Saturday, August 29, 2015
‘Service in the Armed Forces can’t be compared to government service. If that basic premise is not accepted, then there’s no scope for any debate on OROP’
‘No one joins the Armed Forces on a contract. They join to serve. Armed Forces attract those who want to serve, not based on financial terms and contracts’
Rajya Sabha MP Rajiv Chandrasekhar, a passionate advocate of OROP, speaks to Sudhir Bisht.
Ex-servicemen and their families continue their protest demanding OROP at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi. The protest has now been on for 75 days. Photograph: PTI
Rajeev Chandrasekhar is a passionate votary of One Rank, One Pension and has been championing the cause since 2006 vocally within and outside Parliament.
He has taken over 60 major initiatives inside and outside Parliament including 25 interventions, 30 letters to government, 12+ articles in the media and dozen meetings with ministers and veterans.
Most recently, on August 24, 2015, he was the only politician who visited Jantar Mantar and expressed his solidarity with and support to the protesting veterans, their family members and to OROP.
The member of Parliament spoke to Sudhir Bisht.
It has become politically incorrect to question the implementation of One Rank One Pension, but there are several government employees who feel that they will lose out if the scheme is implemented. What is your take on it?
It is not politically wrong to ask questions but they do not understand the very different service conditions our armed forces endure.
Is it not important to make a distinction between officers and jawans? Officers retire at the age of 54, with two extensions. A jawan, on the other had, retires at 38. Hence, isn’t the premise that all armymen retire young wrong and the portrayal of the same incorrect?
Most of the benefits of OROP are for jawans and war widows. The bulk of the armed forces do retire young and OROP is a legitimate right.
Officers are a very small percentage of the total strength of the armed forces. Besides this, the ethos of the armed forces is based heavily on honour and respect to seniority. The fact is that there shouldn’t be differences or divisions between terms of officers and men, their nature of service and risk and the fact that OROP was a norm for many years is reason that officers also have a right to OROP.
Why is it surprising that a retired major general gets a pension less than a young retired colonel? This happens everywhere, all the time. A retired Central Reserve Police Force commandant who is 75 years of age will get lesser pension than an assistant commandant who is 60 years of age. A retired deputy secretary who is 80 gets 20 per cent less pension than the under secretary who is just 60 and has just retired. The logic for OROP for people retiring at different times doesn’t make any sense.
As I said earlier, comparing the armed forces to the paramilitary forces or any other government service is the argument that the governments of many years have used to justify the denial of OROP.
The basic premise of OROP is the recognition that serving in the armed forces is different in many ways. If that basic premise is not accepted, then there’s no scope for any debate on OROP.
Rajya Sabha MP Rajiv Chandrashekhar
The Indian Army does a great job for its citizens. So does the CRPF, the Border Security Force and Indo-Tibetan Border Police. The officers of these paramilitary services compulsorily retire at 57 if they don’t get the DIG grade. How is it then that only army officers can be given the OROP benefit?
Like I said before, Army officers can’t be separated from the men they command and lead into battle and conflicts. These arguments have been debated endlessly before, including to a parliamentary committee on petitions (Koshiari committee) and addressed. The armed forces are not the same as the paramilitary forces. They differ in many fundamental ways
When these retired officers joined their respective jobs, they entered into a contract. The contract didn’t say that they will get One Rank One Pension. To force it upon the government is an act of negotiation, just as any union or association would pursue with its employers. This makes OROP a subject of negotiation and NOT a matter of right, as is being portrayed.
I disagree. OROP became a promise that was made and committed. There is not much to negotiate on OROP, except perhaps the terms of the payment in keeping with the government’s economic situation. To many in the armed forces, this is a right.
No one joins the armed Forces on a contract. They join to serve. Armed forces attract those who want to serve not based on financial terms and contracts. To think so, betrays a lack of understanding of what makes men in the forces tick.
