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One Rank One Pension

GOVT’S FRAUD ON EX-SERVICEMEN

By Col (Dr) PK Vasudeva (Retd)

New Delhi, Oct 12 : Ex-servicemen have reason to be angry. The Centre’s grant of Rs 2300 crore to the defence services and its claim that it has moved towards granting One Rank One Pension (OROP), as demanded has sadly proved to be a fraud. The ex-servicemen who have been agitating for OROP for over three decades had an initial sense of relief with the grandiose announcement by the Government last month that the Cabinet had approved their demand, but it was short lived.

Once the details of the decision unfolded, it came to light that the approval is nowhere close to the OROP they had been agitating for. What has been given, albeit grudgingly, does not even meet the provision of the Armed Forces Tribunal Judgements in favour of the Defence Personnel, which is effective since 01.01.2006.

Till the 60s, OROP was in vogue as Military Pension, and the faujis got 65 per cent of their last pay because most had to retire in their late 40s/early 50s while civilians got 33 per cent since all served up to 58 years. The 3rd Pay Commission abolished Military Pensions, reduced it to 50 per cent, increased civil pensions to 50 per cent, and added a proviso that to earn full pension a Government servant must serve for 33 years. Thus, most military men seldom got full pension because very few could serve for 33 years, but the civil servants invariably did because they served till the age of 58, and met the criteria.

The perfidy of this rule and shabby treatment meted out to the Armed Forces is indeed unfair. The Supreme Court has already declared that pension is “delayed wages for services already rendered”. Thus, Colonel ‘A’ who retired with 24 years of service at the age of 48 years in 1989 must get the same pension as ‘B’ who retires today at the age of 50 years with 24 years of service. Why must Colonel ‘A’ need to beg when he is only seeking justice as he had to retire at a much younger age than his civilian contemporary who joined the IAS at the same time?

The civilians do not retire with only 24 years service at the age of 50 as they carry on till the age of 60. In fact, the Supreme Court recently was constrained to rebuke the Government for “treating soldiers like beggars”. Regrettably our media, which is the fourth estate and takes up issues, has not cared to highlight the military’s issues.

Indeed, the OROP story has turned out to be a cruel joke on the defence personnel by the Centre. Not for the first time, has the Union Government spread canards, to slow down the momentum of demands, and package implementation of court orders to pass off as OROP.  It is a sad state of affairs when our establishment treats its people as though they belong to the other side of the border. The neglect of Armed Forces shall prove to be suicidal for the nation as the morale of the troops is low and god forbids, hostilities erupt with our neighbour. Recall that after his recent visit to J&K, Defence Minister A K Antony had apprised the Prime Minister about this low morale, following which a committee under the Cabinet Secretary was set up to address the anomalies in the defence forces pay and allowances.

However, the OROP issue that has been analysed for over seven months by members of a Committee of Parliament had an awkward situation wherein a Committee of secretaries gave evidence against its grant. Little else could be expected from it and the Prime Minister, Defence Minister and the three Chiefs were apprised of the apprehensions. Worse, it is a great pity that the demand by three Chiefs to include members from the serving and retired defence personnel in the Committee was not accepted.

At the end, the Government not only has left 39 serious anomalies in pay & pension of defence personnel unresolved, it has also not implemented the judgements of Armed Forces Tribunal & Supreme Court given in favour of defence personnel. This apart, the recommendations of Rajya Sabha Petition Committee on OROP strongly recommending it for the defence personnel too have not been implemented.

OROP basically implies payment of uniform pension to personnel retiring in the same rank with the same length of service irrespective of their date of retirement. Consequently, any enhancement in pension rates is automatically passed on to past pensioners.

Officials said the recent package had sought to “bridge the gap”’ between the pensioners who retired before January 1996 and those who superannuated after that date and was “expected to largely meet the demands on OROP”. However, OROP is meant to ‘remove the gap’ rather than ‘bridge the gap’. There is thus a situation where “a sepoy, Naik and Havaldar have been given an increase of only Rs 400 per month, whereas a sepoy who retired in January 2012 draws approximately Rs 4,000 more than retirees prior to 2006”.

The Supreme Court, in its latest ruling set right another anomaly of the bureaucracy where rank pay granted by the 4th Central Pay Commission was illegally deducted from the pay of the officers of the rank of Captain to Brigadier. A large number of such officers have already died and the number may be 15000 of nearly 40,000 affected. There is all likelihood that the veterans and the next of kin of the deceased officers will be able to get this benefit.

This apart, the 6th Pay Commission gave non-functional upgradation to all the Central services (51) including the paramilitary forces, whereby every officer from these services retire in the grade of additional secretary, irrespective of vacancies. Sadly, the political and bureaucratic leadership seems to have closed its eyes when it comes to the defence services.

Well, playing games with faujis all the time can’t be a coincidence and appears to be a sinister design. It is highly de-motivating factor for the military as it makes defence services a low priority career choice, and weakens the fabric of our national security.

The ex-servicemen propose not to give up their fight and expect the Government to do justice. The fraternity is all set to intensify their all-India protest from December 1 but in a dignified manner. Will the Government pay heed gracefully? — INFA

(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

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