Thursday, December 4, 2014
Unending wait for OROP
Lt-Gen Harwant Singh (Retd)
Government’s dilly dallying on the grant of One Rank One Pension (OROP) continues to agitate the veterans. Koshyari Committee of Parliament has defined what OROP is and recommended its implementation. Demand for OROP was first raised in mid eighties and a hunger strike by veterans was undertaken at Red Fort. Thereafter this demand has been raised at every forum including the sit down ‘dharna’ at Jantar Mantar and veterans returning thousands of their war medals to the President of India and signatures in blood.
Defence forces have been persistently wronged by successive Central Pay Commissions, (CPCs.) 99.5 Percent of the defence personnel retire before the age of 60 years: age at which all central government employees retire. Nearly 80 percent of IAS officers manage re-employment for 5 years and the more manipulative can get this extended up to as much as 20 years and more!
Soldiers retire at 35-37 years age. Early retirement with inadequate monetary compensation shorten the life span of veterans. Life expectancy of civil employees (IARM report) is 77 years, for railway employees 78 years while that of army officers it is 67 years, Junior Commissioned officers, 72.5 years and in the case of soldiers it is 59.5 to 64 years. Early retirement with much less pension, increasing family commitments and financial worries takes it toll. Even though, at retirement they are physically fitter than their counter parts in the civil.
Truncated careers, extremely limited and delayed promotions, hard living conditions in uncongenial environments, risk to life and limb etc, recognized the world over and termed as ‘X’ factor and fully compensated, is simply over looked in India.
Taking the existing pay etc and assuming there being no increase for the next two and a half decades for civil employees, a soldier retiring at age 36-37 years would get approximately Rs 37 lakhs less compared to his equivalent in the civil, by the time both reach the of 60 years: age at which a civil employee will retire. Thereafter civil employee gets much more pension than a soldier. In the case of officers the financial loss, due to early retirement, and limited and delayed promotions and subsequently lesser pension, is far greater. When increases by subsequent CPC are taken into account, disparity for defence personnel increases exponentially.
V1 CPC, with an IAS officer on it, ( a permanent feature on every CPC ) granted to IAS officers and all AIS (All India Services) and Group A services (nearly 4 dozen of them) what is called Non Functional Up-gradation (NFU) a sort of ‘pay promotion’ unrelated to job content and performance parameters etc, but the same was denied to defence services officers thus consigning to the dust bin the traditional pay parity between the commissioned officers and the AIS.
NFU to AIS means that they can circumvent the pyramidal cadre structure and earn pay advancement right up to HAG level. (Additional secretary – Lt–Gen) without going through any selection process or availability of posts etc. This in nutshell resulted in all officers of these civil services rising one level below the Appex (Secretary) level. Whereas 99.5 % armed forces officers (Maj-Gens and below) stagnate in Pay band 3 and 4. This largesse was to meet the aspirations of civil services. Apparently and by implication the denial of NFU to defence services officers meant that they have no aspirations! NFU is simply a plunder of the exchequer.
Upto mid fifties, a brigadier drew more pension than a chief secretary of a state and soldiers and others 75 percent of the last pay drawn, as pension. A maj-gen drew more pension than secretary to the government of India. This was to compensate for early retirement and extremely limited and delayed promotions, beside the travils of military service.
The condition of 33 years service to earn full pension works only against defence services personnel because majority of them are compulsorily retired much before completing that length of service. Out of the three career progression benefits available to all central service personnel, nearly 80 percent of defence personnel have to contend with just one, due to retirement, before second and third come into play.
Military service has become so unattractive that few suitable candidates are coming forward to join the officer cadre. (deficiency is around 12000.) Same is the case of soldiers. From the years 2001 to 2004, 2000 army officers applied for release from service, which included 2 lt-Gens, 10 Maj-Gens, 84 brigadiers and the rest colonels and below. This is a glaring case of acute dissatisfaction in the service. How many from the civil services opt to leave!
Since the mid fifties defence services have been relentlessly downgraded. Perhaps the bureaucracy has been frightening the political class, with the mirage of a military take over and thereby creating a bias against the service.
The higher echelon in the defence services are not affected except for delayed promotions, so it has been a silent spectator to this onslaught on their officers. Policy of divide and rule of the government was first applied in the case of King Commissioned Officers (KCIOs) and the rest and later to higher echelon and the remaining officer corps of the defence services. Both, the KCIOs and later higher echelon has been easy prey to these machinations of the politico-babu combine.
Honb’le PM on more than one occasion has committed that OROP would be granted. While defence services have full faith in the word of the Honb’le PM, the then, part time RM, (Shri Jaitley) let out a missive. To a delegation of veterans he told that they better lower the demand. Obviously Shri Jaitley is not on the same page as his PM! He wanted to refer the case to a tribunal!
Attempts to flummox the political executive, are afoot in that, for one the implementation of OROP is complicated and two, it will open a ‘Pandora’s box’ because all others will agitate for the same. This argument is totally untenable. Let civil services adopt the same service conditions i.e. same age for retirement and similar scope for promotions with attendant delay, (leaving aside the X factor) to qualify for adoption of OROP concept.
The great injustice done to defence services needs early correction and the PM would do well to personally and urgently look into this.