And, nothing is being ‘portrayed’. It’s a simple issue of principle to those who serve and to those in our country who value the ideals of service to nation. Veterans have been asking for this for several years and the current situation is the culmination of decades of frustration. It is not a ‘portrayal’ to see repeated instances of apathy to the overall cause of veterans and a system that has remained apathetic to normal dignified requests all these years.
If OROP is implemented for the armed forces, the paramilitary too shall demand the same. And why not? It is well known that a high number of General Reserve Engineer Force/ Border road workers die due to frost bite or cold while working in high altitude road projects, many more than the number of soldiers who die during border skirmishes. Why should GREF personnel not demand OROP? Why should the fire services not demand OROP?
Like I said, there’s nothing preventing people asking or doing things. But as I have answered, this is a bogie, a red herring raised for several years. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already committed to this because he has no doubts of the very different service conditions of the armed forces. Additionally, this is not to say that the other forces do not deserve improvement in their terms, but clearly none that justifies OROP.
Government servants who joined after 2004 are no longer entitled to a guaranteed minimum pension by the government. In light of this, shouldn’t any formula given by the government be welcomed by the armed forces, as the days of guaranteed pension are over?
I hesitate to say this, but say it I must. A bureaucrat is no way comparable to a man or woman who serves in the armed forces. Nowhere is this comparison even attempted, not in the United States, the United Kingdom or even China. It’s laughable and making that comparison is ludicrous.
Countries like the US and UK and most other advanced democracies, with armies that are facing conflict, venerate the men and women who serve.
The UK parliament has even passed a law called Armed Forces Covenant (the Armed Forces Covenant is the expression of the moral obligation that the government and the nation owe to the armed forces community. The covenant acknowledges that members of the armed forces sacrifice some freedoms and often face dangerous situations. It recognises that families play a vital role in supporting the operational effectiveness of the armed forces). It is only in India where our men and women have to go through the humiliation of a comparison with a discredited bureaucracy.
One Most important issue not being highlighted in the interview is the non availability of fundamental rights to a soldier!!!
If the soldiers had the fundamental right to agitate, make unions etc, Had the Government reduced their pension in 1973?
Did any Govt reduce the pay/ pension/ privileges of civilian employees any time before? They cannot do it for reprisals.
World over the Pensions of Veterans is higher than the civil Government servants. Therefore the demand of OROP for veterans is justified.
If the Govt decides to accord OROP for every one including civilians, it is welcome. But Veterans of Armed forces stand first for the that privilege!!!! If that happens , subsequently veterans must ask for a better pensionary benefits in confirmatory with the world standards.
P N Krishnan
OPINION in The Hindu on OROP dated 28 Aug 2015.
Unbiased and forceful.
If armed forces veterans feel let down, it is because the delivery on the OROP promise has been in inverse proportion to the articulation of the promise itself
Each day the government delays the implementation of the One Rank One Pension (OROP) scheme, a demand that is 42 years old, it risks playing with fire. It is safe to assume that the serving service Chiefs have conveyed as much to the government. The public manifestation of the rapidly spreading and quickly deepening levels of disenchantment came when the daughter of Gen. V.K. Singh, former Army Chief of Staff and a serving Minister of State, sat with the Jantar Mantar agitators in an open show of support. Mrinalini Singh’s husband is a serving Army officer. This is a categorical indication that both Gen. Singh and Col. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, another Minister, would no doubt have pointed out to the government the consequences of not being able to deliver on a promise already made several times over.
Roughly 60,000 people retire from the armed forces every year. Some retire before they are 35, and as many as 87 per cent of servicemen retire between the ages of 34 and 48. Soldiers, sailors, airmen at the lowest level are the hardest hit because after a near nomadic life in the armed forces, they most likely do not own too many assets, a home nor have an alternative income stream. They have no clear prospect of a second lease of working life either.
Soldiers retire early because they need to be fighting fit to be in the forces and hence, the armed forces need young blood. The retirement policy affects an estimated 25 lakh ex-servicemen. Counted along with their dependents, the number swells to roughly three times that or 70 lakh people.
