1. Across the aisle: The OROP whodunit

Across the aisle: The OROP whodunit

The other mystery story running on our screens is One Rank One Pension (OROP).

By: | Published: September 13, 2015 12:20 AM
orop scheme

OROP is indeed a defined benefit pension and different from the National Pension System (NPS) which is a contributory pension scheme. (PTI)

The other mystery story running on our screens is One Rank One Pension (OROP).

Actually, there is no mystery. All the facts are recorded and documented. However, in the race to claim credit (and disown criticism), the OROP issue is being presented as a big controversy shrouded in mystery.

Get facts right

Let’s get the facts right. The Indian Armed Forces are voluntary forces. There is no conscription. Men and women join the forces as jawans or officers for a variety of reasons and, among them, is the security of a job. While the job is reasonably secure, it is not a job for the entire working life. According to the report of the Koshiyari Committee, 85% of the Armed Forces personnel retire by the age of 38 years and another 10% retire by the age of 46 years. They have to work for a living for many more years, but there is no guarantee of a post-retirement job.

Retirement at an early age is good and necessary to keep the forces young and fighting fit. Hence the case for an honourable pension.

There is another reason to make pension an attractive term of service that has not been noticed adequately: it is to attract new volunteers. The attrition rates, and the vacancy levels, are alarmingly high and, if the Armed Forces have to remain voluntary forces, recruitment must remain robust. The promise of an honourable pension is an important factor in recruitment.

OROP is an honourable pension. The time to debate the merits and demerits of OROP is over. It was a decision taken by the UPA government and reiterated by the NDA government. Both may share credit.

Some more undisputed facts: While presenting the interim budget for 2014-15 on 17 February, 2014, I had said: “During the tenure of the UPA governments, changes in the pension rules applicable to the defence services were notified on three occasions in 2006, 2010 and 2013. As a result, the gap between pre-2006 retirees and post-2006 retirees has been closed in four ranks (subject to some anomalies that are being addressed): Havildar, Naib Subedar, Subedar and Subedar Major….. Government has therefore decided to walk the last mile and close the gap for all retirees in all ranks. I am happy to announce that government has accepted the principle of One Rank One Pension for the defence forces.”

What is orop?

On 26 February, 2014, the ministry of defence defined OROP and the following definition was communicated to the chiefs of the three services: “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 enhancements in the rate of pension to be automatically passed on to the past pensioners.”

It was a four-page, 12-paragraph letter that left no doubt on what was intended to be done. The conditions, modalities and the manner of implementation were spelt out in detail. On 22 April, 2014, a Working Group was constituted with the Controller General of Defence Accounts as the chairperson with Terms of Reference that included “to work out the detailed financial implications.” It was specifically stated that “since substantial increase is anticipated in expenditure on OROP, FA (DS) would thereafter seek additional funds as per requirement.”

Much is made of the fact that the interim budget provided only R500 crore. It was, as I had said, an estimate and the money was provided as “an earnest of the UPA government’s commitment.” Mr Arun Jaitley reaffirmed the commitment in his Budget Speech on 10 July 2014. And, pray, how much did he provide? He said, “we propose to set aside a further sum of R1,000 crore to meet this year’s requirement”!

So, why is the government adding ifs and buts? Why is the government adding unacceptable riders or conditions that will dilute the “commitment” of two successive governments?

Reject the objections

The sticking points are entirely due to bureaucratic back-pedalling and the inability of the government to overrule the objections. The promise must prevail over the objections, even if some of them appear valid. The promise was to implement OROP from 1 April, 2014, and not 1 July, 2014. The promise was same pension to personnel retiring in the same rank with the same length of service, and not grant of same pension by looking into the cause of retirement. The promise was that future enhancements in the rate of pension will be automatically passed on to the past pensioners, and not that the adjustment will be made every five years.

OROP is indeed a defined benefit pension and different from the National Pension System (NPS) which is a contributory pension scheme. A person who has a short working life in the Armed Services cannot contribute enough during that period to earn an honourable pension. Hence OROP.

Whatever it takes to implement OROP, the resources must be found. In 2010-11, the RBI transferred to government a surplus of R15,009 crore. Who thought RBI would transfer R65,896 crore in 2015-16? If there is will, a way can be found.

