Thursday, September 10, 2015
Talking of One Rank One Pension, Its Grant and Ethics
By Maj Gen Ashok Coomar (Retd)
Raksha Mantri Manohar Parrikar announced the grant of One Rank One Pension to the armed forces on September 5 in a press conference at Delhi.
The highlight of the announcement was acceptance of the definition of OROP coined by the Koshiary Committee set upby Parliament which is given below :-
Same rank and same length of service — uniform pension, regardless of date of retirement. Future enhancements in rates of pension to be automatically passed on to past pensioners. OROP implies bridging gap between the rate of pension of current and past pensioners at periodic Intervals.
Gap between rate of current and past pensioners to be bridged every 5 years.
(Portion highlighted in green color is the original definition and that highlighted in yellow is addition by the government)
But as is the wont of the bureaucrats a rider was added (highlighted in yellow) which changed its meaning altogether. The effect of word “automatic” was nullified by bringing in “periodic intervals” which was fixed at “5 years”.
Further even though effective date was given as July 1, 2014 the pension was to be re-fixed at average of minimum and maximum rates as applicable in the calendar year 2013. This was affected by the under mentioned insertion in the press release:-
Re-fixed pension will be the average of minimum and maximum pension in 2013.
So in effect the pre-2006 retirees/veterans, who are already in receipt of minimum pension, are to be given only average of minimum and maximum or only half of the increase that became due to them in the year 2013. Award is being implemented in 2015 at a rate which is 2 years old and will be reviewed only after another 5 years putting them behind by 7 years.
Thus it becomes clear that instead of receiving pension at the rates actually being given to post 2006 retirees, veterans will receive the average of year 2013 till the year 2020 which will snatch away about 50% of their dues for this period! The way the government has been claiming credit for fulfilling the long-standing demand it appears that paying average pensions is an all time solution. Loss to veterans and widows can well be imagined.
Though the fallout will be multiple pensions that will be paid to various ranks but the government wants the whole nation to believe that ONE RANK ONE PENSION has been awarded! And true to their tradition of sycophancy media is carrying out the diktat even though some are mentioning that disputes still remain unresolved. The truth of the matter not-withstanding a large section of public believes that OROP has indeed been implemented!
A sticking point that never surfaced during prolonged negotiations was that OROP benefit will not be extended to those who opted for “Voluntary Retirement Scheme” even though there has never been any “VRS” in the armed forces. This mischief was dismissed by PM the next day as mere rumor but controversial clarifications have continued to appear in print media sowing seeds of further mistrust in the government.
Being highly dissatisfied and feeling let down, the apex veteran organization rejected most of the award by the government and renewed their pledge to continue their protest. But after persuasion by top-ranking veterans and assurances by the RM, that all the sticking points of dissatisfaction will be discussed and resolved, veterans have discontinued the Hunger-strike unto death but plan to continue the Relay Hunger Strike till matter is fully resolved.
The hectic bargaining during negotiations was least expected of the government as the issue was crystal clear having been lucidly dealt with by the Koshiary Committee appointed by Parliament and its report having been accepted by the previous as well as present regime. Justice, equity and fair play expected from the government were however given a go-bye while dealing with those who had given their all every time the need arose.
Ever since OROP issue came to the forefront FM Jaitley, instead of talking to veterans, kept advancing vague reasons through media why OROP could not be granted. He feared the possibility of mushrooming demands for OROP from police forces, country going bankrupt if OROP was accepted, administrative night-mare in implementation etc without disclosing any specifics. It was a clever ploy to keep silent on specifics as there was actually no substance in the negativism.
No other government service has such truncated career as the armed forces to demand OROP hence the excuse was quite baseless and may aptly be termed a subterfuge.
About FM’s apprehensions that Indian economy will collapse on account of OROP a little verification will be in order. RM had done his home-work thoroughly with assistance of MoD and Controller General Defense Accounts and had arrived at Rs 8300 Cr. on account of OROP implementation in full. But FM has reduced the pensions to “average” of the year 2013 instead of full rate in2013-14. This would reduce the out-go by at least 50% as the minimum is what veterans are already getting, maximum is their due and the average will be just half way. How then a vague figure of Rs 8000 to 10000 Cr has been arrived at? Does the MoF work on vague figures as quoted? Perhaps exact figures have deliberately not been revealed to conceal the truth.
And how is it that Rs 8300 Cr as proposed by RM was ruinous while Rs 8000 to 10000 Cr now boasted by FM is not?
The “nigh-mare” apprehended in yearly review of pensions in this age of computers can only evoke laughter and ruin India’s thriving business such as launching satellites for others.
Having got the RM around to do his bidding in depriving veterans of the real OROP and letting the PM down, Jaitley changed hat and pressed into service the Information and Broadcasting resource. On flick of a button the entire print and visual media trotted out stories about grant of OROP at enormous cost to the exchequer and its wide acceptance by veterans. The fact that the only veterans organization namely United Front of ESM that had been consulted had rejected the award was sought to be under-played.
A leading English daily TOI editorially applauded the government for fulfilling this long-standing just demand. Admitting that veteran’s expectations were not met in full it advised them to accept it in view of financial constraints. Would the TOI care to comment upon the profligacy indulged by the government in granting top wages to the Group ‘A’ bureaucrats by granting “Non-functional Financial Upgrade” which literally means higher wages without any extra work that has cost the tax-payer Rs 17000 Cr in last few years!
Or will the TOI tell us what editorial advice they have for India’s “House-wife” to investigate and recover the bad loans amounting to Rs 6.5 Lac Cr advanced by our PS Banks to just ten business houses that are unable to discharge even interest payments?
Is their patriotic advice reserved only for the unflinchingly loyal armed forces veterans who are only asking for OROP implementation which has been repeatedly promised by PM himself, the last being from Red Fort on August 15, 2015?
Armed forces veterans are inseparable from serving personnel because today’s soldiers are tomorrow’s veterans and the wide-spread filial ties between the two. Any injustice or atrocity to veterans, as witnessed at Jantar-Mantar on August 14 angers and adversely affects the morale of serving soldiers. It may boost the ego of some bigoted bureaucrats but helps only the enemy.
The mischievous campaign of sowing dissensions and disaffection among veterans has politicized them and may affect national security if it percolates to the serving personnel. Is portrayal of government’s victory in short changing veterans in grant of OROP such an achievement so as to risk national security? Instead government should have come clean with problems and aimed for a win-win situation. This is not beyond the realm of possibility even now.
In the present OROP imbroglio the government may have contrived a victory but has lost moral ground. As a result it has diminished itself in the eyes of civilized world.
Is PM Modi listening?