The resolution of ‘one rank one pension’ (OROP) has been hanging fire for close to three decades. The issue arose because of the gross injustice done to the defence services in a range of areas concerning their pay and pension as compared to civil services. Right from the time the demand for OROP was projected, every conceivable ploy has been deployed by successive governments to stall the case. Now, when this issue is expected to be finally resolved, some hearts in the government have started bleeding for the soldier and have come up with the observation that in this OROP, soldiers stand to gain very little as compared to officers. Where were these ‘bleeding hearts’ all these decades when a soldier was persistently and grossly discriminated against?
Till about the fifties, a defence services retiree drew 70% of his last pay drawn as pension, whereas a civil employee’s pension was 30% of his last pay drawn.
Higher pension for defence personnel was due to their rather early retirement and extremely limited promotion avenues, leaving aside the travails of military service. The government reduced the pension of defence services retirees from 70% to 50% and jacked up that of civilian employees from 30%to 50%. This was done without any justification as there was no change in the employment parameters of the two set of employees.
To earn full pension, that is, 50% of the last pay drawn, an employee has to serve for 33 years. But in the case of army, over 85% are compulsorily retired before that length of service. Later, dispensation of 10 years was given which was subsequently increased to 12 years. Even with this dispensation, 80% of military personnel do not get 50% of the last pay as pension. In their case pension works out to approximately 37% of the last pay drawn. It has been a simple case where you compulsorily retire a soldier after 17 years’ service and then tell him that he cannot get full pension because he did not serve up to 33 years.
The latest move has been to instigate some directors general of central police organisations to contend before the Union home minister that the grant of OROP to defence personnel would lower the morale of their police personnel. One has to be a complete moron to weigh in the same scale the one who retires at 60 with another who is compulsorily retired at age 34-37 (even ignoring all the travails of military service) and then demand principle of parity in pensions, based on OROP.
Yet another ploy to delay and perhaps deny OROP is a crude attempt to create some rift between officers and soldiers, when the government alleges that it is the officers who stand to gain more than soldiers. This is being done by highlighting the gap in the increase in pension in the case of officers and that of soldiers. False and mischievous as it is, it has all the portents of creating serious problems in officer-man relationship in the military. Such false projections will greatly harm military as a cohesive and potent force.
Equally in this mischief the babu is deliberately concealing some pertinent facts. What is not being adequately explained is that on July 1, 2008, and again on September 24, 2012, as a sort of modified OROP, pension of only other ranks was increased, while officers (other than Lt Gens) were left out. However, in their case, the increase in their pension should have been from 2006, rather than from 2008. Unfortunately, successive governments have been given to cheating and cutting corners when it comes to defence services personnel’s entitlements.
So the aim to now rig up this issue of lesser increase for soldiers compared to officers is to put one more spanner in the works. These ‘bleeding hearts’ who have suddenly come alive should rather pitch in for waiving 33 years’ conditionality to earn 50% of the last pay drawn as pension, in the case of soldiers. This is what the top brass of the defence services must pitch in for. They owe this to their soldiers.
SUGGESTION BY FM
Now, notwithstanding the clarity brought about by the Koshyari Committee of Parliament, the finance minister has come up with yet another suggestion of a base pension for each rank and an additional amount for each year of service, in lieu of OROP. He seems to propose that all this be put before the 7th Central Pay Commission (CPC) to work out the details. He is merely further muddying the waters.
The Koshyari Committee had opined that payments be made from April 1, 2014, till the award of the 7th CPC was announced. Thereafter, the salaries of the serving personnel may be fixed by the 7th CPC and consequently pensions of defence personnel will follow as per rules. However, in all fairness, the 7th CPC needs to restore the differential of pension as existing prior to the 3rd CPC, which affects the largest number of exservicemen. The increase in civilian pensions and decrease in pensions of defence personnel was patently unjustified and against all norms of justice.