Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Army Modernisation takes a bad hit

By: P K Vasudeva

Since 2009-10, the Army’s capital budget is on a continuous decline hitting the lowest point in 2013-14 when the capital budget was only 18 per cent of the total allocation. This was spent mostly on the “committed liabilities” or existing purchases. It may be noted that as per Pentagon’s annual report to the US Congress, India’s annual defence budget is just one-third of that of China despite the tensions that remain along their shared border. The official annual defence budget of China in 2013 was $119.5 billion as against India's $39.2 billion
Modernisation of the Indian defence forces is a continuous process based on threat perception, operational challenges, technological changes and available sources. The process is based on a 15-year Long Term Integrated Perspective Plan (LTIPP), Five Year Services Capital Acquisition Plan (SCAP) and an Annual Acquisition Plan (AAP). Procurement of equipment and weapon systems is carried out as per the AAP in accordance with the Defence procurement procedure. The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) cleared a total of 41 proposals since June last year. This was stated by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar in a written statement in Rajya Sabha, during the winter session of Parliament. 
Unfortunately, the Army’s plan to modernise its arsenal with the latest weaponry took a beating as the Finance Ministry recently cut the budget by almost about Rs 5,000 crore, leaving that much less money to make fresh purchases.
Army Chief Gen Dalbir Singh had on 13 January stated that the Army identified seven critical projects, which would be pursued for equipping the soldiers with advanced firepower and mobility. These critical projects which the Army Chief outlined are 814 artillery guns, 8000 third generation antitank missiles (from Israel), acquiring 197 helicopters for the Army, upgrading of tanks and BMP armoured vehicles, procurement of assault rifles, bullet proof jackets and helmets for the infantry soldiers and night vision devices for the infantry mechanised forces.
Out of these two projects, 814 artillery guns at a cost of Rs 15,750 crore and more than 8,000 third generation anti-tank missiles (from Israel) at a cost of Rs 3,700 crore were approved by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) headed by Defence Minister Parrikar. However, other five crucial projects are still under consideration of the Ministry of Defence (MoD). Both would have to be cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) before the procurement process starts because any project with more than Rs 1,000 crore budget needs CCS approval.
Since 2009-10, the Army’s capital budget is on a continuous decline hitting the lowest point in 2013-14 when the capital budget was only 18 per cent of the total allocation. This was spent mostly on the “committed liabilities” or existing purchases.
For 2014-15, the Army's additional demand (for grants) was not met but capital budget, meant for acquisition was reduced by about Rs 5,000 crore apparently because the money was transferred to revenue heads used for paying salary, pension and fuel bill. Other two services are also likely to have suffered from the budget cut and the modernization is likely to be delayed further, which will have adverse effect for the defence forces as well as for national security.
One of the reasons behind enhancement of revenue budget is the BJP-ruled NDA government’s plan to implement one-rank-one-pension (OROP) plan for ex-servicemen which is pending for the past three decades. The government accepted the OROP in principle and modalities of implementation are being worked out. 
India cleared a bulk of defence projects worth $13 billion in a bid to boost the country's national defence preparedness, the Indian DAC said on 25 October 2014. The council finalised purchase of 12 upgraded Dornier surveillance aircraft with improved sensors from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) at a cost of Rs 1,850 crore.
The DAC also decided to buy 362 infantry mechanised vehicles at a cost of Rs 662 crore. The decision to manufacture the submarines in the country is in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ‘Make in India’ pitch.
The Indian defence budget stood at $11.8 billion in 2001. On February 17, 2014, the then Finance Minister P Chidambaram announced a 10 per cent increase in India's defence budget, taking it to $36.3 billion. In March 2014 China announced a 12.2 per cent increase in its defence budget, raising military spending to $132 billion.
It may be noted that as per Pentagon’s annual report to the US Congress, India’s annual defence budget is just one-third of that of China despite the tensions that remain along their shared border. The official annual defence budget of China in 2013 was $119.5 billion against India's $39.2 billion. 
India announced plans to boost defence spending in 2014-15 by 12 per cent over the previous year, and further opened the domestic weapons industry to foreign investment. The Modi government had long called for a militarily strong India to counter potential threats from both its neighbours – China and Pakistan. In July 2014 the new Indian military budget was set at Rs 2.29 trillion ($38.35 billion) for 2014-15, and the foreign investment limit in the domestic defence industry was raised from 26 per cent to 49 per cent.
Defence expenditure, which was 2.24 per cent of the GDP in 1997-98, has come down to 1.79 per cent of GDP in 2014-15 and this gradual decline is against the modernization of defence forces. Hopefully, the next budget will be around 3 per cent of the GDP keeping in view the long-pending demand of defence modernization and threat perception from adversaries China and Pakistan. 