Website: pchidambaram.in

@Pchidambaram_IN

  1. P
    pkpk
    Sep 13, 2015 at 9:52 pm
    ADVICE to PM: Military and Veteran’s loyalty to government of the day should not be suspected but still party politics should be kept away. That doesn't mean military and veterans don't have right to ballot? Modi should ignore finance ministry objections on OROP and call a meeting of DM and service chiefs about sticking points on OROP. If it is only about few hundred crores or even 1000 crores more annually, decision should be in favor of veterans (that way OROP definition criteria set by Koshiyari committee would be met). Meanwhile, DM should call IT experts to discuss administrative modalities to roll out annual review (review was done annually for 26 years without computers before 1973). Arrears should be the prerogative of government but some of the dates were already committed by DM, if word of government counts anything? Detailed letter should be with all seriousness, considering veterans as children in the family. Once letter is issued, it would be difficult to backtrack and all kudos for good work done would come to naught. Please ignore pressure groups from finance ministry and veteran groups - it should be your call based on advice of DM, who happens to be head of department for veterans.
    Reply
    1. P
      pkpk
      Sep 13, 2015 at 12:46 am
      In this information age, everybody has access to TV news. They already have opinion formed. Rally at JM or no rally, veterans are united, whether veteran leaders are united or not? Wait for rally on 12th - my hunch is it will be a huge success - not for or against Gen Satbir, Balbir or Kadyan - but against VRS and review every 5 years in OROP draft. Govt has been wrongly advised to delay and dilute this measure, the best would have been on May 26th to announce full OROP, overruling Finance Ministry. 15th August announcement would have cut the losses. Bringing this discussion in public and thereby defaming the veterans that they are asking for more is most unfortunate for national security. Veterans never demanded anything. They were simply protesting to undo the Injustice meted out to them by babus in 1973 pay commission, which Modi had promised to address in Rewari. For 26 years they could review veteran pension annually when there were no computers, now babus find annual review administrative nightmare in this computer software age? Unfortunately for a Modi supporter (me included), despite having almost delivered on his promise on OROP, veterans will not vote for Modi in 2019. This is not a desirable thing but then who is to be blamed – Modi should have listened to his conscience rather than listening to Jaitley, who was first to support his candidature for PM but unfortunately reported contempt for the veterans in their just cause to undo injustice meted out to them in babu dominated 3rd pay commission?
      Reply
      1. P
        pkpk
        Sep 13, 2015 at 1:25 am
        In this information age, everybody has access to TV news. They already have opinion formed. Rally at JM or no rally, veterans are united, whether veteran leaders are united or not? Wait for rally on 12th - my hunch is it will be a huge success - not for or against Gen Satbir, Balbir or Kadyan - but against VRS and review every 5 years in OROP draft. Govt has been wrongly advised to delay and dilute this measure, the best would have been on May 26th to announce full OROP, overruling Finance Ministry. 15th August announcement would have cut the losses. Bringing this discussion in public and thereby defaming the veterans that they are asking for more is most unfortunate for national security. Veterans never demanded anything. They were simply protesting to undo the Injustice meted out to them by babus in 1973 pay commission, which Modi had promised to address in Rewari. For 26 years they could review veteran pension annually when there were no computers, now babus find annual review administrative nightmare in this computer software age? Unfortunately for a Modi supporter (me included), despite having almost delivered on his promise on OROP, veterans will not vote for Modi in 2019. This is not a desirable thing but then who is to be blamed – Modi should have listened to his conscience rather than listening to Jaitley, who was first to support his candidature for PM but unfortunately reported contempt for the veterans in their just cause to undo injustice meted out to them in babu dominated 3rd pay commission?
        Reply
        1. P
          pkpk
          Sep 17, 2015 at 6:29 pm