Also, a large section of the armed forces has family members who are either still serving or have retired from the forces. In normal conversations, the situation is bound to occupy their mindspace. Those in service know that sooner or later, they will become veterans and inherit the same situation their fathers did before them, an inheritance of loss.
The problem has been exacerbated because of the way in which the then BJP prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, appropriated and espoused the cause at the 2014 hustings and his subsequent repeated assurance, both on the floor of Parliament and elsewhere, that OROP was a settled matter and the solution had his imprimatur. Consider also Mr. Modi’s unparalleled political heft in the Lok Sabha and the fact that the Supreme Court has, as long ago as December 1982, underlined the need for OROP. If the agitators feel let down, it is because the delivery of the promise has so far been in inverse proportion to the articulation of the promise itself.
As many as ten retired service Chiefs have deliberately used the word ‘imbroglio’, a word of Italian origin that has elements of confusion, entanglement, bitterness, and complication all rolled into one. It accounts for the growing feeling that in the real OROP narrative, Narendra Modi, whom none other than the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s Ashok Singhal acknowledged as BJP’s Iron Man, is helpless. His inability to deliver stems from his being a victim of either intra-party politics or from him having been ensnared in a web made by intransigent bureaucrats.
The discourse in New Delhi circles suggests that a section of the bureaucracy wants to dovetail the OROP with the Seventh Pay Commission. This would effectively scupper the plan because it would postpone the resolution and rework the rationale and framework of the OROP as well. Lt. Gen. Syed Ata Hasnain, who retired as Military Secretary of the Army, writes in the July issue of Fauji India that the “bureaucracy is living up to its promise to complicate the issue to such an extent that it [OROP] is once again shelved without decision.”
The procrastination has escalated the situation to a standoff between the veterans and the government. Mr. Modi’s inability to act quickly and effectively has allowed other political parties space where none need have been conceded. The issue is now open to political hijack. There has been a steady stream of contradictory noises emanating from the government, most notably from the Finance Ministry, asking ex-servicemen to “lower expectations”.
The implication is that the government is having trouble coming up with the money. It has not gone unnoticed among the veterans that Mr. Modi, the politician, had no difficultly promising Rs. 1.25 lakh crore for Bihar in what amounts, scandalously, to pre-election sops. For OROP, the figure being talked about is roughly Rs. 8,300 crore, a fraction of the Bihar pledge.
Soldiers cannot go on strike like bank employees do, but patience now seems in short supply. Since June, the veterans have resorted to black armband protests, bike rallies, candle-light vigils, petitions, the return of service medals, and hunger strikes in an attempt to force the government to focus on the implications. They know more than others that all it requires is a small spark to set off a blaze. If something has been building up for a long time and is looking for release, even something as inconsequential as a slap can have an enormous ripple effect.
We need to remember the mutiny witnessed after Operation Blue Star. Given that the veterans are already on hunger-strike and writing petitions in blood, all it needs is a momentary provocation to set off that dreaded spark.
Soldiers cannot go on strike like bank employees do,
but patience now seems in short supply
From Aggrieved ESM of India.
His Excellency The President of India
Subject–Danger of Life of Ex Servicemen on Indefinite fast/Relay Hunger Strike
We are the veterans of tri services of India and your Excellency is our supreme commander. We the Ex Servicemen (ESM) are sitting on agitation Relay Hunger Strike (RHS) since 15th Jun 2015 at Jantar Mantar for One Rank One Pension (OROP ) and today is 76th day of Relay Hunger Strike.
Fast Unto Death- We were expecting that Government of India will announce OROP immediately after we started RHS. That did not happen. Then we expected that the Government of India will announce OROP on 15th of Aug but we were disappointed again. Prime Minister did not declare implementation of OROP and hence under protest Two ESMs sat on FUD on 16thAug 2015. A soldier is supposed to kill enemy before laying down his life for country. But under your rule a soldier’s life is at stake and is being wasted as he is being deprived for his legitimate dues.