Recollections of a Communicator: General K. M. Cariappa made the Indian Army Truly Indian

On January 15, we will be observing Army Day with a ceremonial parade in the Delhi Cantonment. It was on this day, in 1949, when General Kodandera Madappa Cariappa took over as the first Indian Commander in Chief of the Indian Army from General Roy Butcher, a British Army Officer.

Many of us who had the opportunity of serving with the Indian Army had read about General Cariappa and the role he had played in consolidation of the Indian Army, establishing high traditions.

I first came into contact with him in 1958 when I was working as the Assistant Editor of the Sainik Samachar, the multi-lingual weekly journal of the Armed Forces, earlier known as the Fauji Akhbar, which enjoyed the status of being the premier journal available in the reading rooms for the soldiers.

A month after my taking over as the Assistant Editor, I was told to cover a meeting of the Ex-Servicemens'; Association which was being presided over by General Cariappa The meeting was being held at the National Stadium, near the India Gate in the Capital. I went to the venue about ten minutes earlier. I was introduced to General Cariappa. General Cariappa asked me my full name, where I came from and what was my educational and service background.

While making his initial statement, I was pleasantly surprised when he said that the Assistant Editor of the Fauji Akhbar was there, and mentioned that I was a post-graduate and that I would give good coverage for the meeting. He called me to sit by his side during the rest of the meeting.

When I left the meeting, he asked me to take interest in matters relating to retired soldiers. I was touched by his sense of involvement with the welfare of the troops.

The next encounter that I had with him was in 1963. I was posted in Jammu and Kashmir and had donned the uniform with the rank of a Captain.

My assignment was to cover the activities of the XV Corps-the troops on the Pathankot-Jammu-Srinagar-Leh-Chushul areas. I used to be on the road at least twenty days in a month, visiting Army units, or conducting senior journalists who were keen to observe and write how the Indian Army was being reorganised and re-equipped to face the Chinese in addition to the Pakistan Army. In the spring of 1963, I was asked to conduct B. G. Verghese who was then a senior correspondent of the Times of India to various units in Ladakh. I had arranged the itinerary for him, taking him from Leh to Chushul along the Indus, and driving up the Chang-la, the highest pass in the region. I had almost completed my task.

On the last morning, as I was getting ready to proceed with Verghese for the next appointment, the unit in which I was staying got a message that I should get in touch with the Divisional Headquarters. I rang up the General Staff Officer to find out what was the requirement. He heaved a sigh of relief and said that the Corps Commander, Lieutenant General Bikram Singh was in Leh and he wanted me around as General Cariappa was visiting the area.

I took George Verghese along with me and went to the Division Headquarters. I was ushered into the presence of Lt. Gen Bikram Singh, who was sitting on the lawns of the Alpha Mess, located near the Division Headquarters. He asked me what was I doing. I explained my assignment-that I was conducting a senior correspondent of the Times of India. He snapped back: "When the former Commander in Chief of the Indian Army is here, you have no business to muck around with civilians. Get out. You will get no facility from the Division and you may walk to Srinagar or wherever you want with that civilian".

Crestfallen, I was climbing the steps back to the Mess, when I saw General Cariappa coming down. He said, Hey Rao, what are you doing here. I muttered that I was conducting a correspondent of the Times of India to brief him about the Army defences in Ladakh. General Cariappa, said good you are here. He patted my shoulder and introduced me to Lt. General Bikram Singh as a bright young Public Relations Officer.

Lt. General Bikram Singh nodded in acquaintance and told me to join him when the Commander-in-Chief was addressing the troops. Gone was his anger against me. Meanwhile, I arranged for an escort from the Divisional Headquarters for George Verghese. General Cariappa was from the Rajput Regiment, and so was Lt. Gen. Bikram Singh. The speech of General Cariappa was heard with rapt attention. It was not in chaste Hindustani, but very motivating for the soldiers.