          Maj Gen Satbir Singh (Retd)’s Email to RM: Hon’ble Raksha Mantri, 1. Much awaited announcement on the Implementation of One Rank One Pension (OROP) as read out by you on 05th Sep 2015 has some serious shortcomings. If not corrected, will not only dilute the OROP but will destroy its approved definition. The urances given to the Defence Fraternity will remain unfulfilled. OROP had been denied to us for the past 42 years when OROP in the form Military Pension was withdrawn. Pensions for Military Personnel were reduced from 70% to 50% while that the civilian employees were increased from 33% to 50%. The ends of justice would have been met, had the Military Pensions were also proportionality increased or age of retirement brought on parity with civil. 2. The seven serious shortcomings in the implementation of OROP as announced by you on 05 Sep 2015 are as under:- • Instead of equalizing the pensions every year as required as per the approved definition, the Govt has announced equalization after 5 years. This would totally defeat the definition of OROP. Large number of senior defence personnel will start drawing less pension than juniors. This would result in One Rank Five Pensions and not One Rank One Pension. This is not acceptable. Veterans have software to overcome the administrative problems being quoted for the government. • The Govt plans to order one man commission to decide on the periodicity of the equalization of pension and other anomalies and has given six months time to the commission. The purpose of such a committee is not understood particularly since all issues have been resolved as stated by you after the last time the file was sent to finance ministry. This is grossly unfair and not acceptable. If committee is to be ordered, it must consist of five members: - three from ex-servicemen, one serving defence personnel and one from MoD. Such committee should be given only one month period to submit its report and within 15 days thereafter it must be processed and final decision implemented. • During our discussions with the Personal Secretary to the Hon’ble Prime Minister, base year 2013 – 2014 was accepted, that means as on 31 Mar 2014. However, in the Note issued by the Defence Minister, calendar year 2013 has been mentioned, that too the average of the calendar year. This is not acceptable. • The Govt plans to give arrears wef 01 Jul 2014 instead of 01 Apr 2014 The Govt has deprived the veterans three months of arrears. Once a Welfare Scheme has been sanctioned by the Govt, why is it being diluted to the disadvantage of defence veterans? Further if the date is changed to 01 Jul 2014 then the financial year must also change to 2014-2015. • It was agreed by you to grant highest of scale of rank and years the service. The Govt intention to grant average of the pay scale will greatly reduce the pensions. JCOs, ORs and widows will get hardly any increase in pension. • This is a concept which is to be executed in perpetuity. This was also agreed that the implementation of OROP is independent of Central Pay Commission (CPC). It is pertinent to mention that Pay Commission award must integrate the OROP and should not adjudicate on it. 3. The above may please to corrected before the issue of Govt Notification on OROP. You are also requested to incorporate reps of ESM for the preparations of Draft Govt Letter. May we request you to kindly grant meeting at the earliest to discuss all the above issues please. With regards, Yours Sincerely, Maj Gen Satbir Singh, SM (Retd)
          Reply
          1. P
            pkpk
            Sep 16, 2015 at 6:50 am
            Veterans must build media cell and provide news briefings to PTI, UNI, ANI, IANS and Reuters on their side of the story. Babus have taken care about all important media houses on their (govt’s) point of view. There should be no doubt that babus are running this govt, which is good for the administration but what is not so good is that they have got upper hand against military/veterans with active support of politicians. When they were working under congress rule, they found everything so bad about BJP and AAP etc. Now under BJP, they are having similar atude towards congress and AAP. Pity is they have bracketed veterans with AAP and congress, so that maximum harm can be done to veterans. Veterans are apolitical but don't expect them to do away with their genuine causes like OROP (not just pension enhancement but full OROP) and relative status of armed forces? Modi ke aagen babu, peechhe babu, office ke andar babu, PM house ke andar babu, charon taraf babu hi babu - chugliyan pe chugliyan - faujiyon ke khilaf. Ab fauji kya karen? PM unko p tak nahin aane deta. Door se kabhi kabhi hath mila leta hai laikin Gen Satbir se to hath bhi nahin milata? Badi khasta halat faujiyon ki ijjat ki ho rahi hai? U India Today, Times of India aur IBN CNN nen to OROP protests ki news tak bycott kardi hai pichhle kuchh dinon se?
            Reply
            1. P
              pkpk
              Sep 13, 2015 at 3:01 am
