirees of different periods and different ranks and inter-service issues have not been examined? And is these issues really have not been addressed then has the OROP announcement been timed with the Bihar elections, and if so why? If these issues could not been examined by the MoD, DESW, Finance Ministry, how can one man do so in six months unless the intention is to had him on a platter what should be his final recommendation which he can juggle backwards and justify. Why instead of one-man committee, it is not a panel with veteran representation on it? Is it just to keep the similarity with MoD and DESW that have no military representation by design? If the Defence Minister says that the government respects the armed forces, how is it that the already constituted 7th CPC has no representation from the military despite such demands past several years? How is it that when the Koshyari Committee recommended annual equalization of pensions and was accepted by the government, this is being backtracked.

The Defence Minister’s proclamation that Prime Minister Modi has fulfilled his promise on OROP is only half the truth. 5-yearly revision of pensions cannot be classified as OROP – which has been handed over as fait accompli to the veterans. So while OROP may have been announced, it has really not been sanctioned. The government has only fulfilled its promise partially. This cannot be obfuscated behind the euphoria being created that OROP has been announced after 42 years. The promise was made by the Prime Minister, so it was expected that promise will be met in full, which ironically has not happened.

Prakash Katoch is third generation army officer hailing from Himachal Pradesh. He is former Lieutenant General from Special Forces and post retirement has published over 1800 articles on international affairs, geopolitics, military, security, technical and topical issues besides authoring two books. He is active in seminars at both national and international levels.

5 Comments

  • Except few in the media most of them failed to report the point 5 in Mr Parrikar’s press statement correctly. In his press meet he said at point five, “personnel who voluntarily retire will not be covered under the OROP scheme.” It means that the past pensioners (veterans) who took premature retirement after the mandatory colour service are included for OROP, but those who opt for similar retirement hear after from the effective date of implementation (calendar year 2013 ) will be affected. This may be ruse by the government to discourage premature retirements in future by the Armed Force’s personnel. It will be prudent and appropriate for the bureaucrats in the government who drafted this confusing write-up for the RM to issue a clarification on this aspect. The media could approach to get the clarification instead of blaming the veterans and instigating them to continue the agitation further. Either way, this will remove the confusion in all circles.

  • DM Mr.Parikkar was fooled by the babus of MOD by putting a word VRS in script which was clarified by Minister Yashovardhan Rathore latter on.But damage was done by Babus.Now the babus will feel the heat for unknowingly putting the word VRS instead of PMR.Pre Mature retirement is another thing and VRS is not applicable in army.Now GOI declared OROP to all retired personal and welcomed by all except few vested interest so called leaders. They feels defeated by a cunning Modi.If at all they continue with strike in JM they will be isolate dnalater bundled off.Most important is what any of Govt from 1973 to 2015 never attempted to solve is solved by Modijee alone in 15 months is a task which be credited to Modijee.But these unfaithful debauch leaders cant see him succeed.Good Luck to all those who oppose Modijee in his enormous task of nation building.

  • I am fully convinced that what the govt announced is NO OROP at all. Lt Gen P Katoch has clearly & nicely explained it. No other explanation could be better.
    Jai Hind !

  • The Govt has fooled the veterans, by announcing the approval of OROP. It has succeeded in generating Public Opinion against the ESM. Did the 3 Service Chiefs sign the acceptance of OROP in the form that was announced? It is no OROP at all.

  • The Total Pension Out lay of MOD being spoken about is 54,000 Crores . The MOD would find hard put to explain why 45 percent(24300 crore ) of existing defence pension outlay is being consumed by 22 percent of civilian employees of the MoD. Factually only 55 % (29700 Crores) of existing defence pension out lay is only meant for 55 % (+2.5 Million) of the Military pensioners . WHY THIS HIDE AND SEEK PLAYED BY THE BUREAUCRACY .? It is high time the facts are brought to the public view by bifurcating the the MOD pension budget under the head (a) Military (b) Defence Civilians .
    Therefore , the MOD issues a press-note to clarify that the Military pension budget is only 29700 Crores against widely misconceived 54,000 Crores .

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