He told the soldiers that he had brought with him Kala Mirch-black pepper-from Coorg which will keep them warm in the high altitude, and create the right mood to fight the Chinese. He went round the parade ground distributing black pepper to each row of soldiers. He asked them about their food, general comforts, whether they received letters from home-and when he met Sikhs and Punjabis, inquired whether they got mustard oil. He knew the habits of soldiers of the Indian Army.

After the function, I got myself dropped at the Signal Centre to file my report to Delhi. As I got down from the jeep, General Cariappa said he was going to visit Kargil and asked me whether I was coming. Lt. Gen. Bikram Singh said yes, and told me to file a good report.

Next day, we landed in a propeller driven aircraft at a makeshift airstrip at Kargil. On arrival at Kargil, General Cariappa addressed the troops more or less on the same lines as he did in Leh and finished the stock of black pepper that he had brought from Coorg.

I remember the little flutter in the Kargil mess that morning, when he asked for a ';tailor kit';. He wanted thread and a needle. I managed it for him. He had a couple of buttons loose in his shirt. Patiently, he mended his shirt and got it pressed and wore it. All his clothes were in a small overnight bag. He was ';properly dressed'; in a three-piece suit, when he sat down for his breakfast or dinner.

It was during this tour with General Cariappa that I heard many stories about his contribution to the Army and, on the lighter side, about his Hindustani. The story was that when he addressed troops on August 15 in 1947, he told the soldiers: "Is waqt aap muft, ham muft, mulk muft hai." For him the word muft meant 'free'.

General Cariappa was the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Western Command during the Jammu and Kashmir operations. General Roy Butcher, who was then the Commander in Chief, had tried his best to tie General Cariappa's hands during the operations by not approving plans to evict Pakistani ';raiders'; from some sensitive areas. General Cariappa, as GOC-in-C quietly decided to clear the Pakistani raiders from Jammu - Naushera axis. He was then fighting on two fronts, the Army Headquarters led by General Roy Butcher and the Pakistani Army led by General Messervy.

Only recently, British records of that period have been declassified. Not many know that General Roy Butcher was more loyal to the King of England than the Government of India. He used to send messages to the British Government through the British High Commissioner, over the head of the Defence Minister. He also advised the Indian Cabinet against launching the operation against the Nizam's forces in Hyderabad.

He is reported to have said: "As your C-in-C, I ask you not to start the operations." And he offered his resignation if his advice was not heeded. There was a general silence while a distressed and worried Jawaharlal Nehru looked around. Sardar Patel, who was the Home Minister, remarked: "You may resign, General Bucher, but the police action will start tomorrow."

An angry Bucher stormed out of the meeting. All these indicated the importance for the Indian Army to have an Indian Army Chief. General Cariappa as Commander-in-Chief turned the imperial army into a national army. He raised the Brigade of Guards and the Parachute Regiments on an all-India caste composition and directed the raising of the National Cadet Corps and the Territorial Army.

General Cariappa was keen that Army Officers, on retirement, should have a say in the affairs of the nation. He did contest elections in Bombay, but lost. I last saw General Cariappa in 1986 when the rank of Field Marshal was conferred on him. When the order was read in the Rashtrapati Bhavan before the President Zail Singh handed over the baton, considering his age, he was offered a chair to sit down, but he preferred to stand-ramrod straight.

Not many remember that Field Marshal Ayub Khan served under General Cariappa in the British Indian Army. When his son Flt Lt KC "Nanda" Cariappa (who later rose to the rank of an Air Marshal) was taken prisoner after his Hunter aircraft was shot down during the 1965 war, Field Marshal Ayub Khan contacted General Cariappa in Mercara and offered to release his son.

The reply of General Cariappa was "He is my son no longer... He is the child of this country, a soldier fighting for his motherland like a true patriot. My many thanks for your kind gesture, but I request you to release all or release none. Give him no special treatment".
A great deal of credit goes to Field Marshal Cariappa to have made the Indian Army, truly Indian. Today, the nation can take pride in the role played by the Army in guarding it against external threats and insurgency promoted by hostile elements.

