‘OROP – the long and short of it’

Amongst all the hullabaloo about Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s statement ruling out annual revision of pensions, his snide remark that Jawans were getting less pension that officers did not draw much attention hinted at the equation being wonky. That his latter statement was pointedly intentional, mischievous and part of the delay tactics in announcing OROP needs little imagination, and would have perhaps amused the Chinese.

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 30% 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 Jaitle’y next recommendation going to be that Jawans should be getting equal pay as officers? Will he, who begged around for votes as Janta ka Sewak at the time of elections, accept the pay of say a peon, don’t mind he lost elections miserably to a military veteran that reportedly keeps his tail perpetually afire.

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 30% 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.

So then what is the problem of undertaking annual revision of pensions? Surely it cannot be the calculations part and if that be so perhaps Jaitley could send his babus to see what software banks are using to calculate interest and taxes on daily basis. Is there a problem of money even though the annual sum being talked about is Rs 8,300 crores? Would India ever have dearth of money if it was not mis-utilized? Mihir S Sharma writes in his book ‘Restart’ that 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 per cent ‘ were large loans to ‘big companies’. This is just one example and that this has perhaps been standard practice by all governments requires no guesswork. Explains why while Jaitley finds OROP approved by two Parliaments “unreasonable” he is obviously shielding Chidambaram of such serious fraud. Now with that sort of money from just one avenue perhaps Jaitley could fund the pension of the PLA as well giving them six monthly revisions.

One wonders what other misleading statements are to come after: annual revision of pensions not possible; Jawans getting lesser pension than officers; other services will start demanding OROP and the like.

The presstitutes will be recruited to whip up public sentiments on falsified information – the whole game being to confuse and politicize the issue. The social media is already agog with numerous jargon and debate. All this despite the 2011 Koshiyari Committee lambasting the wrong done to military veterans, bureaucratic apathy, pointing out why armed forces cannot be clubbed with other government employees and need to have separate pay commission for armed forces. Jaitley’s demand that pensions be revised every 5 years will delay the announcement of OROP by couple of months. Not that he does not know that a large number of veterans are very old and may not be alive by the time OROP gets announced or kick the bucket every 5-year window. But this would be routine baniagiri when extreme action of baton assault on veterans was resorted to, of which he may have been the lead proponent. As it is the police action on legally and peacefully protesting veterans at Jantar Mantar and the stupid afterthought of sending a scapegoat police officer to apologize has made the Modi government the laughing stock of the world.

The public needs to know that the veterans are simply demanding what is their due: OROP as defined by the 2011 Koshyari Committee and for grant of OROP wef 01 Apr 2014, as committed by the UPA Govt on the floor of the house (Lok Sabha) on 17 Feb 2014 and by the present NDA Govt.

What the Koshiyari Committee said and stands approved by the government can be summarized as under:

