Friday, July 25, 2014

One rank, one pension: A betrayal in the offing

One rank, one pension: A betrayal in the offing

Lt Gen Harwant Singh (retd), Hindustan Times  Chandigarh, July 25, 2014
First Published: 09:52 IST(25/7/2014) | Last Updated: 09:59 IST(25/7/2014
The life expectancy of a grade-four civil employee is around 72 years, whereas in the case of a soldier, it is 62 years, notwithstanding the fact that a soldier is physically fit when he retires.
Then what shortens his life span? He is packed off on a meagre pension (due to his short period of service and, thus, not getting to the top of his pay band) when his family commitments just about start.
In monetary terms and at the existing pay scales and without taking into account the likely increases that the next three pay commissions may bring about, a soldier retiring today would, at his present scale of pension, get about Rs. 37 lakh less than a Class-4 employee of the central government when both reach 60, the age at which the class-4 employee retires. One wonders if the finance minister, given his legal background, is able to weigh the evidence on record adequately.
India is perhaps the only democracy where veterans had to resort to hunger strike and deposit medals to make a series of uncaring governments see the injustice being meted out to them. Yet there has been no positive outcome and the defence fraternity continues to suffer at the hands of callous and uncaring governments.
The very definition of OROP, earlier accepted by defence minister AK Antony, others, and parliamentary committee headed by Bhagat Singh Koshiyari is being reinterpreted by the babus in the ministry of defence, to the great disadvantage of defence retirees. Simply defined, OROP implies that uniform pension be paid to 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 passed on automatically to past pensioners. This implies bridging the gap between the rate of pensions of the current and the past pensioners.
A different range of figures to meet the requirement of OROP are being projected by the babus to scare the finance minister. Whatever be these figures, it is more an issue of justice and fair play.
This injustice to soldiers was taken in hand soon after independence and has been unrelenting in content and scope since then.
Of course, the governments have been following the policy of divide and rule. When the new pay code was introduced, it excluded the Kings Commissioned Officers, (KCIOs) because they were occupying the top echelons of the army and could protest. Later the service chiefs have been excluded from the fall in status, pay and allowances to which the rank and file has been subjected in a sustained and unremitting manner.
Perhaps the finance minister is not alive to the fact that the babus are leading him into a situation where he would diminish the credibility of his own prime minister, who had committed to the grant of OROP, as known.
(The writer, a former deputy chief of the army staff, is a security issues commentator. Views expressed are personal.)

(Source- Hindustan times)

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