The views expressed in the above article are that of Mr. I. Ramamohan Rao, Former Principal Information Officer, Government of India.

He can be reached on his e-mail: 

By the kind courtesy of

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Recognition of Good Deeds

Click to enlarge
This Gorkha soldier, single handedly, without caring for his own safety, held off 40 goons with his knife killing three and injuring eight, who tried to rape a woman in a train. All he got was a memento awarded by his own Commanding Officer. I am sure if his case for a Gallantry Award was taken up, he could very well have got a Peacetime Gallantry Award like Kirti Chakra or Shuaraya Chakra. What a pity?

Belated Information on the Gallant Soldier

Bishnu Shrestha is a retired Nepalese Gurkha soldier in the Indian army and recipient of the Sena Medal for bravery, and the Uttam Jeevan Raksha Padak medal, both awarded for his gallant conduct during an armed train robbery. Wikipedia

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Chairman IESM, Maj Gen Satbir Singh, SM (Retd) writes to Raksha Mantri for Delay in Implementing OROP

Shri Manohar Parrikar
Hon’ble Raksha Mantri
104, South Block
New Delhi-110011


Hon’ble Raksha Mantri

            This has reference to our meeting with you on 09 Dec 2014 and IESM letter dated 02 Jan 2015.
            We the ex-servicemen have been waiting for the last 11 months for the implementation of OROP and have been relentlessly projecting to the Govt the need for early action.  You have also consulted other ESM Organisations, the three services HQs and the officials of MoD on this important demand of defence personnel.  However, for the reasons best known to you, the Govt Notification has not yet been issued.  This is a cause of serious concern.

IESM has decided to hold a Rally on 01 Feb 2015 at Jantar Mantar New Delhi to voice our concern to the Govt and also inform to the people of India about the grave injustices perpetuated on the soldiers.  This Rally, in no way, is to confront the Govt but to exercise our right to project our demands and concerns in a democratic setup.  Sir, we have a few questions to be asked from the Govt and these are:-

  • Does it take 11 months to issue a letter for a full majority Govt? 

  • When the OROP has been accepted in principle by the Govt and necessary funds have been catered for why is this undue suspense and delay in issuance of notification?

  • When PM of the nation has confirmed at three different occasions after taking oath as PM and innumerable times during campaigning for elections that OROP is his personal commitment to Armed Forces, why has the notification not been issued?

  • Why is MOD resorting to selective leaks to test the reaction of veterans? In fact these leaks are deliberate to test the strength of opposition to dilution of OROP.  Ex-servicemen have been short-changed many times by manipulative bureaucracy and hence are very apprehensive of this unexplainable delay. 

  • Why is Government hesitating to commit that OROP letter will be out by so and so date and why is the Govt buying more time? You have now given a time line till 25 July 2015, whereas you informed us on 09 Dec 2014 that the decision will be taken within a month?  

  • Why can't Government issue the notification of OROP by 01 Feb 15. What is holding issuance of the notification? All process of consultation and acceptance and approval has been completed.

  • Why is the Govt hesitating to  clearly spell out that OROP will be implemented in full and as per the approved definition as given out in Govt Executive Orders dated 26 Feb 2014 and repeated by RRM on 02 Dec 2014 on the floor of the House in Rajya Sabha?

Approved definition of OROP as given by RRM in Parliament is given below:-

Implementation of One Rank One Pension 

            The principle of One Rank One Pension for the Armed Forces has been accepted by the Government. The modalities for implementation were discussed with various stakeholders and are presently under consideration of the Government. It will be implemented once the modalities are approved by the Government. 

            One Rank One Pension (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. This implies bridging the gap between the rate of pension of the current pensioners and the past pensioners, and also future enhancement in the rate of pension to be automatically passed on to the past pensioners. (DM/HH/RAJ, Release ID: 112372).

            Sir, any dilution to the concept and definition of OROP will not be acceptable to the Defence Fraternity.