              What a great psychological warfare by BABUS on OROP! First fielding senior journalists like Shekhar Gupta to talk sweet about veteran cause but rule out less than 10 year review. Shekhar Gupta was again fielded to advise PM that he should unilaterally announce OROP what he felt was right and not to go for negotiations with veterans (PM obliged on his (or babu’s?) advice few days later).Media was bombarded with planted editorials, comments and stories that veterans were unreasonable, greedy and undisciplined. When public atmosphere was successfully created as anti-veteran, FM was fielded to rule out annual review, which is central to definition of OROP as per Koshiyari committee recommendations. Then mediator MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar was sounded that 2-3 year review could be possibility to lure under pressure veteran leaders to climb down from OROP definition (to show veterans bargaining for more money rather than on moral high ground that they were fighting for justice), which they did foolishly by publicly accepting review every two years if certain conditions (that no junior will get higher pension than a senior in the same rank) are met. Thankfully for the veterans, govt did not accept that offer and once again veterans have now fallen back to original demand of annual review as per Koshiyari committee recommendations. Whatever happens now whether govt accepts annual review or veterans are forced to go to courts, it is now 100% certain that they will only accept annual review. Veterans are on moral high ground again on OROP implementation that they are fighting for justice and not for more money, which is essential for continued public support. Nevertheless, round one goes to BABUS.
              Reply
              1. P
                pkpk
                Sep 13, 2015 at 9:53 pm
                What a great psychological warfare by BABUS on OROP! First fielding senior journalists like Shekhar Gupta to talk sweet about veteran cause but rule out less than 10 year review. Shekhar Gupta was again fielded to advise PM that he should unilaterally announce OROP what he felt was right and not to go for negotiations with veterans (PM obliged on his (or babu’s?) advice few days later).Media was bombarded with planted editorials, comments and stories that veterans were unreasonable, greedy and undisciplined. When public atmosphere was successfully created as anti-veteran, FM was fielded to rule out annual review, which is central to definition of OROP as per Koshiyari committee recommendations. Then mediator MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar was sounded that 2-3 year review could be possibility to lure under pressure veteran leaders to climb down from OROP definition (to show veterans bargaining for more money rather than on moral high ground that they were fighting for justice), which they did foolishly by publicly accepting review every two years if certain conditions (that no junior will get higher pension than a senior in the same rank) are met. Thankfully for the veterans, govt did not accept that offer and once again veterans have now fallen back to original demand of annual review as per Koshiyari committee recommendations. Whatever happens now whether govt accepts annual review or veterans are forced to go to courts, it is now 100% certain that they will only accept annual review. Veterans are on moral high ground again on OROP implementation that they are fighting for justice and not for more money, which is essential for continued public support. Nevertheless, round one goes to BABUS.
                Reply
                1. P
                  pkpk
                  Sep 13, 2015 at 9:54 pm
                  What a great psychological warfare by BABUS on OROP! First fielding senior journalists like Shekhar Gupta to talk sweet about veteran cause but rule out less than 10 year review. Shekhar Gupta was again fielded to advise PM that he should unilaterally announce OROP what he felt was right and not to go for negotiations with veterans (PM obliged on his (or babu’s?) advice few days later).Media was bombarded with planted editorials, comments and stories that veterans were unreasonable, greedy and undisciplined. When public atmosphere was successfully created as anti-veteran, FM was fielded to rule out annual review, which is central to definition of OROP as per Koshiyari committee recommendations. Then mediator MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar was sounded that 2-3 year review could be possibility to lure under pressure veteran leaders to climb down from OROP definition (to show veterans bargaining for more money rather than on moral high ground that they were fighting for justice), which they did foolishly by publicly accepting review every two years if certain conditions (that no junior will get higher pension than a senior in the same rank) are met. Thankfully for the veterans, govt did not accept that offer and once again veterans have now fallen back to original demand of annual review as per Koshiyari committee recommendations. Whatever happens now whether govt accepts annual review or veterans are forced to go to courts, it is now 100% certain that they will only accept annual review. Veterans are on moral high ground again on OROP implementation that they are fighting for justice and not for more money, which is essential for continued public support. Nevertheless, round one goes to BABUS.