  • OROP) implies that uniform pension be paid to the Armed Forces Personnel retiring in the same rank with the same length of service, irrespective of their date of retirement; and, any future enhancement in the rates of pension to be automatically passed on to the past pensioners.
  • In armed forces, equality in service has two components, namely, rank and length of service. The importance of rank is inherent in armed forces as it has been granted by the President of India and signifies command, control and responsibility in consonance with ethos of service. These ranks are even allowed to be retained by the individual concerned after his/her retirement.
  • OROP was in vogue till 1973 when the 3rd CPC took an ex-parte decision against the OROP. If this formula was working satisfactorily for more than 26 years after the country’s Independence what was the harm in continuing this formula? The same procedure could very well be followed even though this demand is accepted by the Government.
  • As for the 3rd CPC, nothing was brought before the Committee which could explain or justify the circumstances in which the Defence personnel were applied the same criteria as applicable to the country’s civilian work force under the Central Government for the purpose of determining their pay, allowances, pension, family pension, etc. It is quite obvious that the terms and conditions of service, more particularly their span of service, i.e., the age at which they enter service and the age at which they become due to retire, vary drastically from the civilian work force. There is no doubt that the span of service of the armed forces is much-much less as compared to the civilians. The defence personnel in the PBOR category retire when they are around 35-40 years of age. Even the officers retire when they are around 55 years of age. That is the time when they have lot of family and social responsibility to discharge for which they need a sound financial support. This is certainly not the case with the civilian work force where the age of retirement is 60 uniformly. Further, under the rules governing pension/ family pension of the civilians, the longer a person serves, the more pay he gets and consequently he becomes entitled for higher pension / family pension. This being so, our Defence personnel are bound to remain at a disadvantageous position since the period for which they serve is definitely much less. On top of this, the fact that they retire at a younger age aggravates their hardship.
  • The MoD (Dept. of Ex-Servicemen Welfare) and Finance (Dept. of Expenditure) in their submissions have attempted to draw a rosy picture but while the Ex-Servicemen served the nation with utmost devotion and selflessness, their demands are consistently being ignored, not by the heads of Armed Forces, but by the Bureaucrats. It’s a typical example of Bureaucratic apathy.
  • To continue this apathy, the Ministries apprised the Committee that if OROP is to be implemented for the armed forces personnel, similar demands may be raised from the civilian Government employees. To this argument, the Committee finds that it is a baseless apprehension of the Government as soldiering is a different profession and they retire by rank while civilian Government employee retired by age.
  • The terms and conditions of armed forces are tougher and harsher than the civilian Government employee. There are restrictions of fundamental rights to the armed forces. Risk to life of a soldier is always higher as they work under severe strain and sense of insecurity with undefined and unlimited working hours. Transfers and dislocation alongwith bleak career prospects are other disadvantages attached with the Armed Forces. Their family life is also non-comparable with that of civilian Government employee.
  • The Armed Forces are also subjected to Court Martial system for the sake of military discipline. In view of aforesaid uniqueness of Armed Forces it cannot be equated with a civilian Government employee.
  • The Committee is distressed to note that the Defence personnel of our country have returned their service medals to the President of India in view of the Governments’ apathetic attitude towards their demand of grant of OROP.
  • The Koshiyari Committee strongly recommended that government should implement OROP in the Defence forces across the board at the earliest; and, further that for future, the pay, allowances, pension, family pension, etc. in respect of the Defence personnel should be determined by a separate Pay Commission so that their peculiar terms and conditions of service, the nature of duties they are required to perform, etc., which are quite different from the civilian work force, are duly taken into account while taking decision on the same.It may be noted that Koshiyari Committee submitted its recommendations in December 2011. Its recommendation included a “separate pay commission” for armed forces – not combined with the Pay Commission meant for other government employees. In the Ex-Servicemen rally at Rewari in 2013, Mr Modi, then Prime Ministerial candidate of BJP had said that if the BJP had come to power in 2004, OROP would have been implemented straightaway. Well 15 months have gone since NDA II came to power. Jaitley is talking of “unreasonable concessions” despite the wrong done to military veterans for past 42 years by both Congress and BJP governments since 1973. It remains to be seen whether Prime Minister Modi will let Jaitley continue with his antics, try another police action at Jantar Mantar or go by what the apex court recently said “show respect to soldiers” and get down taking the decision to implement OROP as defined by the Koshoyari Committee without further loss of time. With the 7th CPC already established, Prime Minister Modi also needs to appoint a separate Pay Commission for Armed Forces as recommended by the Koshiyari Committee.

 

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 2100 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.

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6 Comments

  1. says: Piyush

    State clearly that #OROP was there specially for PBORs not for all personals, where as now every one is trying to take pie.’
    Why

  2. says: Marasim Singh

    With due regards to Indian Armed Forces, I’ve few questions.

    Let’s leave 1973 at its place. What’s being done in other state-run department as of today? Is the pension revised every year for all other departments?
    May I please know what was done in between 1973 and 2011 on this issue?

  3. says: Swarn dev

    In this conundrum of OROP debate the veteran army generals have forgotten one issue. 25 percent of commissioned officers Join as short service commissioned officers. Batch wise 12 Percent officers after completing the contract of 5 years to 14 years leave Army every year. Our revered veterans had gone far Fast unto death to seek increase in their Pension component on the logic or rationale of OROP. They have already climbed mount everest and want to construct a haveli there. Gareeb ka aishiyana to bana hi nahin.

    It is sad none of these so called Honourable men even once projected demand before the govt that the microscopic minority of commissioned officers which are mostly women and to some extent men are wrecked by this stupid policy of government of India.

    There is no pension for them, there is no post re employment guarantee for them, there is no pension for them, there is no financial help for them. They are denied even the ECHS (Ex servicemen contributory Health Scheme Membership). How can the Nation be so senseless that it is exploiting its own sons and daughters like them The dictum” Hire them and fire them is just appropriate in the context of our SSCO officers . Men and women included.

    General Katoach Sahib, please send a write up to papers on this issue also. Why there is such stoic silence of our worty Generals on this issue.

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