            Ex-servicemen request the Govt to issue the Implementation Notification of OROP at the earliest please.  IESM will be very happy to thank the Govt during the Rally if the letter is issued before 01 Feb 2015.
            With regards

Maj Gen Satbir Singh, SM (Retd) 
Chairman IESM

Copy to :-

Shri Rao Inderjit Singh
Raksha Rajya Mantri
C-1/14 Lodi Garden
New Delhi - 110 003

General Dalbir Singh                              
PVSM, UYSM, AVSM, VSM, ADC          
Chief of the Army Staff 
Integrated HQs of Ministry of Defence (Army)
South Block, New Delhi-110011

Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha                                                      
PVSM, AVSM, VM, ADC                                                                     Chief of the Air Staff & Chairman,
Chiefs of Staffs Committee (CoSC),                                  
Integrated HQs of Ministry of Defence (Air Force) 
Vayu Bhawan, New Delhi 110011

Admiral R K Dhowan, PVSM, AVSM, YSM, 
Chief of the Naval Staff                                                             
Integrated HQs of Ministry of Defence (Navy)  
South Block, New Delhi -110011

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Defence Modernization : Can India Get Its Act Together

by Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain (Retd)

Over the last few years India’s defense capability in the face of major internal and external challenges has been seriously affected by two aspects. First, the inability to keep pace with rapidly advancing defense technology the world over and second the proven inefficiency to acquire its required wherewithal for war fighting  and training to keep its armed forces in a state of readiness. The coming of Manohar Parrikar as India’s Defense Minister has led to some degree of positivity because of his well-known efficiency and technological background, being an IIT graduate. Before delving into analysis about the slew of measures that the Modi government has taken thus far in the defense sector it is good to clarify a few aspects for the common reader because the entire process of equipping and modernizing armed forces anywhere in the world is a complex exercise which is not easily understood by the public. The paralysis in decision making with regard to procurement of weapons and equipment for the armed forces which was witnessed in the last ten years has been the prime reason for the Revolution in Military Affairs and Transformation virtually bypassing India’s security apparatus. The armed forces work on a system of perspective planning which has been in sync with Five Year plans and goes further to incorporate what is termed as the Long Term Integrated Perspective Plan stretching over fifteen years and keeping ongoing and subsequent Five Year plans in perspective. This is because the acquisition process is slow and needs advance appreciation of future requirements with sufficient time to analyze, review, appropriate financial outlays as per availability and carry out mid-course corrections. Acquisition can be from indigenous or external sources depending on availability, suitability and matching of technological requirements.

Defense equipment being expensive needs to have a balanced dwell time in terms of availability in service without it getting redundant too early. It also needs a system whereby progressively advancing technology can be incorporated for upgrades of existing equipment, supply chain of spares even as some equipment gets obsolete but remains useable, and assurance of availability of future modern equipment developed and fielded by armed forces of advanced countries. This is all necessary to ensure that the inventory is not too diversified by frequent acquisition from diverse sources. There is always the problem of status of politico diplomatic relations with nations of potential supply sources. China has a flourishing defense industry but quite obviously the state of relations between India and China does not allow Indian access to this source. The toss-up between the United States and Russia is a perennial issue because India zealously guards its strategic independence which is an objective for dilution by nations of the developed world.  Much also depends on the state of the economy of the world or of the broad region (such as West or East Europe) from where the equipment is proposed to be sourced. A weak economic situation may provide opportunities to negotiate deals more robustly. A simple equation to understand this is the fact that sale of 150 F-15 jets to Kuwait provided 6000 jobs within the US defense industry for a period of five years. A major consideration is the state of technology indigenously available. Extremely high end technology, which is necessary in some systems to retain an edge on adversaries or at least match that available with them, may not be available indigenously. This forces us to resort to purchase off the shelf, sometimes at exorbitant cost. The necessity of indigenous research plays a major role and India’s research facilities and the scientific community is perceived to have achieved lesser than desired capability. The indigenous Nag Anti-Tank Missile for example, has been under development since the last twenty five years without fruition. The quality of metallurgy in the country has prevented us from manufacturing long range artillery guns forcing the Indian army to do without the much required replacement or add on to the Bofors 155 mm Howtizers, last acquired in 1987.

The last issue which plays a major role in the field of defense procurement is the procedure itself. India adopts five modes of acquisition as per the procedure; Buy(Indian), Buy & Make(Indian), Make(Indian), Buy & Make (Global and Indian), Buy(Global). The emphasis, however, remains on indigenization. The financial outlay being huge there is intense competition in some categories while very little in others where sources are restricted by availability of desired technology. To secure deals, kickbacks or facilitation money is the norm worldwide in the defense industry. India’s unfortunate experience in this, going back to the Bofors contract and some others has been a major obstacle in the procurement procedure.