                  Reply
                  1. P
                    pkpk
                    Sep 14, 2015 at 6:45 am
                    What a great psychological warfare by BABUS on OROP! First fielding senior journalists like Shekhar Gupta to talk sweet about veteran cause but rule out less than 10 year review. Shekhar Gupta was again fielded to advise PM that he should unilaterally announce OROP what he felt was right and not to go for negotiations with veterans (PM obliged on his (or babu’s?) advice few days later).Media was bombarded with planted editorials, comments and stories that veterans were unreasonable, greedy and undisciplined. When public atmosphere was successfully created as anti-veteran, FM was fielded to rule out annual review, which is central to definition of OROP as per Koshiyari committee recommendations. Then mediator MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar was sounded that 2-3 year review could be possibility to lure under pressure veteran leaders to climb down from OROP definition (to show veterans bargaining for more money rather than on moral high ground that they were fighting for justice), which they did foolishly by publicly accepting review every two years if certain conditions (that no junior will get higher pension than a senior in the same rank) are met. Thankfully for the veterans, govt did not accept that offer and once again veterans have now fallen back to original demand of annual review as per Koshiyari committee recommendations. Whatever happens now whether govt accepts annual review or veterans are forced to go to courts, it is now 100% certain that they will only accept annual review. Veterans are on moral high ground again on OROP implementation that they are fighting for justice and not for more money, which is essential for continued public support. Nevertheless, round one goes to BABUS.
                    Reply
                    1. P
                      pkpk
                      Sep 21, 2015 at 3:40 am
                      Your backstabbing the faujis genuine cause will be remembered forever! You know why you were fielded by babus this time? Because when they fielded jounalist like Shekhar Gupta in past, people pointed out that Shekhar was after all a bania so how would he have sympathy for veterans? Your backstabbing is much more serious and painful?
                      Reply
                      1. R
                        Ramachandran
                        Sep 15, 2015 at 4:13 pm
                        A well written article
                        Reply
                        1. S
                          S.Suchindranath
                          Sep 13, 2015 at 1:16 pm
                          The tragedy of good intentions that cannot shine through the bushel of Neta-Babu-Cop-Milard-Crony Kleptocratic policy bungling, past and present. Over the last 69 years the Neta-Babus have hood winked the armed forces by diluting the ranks and having more tail than teeth. I even came across a 23 years old "Subehdar" who had been directly recuited into "Army Catering" at his uncle's (a UP Yadav's) shifareez in 1997. Cariappa started it at Nehru's behest by drawing a line between the King's Commissioned Officers and the unfortunates who had their parchments signed by the likes of Pratibha Patil. V.K.Krishna Menon promoted Doctors as if this was no longer an Armed Forces but a Hospital for misuse by India's Kleptocrats. Today, we have a Gilbert and Sullivan Military, with ribbons ablaze and colourful turbans that is more about women's companies for RD Parade, obsolete, carcinogenic Aircraft Carriers for Fleet Reviews, a military Strategy that has been prepared by persons with no conception of even tactics, and a "Sacred Cow" DRDO that cannot produce anything worth while. While the real soldier, an abject minority, like British demonized Brahmins, is "paid to die", and the Police, with more stars between them than the entire milky way, which like the Judiciary, is more germane for breaking the law with impunity to loot and per the serfs of India, has more "Generals" per Taluk, than the entire Indian Army. Well, chickens come home to roost. The Armed Forces have bought the Nehru-hi-Ambedkar Neta-Babu illusion that Rank is Rank. From Medical Generals who got their medals fighting the President's sinus or the Babu's tonsils to the 23 years old Catering Subehdar as well as the Front Line Infantry Subehdar who has risked his life for 25 years, keeping his men alive in the most hostile of conditions with inadequate equipment and rifles that do not fire provided by a munificent and generous Neta-Babu Dom, to the 24 year old IAS First Cl First in Bhojpuri Literature who oversees India's Dam Construction with a "Notional Rank" of Brigadier. Welcome to the chaos of the Reservation-Corruption Raj of India's grotesque, plagiarized, "Divide to Rule" Consution and un accountable "Men of Straw":
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