One ESM Col Pushpender Singh is on Fast Unto Death. He was hospitalized because his medical condition was deteriorated after 9th day of Fast Unto Death. He was replaced by two more Ex Servicemen and every day more Ex Servicemen are joining FUD voluntarily even after repeated request by the organizers not to go on FUD . As on today 10 Ex Servicemen are observing FUD.
Hav Major Singh who Started FUD on 16th Aug 2015 is on 14th day of FUD. Panel of Doctors have declared that his medical condition is deteriorated to dangerous level and he need s to be hospitalized immediately to save his life. Hav Major Singh has refused to be evacuated to the hospital and he is steadfast in his resolve that he will not take any medical treatment till OROP is implemented as per the approved definition.
Your Excellency and the GOI will be solely responsible if any damage / mishap happens to Hav Major Singh or any other ESM because of hunger strike. Your excellency you are requested to kindly instruct the GOI to implement OROP as per the MOD GOI letter Dated 26th Feb 2014. It is pertinent to mention that there are some issues where financial cost cannot be the sole determinant factor. The pensions of defense veterans is one of these.
OROP stands approved both by the UPA as well as the present NDA govt. However, its implementation has not been carried out so far for the reason best known to your govt. In our meetings with DM. We had been informed that the proposal for implementation of OROP costing Rs 8298.48 Crs had been approved by the DM and forwarded to the Ministry of Finance on 17th mar 2015. It is here, where OROP file seems to have been stuck.
May we request you to kindly instruct your government of india to immediately implement OROP without any dilution whatsoever
“Jis desh ke sainik Sadko par us desh ka durbhagya hai”
Aggrieved ESM of India.
Lt Col Inderjeet Singh
Lt Gen Balbir Singh
Maj Gen Satbir Singh
Friday, August 28, 2015
Narendra Modi is making a serious mistake by unconscionably delaying OROP. Most arguments used against OROP are misleading, if not plain wrong.
R Jagannathan Firstpost.com
If there is a worse way to handle a sensitive issue like OROP - one-rank-one-pension for the defence forces - I am yet to hear about it. The BJP has messed up big time on an issue that is not only very close to its own heart, but one that is long overdue. Morally, politically and economically, Narendra Modi is making a serious mistake by unconscionably delaying OROP. Most arguments used against OROP are misleading, if not plain wrong.
First, when the previous government had already made a commitment on OROP and the then prime ministerial candidate had promised a full commitment to it in his election campaign, there was no way the decision could have been avoided. The only question that needed to be decided was when the scheme would be implemented and how OROP entitlements will be calculated. Two months was the maximum required after May 2014 for OROP to come into force.
Second, OROP affects the BJP's strongest constituency - the armed forces. As a nationalistic party, the BJP has drawn a disproportionate share of activists and politicians from the ex-servicemen's constituency - and this constituency is huge. The defence forces have 1.3 million serving personnel, another 1.2 million reservists, and many millions of ex-servicemen. And we are not even talking of other paramilitary forces like the NSG, the Assam Rifles, the Special Frontier Force and armed central policing forces like the CRPF, which has over 230 battalions of its own. Add them all and the numbers will surely double at least to around six million. If we assume an average household size of five people per serving or retired defence jawan or officer, we are talking of close to 25-30 million people who will gain from OROP now or in the future. Can the BJP mess around with the futures of such a large constituency?
Third, there is the economic argument. The finance ministry under Arun Jaitley would surely have argued that the fiscal deficit will go for a toss if OROP is implemented this year. But the cost of OROP is reckoned at anything between Rs 8,000-12,000 crore, depending on who you include and how you calculate the rate of pension. This amount would be less than one-tenth the food subsidy, where in fact 40 percent goes to the wrong people. It needs the government to only reduce food subsidy wastage by 10 percent to pay for OROP.