How exactly does the arrival of Manohar Parrikar augur positively for this field which has held back the modernization process and put us at relative disadvantage? The analysis must take into account that the current government correctly identified defense procurement as a major issue staring at it in the face. The PM took his time to identify a potentially efficient Defense Minister and in the interim placed the MoD and the Finance Ministry under the most experienced Union Minister, Arun Jaitley. Sources within the Army privately admitted that it was a refreshing change with the user end and the finances both being under a single head. The grounds were therefore well prepared before the PM identified Manohar Parrikar as the man to deliver. It is not easy to grasp the intricacies of defense modernization even for a military professional but it is to Parrikar’s credit that his managerial skills facilitate his decision making and risk taking capabilities, both of which are crucial in this mission. He has ensured that only tweaking the procedure and not whole scale changes are necessary, thus saving crucial time. The single most important aspect of indigenization, under the ‘Make in India’ slogan, is being given its due importance even as the realization is there that this route will be a very long one and therefore it is necessary to Buy (Global) and Buy and Make in India under contract to balance the two. While the DRDO may be perceived to have failed in indigenous delivery there is enough scope in some sectors to renew support to it and give it the necessary muscle. The apparent decision to manufacture rotary wing equipment indigenously while encouraging India’s well known business houses to enter this field is obviously a sound one with the PM’s full backing. The creation of a Skill Development Ministry is with the idea of developing necessary technical manpower to support this ambitious aim.

"As far as new acquisitions are concerned, of Rs.75,000 crore cleared by the DAC (Defence Acquisition Council), Rs.65,000 crore is for Buy (Indian) and Buy and Make (Indian) categories", stated the Defense Minister clearly delineating the priority. However, the realization of this decision will need to be robustly backed up by skilled labor and technology. The very first decision to buy Rs 15,750 Cr worth of 814 artillery guns with the first 100 guns being purchased off the shelf meets the desired balance. Two other crucial decisions by the Defense Minister point towards his constantly revealing understanding. First is the decision to legalize the use of defense agents an aspect permitted but with little procedural transparency. This will facilitate information, negotiations, trials and pricing in a more transparent and legal way; all of which was earlier done with all kinds of middle men with no control. It will also introduce a greater level of transparency on profit margins and margin money. The second important decision in the making is the partial lifting of ban on tainted companies whose apparent misdemeanors are under investigation.  This will open up at least the supply chain of spares of crucial equipment such as Tatra trucks. It will also be a major change in the procurement environment where companies use unethical means to get back on their competitors who may have secured contracts.

Defense procurement remains a veritable minefield but possibly in seven months the new government has come a long way in providing some positive strokes to a very negative environment. Manohar Parrikar  has the temperament to master the system but needs time to root out one of the most inefficient systems in India’s security set up. He needs to be fully supported in his mission.

On express request from Dainik Bhaskar I write quite often for this paper and it is translated into Hindi. This is a novel way of allowing thoughts on defence and security reaching the non English reading public. Dainik Bhaskar has 50 editions in 11 states and I get back more feedback from this route than from the English reading public.

Ata Hasnain (Retd)

