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Thursday, July 2, 2015

Immediate Implementation of OROP to Up Keep Morale of Soldiers


Brij Thapa 

The hunger strike  for implementation of OROP  being held by United Front Ex-Servicemen at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi for 18th day and in other 50 cities also hunger strike being held as OROP has not been honoured by the  successive governments for last forty years. The quest of the veterans for OROP, a term coined by a Parliamentary committee headed by KP Singh Deo in 1983, goes back several decades. In 1973, while implementing the recommendations of the Third Pay Commission, the government reduced the pensions of armed forces personnel from 73% of the last pay drawn to 50%.
The concept of ‘military pension’, designed to provide monetary compensation for truncated service due to early retirement, was diluted. Soldiers, sailors and airmen opt to retire between 35 and 37 years of age when most of their family responsibilities are still ahead of them, while most of the officers retire at the age of 54. Despite their discipline, dedication and talent, they find it difficult to get jobs. Personnel in the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) like the BSF, CRPF, ITBP, CISF, SSB and the state police retire between the ages of 57 and 60 years. The Fifth Pay Commission had recommended that armed forces personnel be laterally transferred to the CAPFs after five to seven years of service.
Officers of the CAPFs and all other civilian officers (IAS, IFS, IPS, IRS) retire at the age of 60 years, while only 0.84% of armed forces officers make it to the rank of major general, who retire at 58. A still smaller number are lieutenant general and retire at 60. But, every IAS officer is routinely promoted to the position of joint secretary, considered equal to a major general.
The national consensus favours the implementation of OROP for the armed forces. The Congress-led UPA government gave a commitment to implement OROP and even allotted a sum of Rs 500 crore in the interim budget for FY 2014-15. Union finance minister Arun Jaitley doubled it to Rs 1,000 crore when he presented the budget in July 2014.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi unequivocally promised to implement OROP while addressing the veterans at an election rally at Rewari in September 2013. However, in a surprise to 25 lakh veterans and three lakh widows, the prime minister recently said that it was a “complex” issue and that there were several definitions of OROP.
In February 2014, the following definition of OROP was approved in a meeting chaired by the defence minister: “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 be automatically passed on to the past pensioners.” The recommendations made by the defence minister, in consultation with the chiefs of the armed forces and the veterans, are reportedly being opposed by the finance ministry on the grounds that the annual cost of Rs8,400 crore is unaffordable and that a similar demand may spring from the CAPFs. It appears that the issue might be referred to the Seventh Pay Commission for a ‘holistic’ overview.
Often, the personnel in CAPFs serve much longer than the ones in the armed forces, which means that they earn more increments and therefore must not be equated for pension. The additional expenditure on OROP is less than 10% of the pension bill of Rs88,521 crore for 2015-16, which is much less than other subsidies. Hence, the recommendation of referring the issue to the Seventh Pay Commission is seen as an insidious plot to scuttle the OROP scheme.
. The serving and retired members of the armed forces feel wronged at having been deprived of their dues in several cases in the past, including the ‘rank pay’ case, 36 pending anomalies in the implementation of the awards of the Fourth, Fifth and the Sixth Pay Commissions, and the withholding of non-functional upgradation (NFU) of pay for officers denied promotion for lack of vacancies. The government must take note of the impact of the prolonged delay in the implementation of OROP on morale — not only of the veterans, but also of the serving soldiers; it may also affect many second or third generation soldiers who are witness to the sad plight of those before them and may refrain joining defence service in future where as there is already short fall.
The Prime Minister before and after election has committed for implementation of OROP also when he addressed the Army Commanders/Joint Commanders Conference in April 2015, he committed to the army and equivalent commanders that OROP will be implemented. The three Chiefs are on record that OROP will be implemented and they have the mandate from the RM to make this statement. The President who is also the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces in his address to the inaugural joint session of the Parliament stated that "his government is committed to OROP".
In fact this is the approach being taken in rallies in most of the States in India including in Uttarakhand and accordingly on above lines memorandums being submitted to concerned authorities. We are not being anti-nationalist or anti-organisation in this critical moment if we refuse to attend these celebrations Vijay Diwas, Kargil Divas and functions organised by state Govt. and governors on Independence Day or on Republic Day.
What are veterans planning? According to a ET report, United Front of ex-servicemen, a conglomerate of all veterans'; have decided to hold protest in front of the house of the parliamentarians It has also been decided that various teams of these veterans will be formed. These teams will visit election-bound states and discourage potential voters to vote for Modi government. Another step is, people will be made aware about the scheme and veteran's genuine demand. Lastly, if nothing will work then war widows will send letters in blood to President along with their bangles. Sources says these widows may begin a fast unto death if government remains adamant on its position.
Addressing the United States servicemen some years ago, US President Barack Obama said, “…when you take off the uniform, we will serve you as well as you’ve served us — because no one who fights for this country should have to fight for a job, or a roof over their heads, or the care that they need when they come home.”
Indian veterans also need to be given a similar respect and assurance, but one that is credible.

Lt Col B M Thapa, Veteran
Member- United Front of Ex-Servicemen (UFESM),

Uttarakhand, Dehradun

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