Jun 01 2015 : The Times of India (Hyderabad)
With ex-servicemen threatening to gherao Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his
next Independence Day address, the latter sought to reassure them that his
government was committed to fulfilling the One Rank One Pension (OROP) demand.
Ensuring pension parity for defence personnel who retire at the same rank and with
the same length of service, irrespective of their date of retirement, was a BJP
election promise during Lok Sabha polls last year. Despite the Modi government
completing a year in office, OROP is yet to see the light of day.
The incumbent government isn't alone in dragging its feet over this key demand
of armed forces personnel. Successive governments, including the previous Congress
led UPA, are guilty of kicking the OROP can down the road. As a result, huge
disparities exist between pensions drawn by ex-servicemen de pending on when they
retired from the force. For example, a major who retired before 1996 gets 53% less
pension than a major who retired after 2006. True, military pensions were reduced
and aligned with civilian pensions after the Third Pay Commission's recommendations
in 1973. But this overlooks the fact that defence personnel have much shorter career
spans in comparison to civil servants. Plus, the latter enjoy other privileges such as
protection of employment under the Disability Act which do not extend to soldiers.
In such a scenario, OROP is a valid demand that has even been recognised by the
Supreme Court. But those who defend the country's borders have to wait for years
for their concerns to be taken seriously.That said, given the large payout OROP entails
estimated at around Rs 8,750 crore initially it must be accompanied by simultaneous
streamlining of defence expenditure.
Slashing non-operational flab, such as doing away with the orderly system for officers
and curtailing the practice of deploying soldiers for escort duties, is imperative. Hand in
hand with OROP there should be a detailed review of armed forces manpower and
infrastructure.OROP provides government an opportunity to show it cares for
exservicemen as well as effect a much needed restructuring of the armed forces.
A review of strategy is needed as well, as wars of the future won't resemble the
conventional warfare of the past. The aim should be to create a leaner,cost-effective
and well-equipped force with a better teeth-to-tail ratio and greater emphasis on