This article was written for Army Day. In Hindi it can be found at  

The one rank one pension conundrum

by V Mahalingam 

The one rank one pension (OROP) portion of Manohar Parikkar’s interview (here at 13.55 minutes) in one of the TV channels needs some study and clarification to put things in perspective.
The minister in his interview has stated that the beneficiaries may not get 100 % satisfaction. If OROP is fulfilled as per the definition accepted by the government, there is no reason why there should be any deficiency in the satisfaction level of the veterans. Obviously there are some slippages.
Explaining this aspect he went on to say that there are personnel who join Armed Forces on the same day and retire on the same day but one may spend more number of years in the last rank hence, draw more pay and hence more pensions compared to the other person. The difference in pension could be as small as Rs 500 or Rs 1,000. But I am trying to find out a method of reducing this gap, may be at mid-point. I am also discussing this issue with many and hopefully I will come out with some solution satisfying maximum number of pensioners.
Yes it is possible but why would that happen? Is it the individual’s mistake? He reached the same rank as the other and served for same number of years. Did he work lesser number of hours or performed not as good as the other? The fact is, the number of vacancies for promotion in some of the arms and services are less compared to the others and hence while an officer who is in a particular arm gets promoted earlier because of the vacancy falling vacant, another officer in some other arm or service may have to wait for the vacancy to fall vacant. This waiting period in any case is not more than 2 to 3 years.
If the government is proposing different pension to officers promoted on different days but with same number of years of service and rank, it will not be OROP as per the definition. If the government intends to reduce the pension of those eligible for higher pension due to the number of years of service in that rank, there will be difference in the pension between those retiring today in the same rank with same number of years of service and the earlier retirees. That again won’t be OROP.
The government granted Non–functional Upgradation (NFU) to all Organised Group A Service officers of the bureaucracy on the ground that there is lack of promotional avenues. Interestingly, an army officer reaches the rank of a Major General, equivalent of a Joint Secretary after 28 years of service while a bureaucrat attains the same rank after 19 years of service. Also while 0.8 % of service officers reach the rank of Major General, 100% officers from the bureaucracy reach the rank of Joint Secretary. Are we blind to see where the stagnation and lack of promotional avenues are?
Under this NFU scheme, every officer of a particular batch would be brought under the same pay scale of an officer of their batch when he gets posted to an appointment tenable by a higher ranked officer irrespective of the location and appointment. The difference in pay is in thousands and the expenditure to the state in lakhs. That did not matter to the government. Why then is the government shying away when it comes to the military?
Did the government spend the same amount of time to assess the financial implication of NFU when the whole lot of director level officers of a batch was upgraded to receive the pay of a joint secretary? Mind you, there are 58 different services under the Organised Group A Services working under different ministries and every time when an officer of a particular batch in IAS or an officer in any one of the services gets promoted, every officer of the batch irrespective of which service he belongs to will have to be given the pay promotion. Presently an IAS officer gets promoted at the service of 17 years and the others two years later.
The system thus evolved promotes every one through the back door whether they deserve promotion or not. Hence in these services the system of Annual Confidential Reports is a joke and serves no purpose. The hoax is, in these services individuals can be promoted even without a vacancy being available or even when the individual is holding an appointment tenable by a lower ranked officer. This whole sale promotion system with total disregard to authorised establishment and number of vacancies specified in each rank passes the scrutiny of the finance while in the Defence Services even if a Sepoy is promoted Naik it is struck down. The rule is, you show the man and we will tell you the law.
Couldn’t the OROP issue be resolved by stating that the pension of the officer will be as per the entitlement of the officer or the pension which the officer of the same rank and service gets whichever is higher? In this case the calculation and the estimation of the cost to exchequer too would be simple as the date of commission, date of retirement and rank of the officers are available in respect of every pensioner and family pensioner in the Pensions Payment Order (PPO). The pension and the family pension being paid to the present retirees and widows too are in black and white and are being implemented presently. It will then just be, the transplanting the figures of the present retirees to the older ones.
The PPO contains only rank at the time of retirement, date of joining the service and date of retirement and qualifying service. So pensions are worked out based on rank and total length of service. If the Government of India introduces one more criterion of SERVICE IN LAST RANK, a data which is not available, the implementation will never take place. This diversion is yet again a means to confuse the issue and put everyone in circles, a usual methodology of the bureaucracy.
The Principle Controller of Defence Accounts (PCDA) will not pay the veterans till such time authentic data is provided to them and that cannot be made available. There would be many court cases on this issue as this violates the definition of OROP as given out by the minister of state of defence in a written reply to a query in the Parliament.