Even assuming the real payout will be twice as large, assuming we include all military and paramilitary personnel, including CRPF, we are talking Rs 25,000 crore. A big amount, no doubt, but not unaffordable to a government committed to cleaning up the wasteful subsidy system. Half the savings have already accrued from cleaning up the LPG subsidy system with the direct cash payments scheme.
An honest approach to the problem of fiscal deficit would have been a simple statement from the government that OROP will be implemented in two stages, with 50 percent of the target ex-servicemen (the lowest-paid) being eligible from this year, and the other from next year. Alternatively, we could have covered all people upto 75 percent of OROP entitlements this year and 100 percent next year.
To have ex-servicemen on hunger-strike and a minister and former army chief's daughter backing their cause is a public relations disaster for the Prime Minister. In any case, if the real issue is only the impact on central finances, there is also the counter-argument: when consumption demand in the economy is weak and business is not investing, a higher payment to ex-servicemen may be just the pep consumption demand needs. It is an established fact that whenever public sector pay rises after the implementation of pay commission recommendations (the next pay commission's recommendations will have to be implemented from next year), consumer demand picks up and growth revives.
In an economy that wants to raise its growth momentum and jobs, what can be better than an additional Rs 10,000-20,000 crore in the hands of consumers, thanks to OROP? And remember, higher demand leads to higher tax revenues from increased economic activity and hence lowers the fiscal deficit after a lag. The economic argument against accepting OROP is thus weak. On the contrary, by sanctioning OROP our defence personnel will not only be defending our border better but also our economy. The Prime Minister is probably getting bad advice from his finance ministry on OROP. He should over-rule them and announce OROP before Rahul Gandhi turns up at an ex-serviceman's home and offers fake sympathies.
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
The chairman of the Indian Ex- Servicemen Movement (IESM), the government on Wednesday said that the government is attempting to dilute the terms and conditions of the demand for one rank-one pension (OROP) scheme.
Singh said that Tuesday's meeting at Home Minister Rajnath Singh's residence was conducted in a good environment, but nothing positive had come out of it.
"We will continue meeting if government will call us again and try to find out ways, "Singh.
Singh said, We have asked the Defense Minister of India, Manohar Parikkar, to get us a meeting with the Prime Minister of India. But we are yet to get information on the issue of OROP.
"We think the government of India doesn't want to give us the OROP on the proposed conditions of OROP, and, we will not accept it without those conditions. People are determined and want to continue the strike till the Government of India meets the OROP demand." he told.
"We are sad that the Government of India wants to dilute the approved definition of OROP and wants to break the assurance they had given us earlier." Major General Singh said.
No end in sight to OROP deadlock, two more join fast-unto-death at Jantar Mantar
With no end in sight to the deadlock between ex-servicemen and the Narendra Modi government, one more defence veteran, along with the father of a martyr, have joined the fast-unto-death at Jantar Mantar. With this, the total number of those on hunger strike for implementation of One Rank One Pension has gone up to eight.
Those who joined the fast on Wednesday are former Navy personnel Commander AK Sharma and Sanwal Ram Yadav, father of martyr Lance Naik Sunil Kumar Yadav.
The other veterans currently on fast-unto-death are Colonel Pushpender Singh, Havaldar Ashok Chauhan, Havaldar Major Singh, Havaldar Sahib Singh, Major Piar chand and Naik Uday Singh, of which the first two are currently in hospital.
This comes even as the Army veterans, who have been protesting for OROP at Jantar Mantar in the national capital, are likely to reject the government formula and escalate the agitation.
However, more meetings are expected to take place between the representatives of ex-servicemen and the government to discuss the impasse.
Sources said that there are two major bones of contention between the two sides.
The first factor of conflict is the government's offer to fix pension at the 2011 base pay level, which is not acceptable to the ex-servicemen.
The other bone of contention is the demand of ex-servicemen to give a three per cent annual increment, which the government is not willing to accept.
Government sources have now said that in the wake of these differences, an announcement on OROP in the next few days is unlikely.
Reports had earlier said the scheme would be announced on August 28, the 50th anniversary of 1965 war.