As per the 5th Central Pay Commission (CPC) scale, the difference in pension for every year’s delayed promotion for a Colonel retired in 1996 but before January 2006 (Maximum number of officers retire at the rank of Colonel) in the scale of Rs 15,100 – 450 – 17, 350 is mere Rs 225. The difference will be much less in case of officers who retired earlier. As brought out earlier, for a difference of 3 years in the date of promotion the extra amount will be about Rs 675. Is it too much for a Veteran who gave his best days for the country?
The defence minister, it is hoped is aware that like in the case officers, there are a number of groups in the Junior Commissioned officers and other ranks. For example take the case of Infantry. The Rajputana Rifles Regiment has 23 Infantry Battalions. Promotions are based on the number of vacancies available in a battalion. There are number of cases where a Sepoy in one battalion gets promoted as Naik in say 10 years and in another battalion of the same Regiment a Sepoy gets promoted at 12 years due to lack of vacancies in that battalion. In the Regiment of Artillery you have more complications. There are many trades such as Gunner, Surveyor, Radio Operator, Driver, Clerk, Store keeper etc. The vacancies are fixed in each of these trades and therefore promotions of Sepoys (called Gunners) are dependent on wastages, which is retirement. So you generally find that in one particular trade a Sepoy becomes a Naik with 8 years of service and in another he becomes a Naik at 11 years of service. The pay scales of each of these groups are different. Are we going to keep calculating the pension of each of these groups for different number of years of service rank and trade separately? If that were to happen, this exercise cannot be completed in even in 10 years considering the speed at which the bureaucracy moves. Are we creating these confusions deliberately?
Incidentally, isn’t this the first time that anyone has heard someone from the government saying that the deadline is July 2015, thus shifting the goal post from ‘before the budget’ to a later date? What is the intention? Is it to drag the implementation close to the 7th CPC and palm off the issue to them to decide and thus cause further delay? Is it going to be something similar to the way the government paid arrears to Sam Manekshaw just a few days before his death? The minister needs to understand that the veterans are an aging community. Many of those covered under the 5th CPC and earlier are in their advanced age.
Another bizarre thing that he stated was the total expenditure on account of OROP. His estimation ranged from Rs 6000 crores to Rs 14000 crores. If the bureaucrats of the government had not been able to calculate the total cost to the government in 11 months, in fact this exercise would have started much before the erstwhile finance minister Chidambaram announced OROP in the Parliament, these officers have no business to stay put in their jobs. The government might have changed but the bureaucrats are the same. Or is this once again a tool to delay the implementation?
The defence minister sang yet another old, out of tune song – the ‘bureaucrats may demand OROP’. This is an issue which was thrashed out thread bear in the Koshiyari Committee report and someone is trying to infiltrate this issue into the implementation process once again. The demand for OROP arises because defence services personnel retire much earlier than their counter parts in the civil. An individual retiring earlier will be in receipt of much lesser pay at the time of his retirement than his counterpart who retires at the age of 60. Accordingly, his pension which is 50 % of his last pay drawn is much lesser than the pension of the other. This is besides the huge loss to his overall life time income due to early retirement. The retirement benefits which a soldier receives at the time of his retirement too are much less than his counter parts based on his last pay drawn. The families of the soldiers too are affected in this system. The widows of soldiers receive 50 % of the pension of their husbands as their family pension whereas the families of the civil services receive much higher family pensions. These are despite the fact that the soldier serves under much difficult conditions with risks to his life and limbs.
If the government is prepared to pay the difference in the overall life time income due to early retirement including the value of perks, increments, dearness allowance promotion pay, gratuity, leave encashment etc. between the civil service and the defence services personnel; there would be no need for OROP. The choice is entirely up to the government.
From what the defence minister spoke during his interview, it is apparent that efforts are underway to confuse the issue and put everyone in a spin, delay and dilute the OROP scheme, a typical tactic of the bureaucracy to ward off something that they do not want to implement.
The present government which has been talking about good governance lost a great opportunity to demonstrate its resolve in the matter by not acting to withdraw the 800 odd appeals filed by the ministry of defence against its own disabled soldiers against the judgments pronounced by various courts. The Supreme Court instead stepped in during the hearing on December 10, 2014, to set aside the appeals of the government. If this delay in granting OROP is eroding the good will of the soldiering community and creating doubts on the ability of the government to reign in the bureaucrats and bring about good governance in the minds of the people, the onus would lie entirely on the bureaucracy.
Acknowledgement: Grateful thanks to Brigadier Sivasankar Vidyasagar (Retired) for his very valuable inputs.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.

V Mahalingam

Brigadier (retd) V Mahalingam, has held varying command and staff appointments in his 35 years of Army service. He specializes in security related matters and is a leadership trainer. His areas of interest include national security, defence and security forces, governance, and politics.