Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Don't let babus derail OROP, override them with strong political mandate

Citizens may have been surprised and even embarrassed by the face-off between government and military veterans seeking the grant of seeking the grant of OROP ­ One Rank, One Pension. It should never have been allowed to happen.What may not be well known is that OROP had always been accorded to our armed forces but was unilaterally withdrawn by the Central Pay Commission (CPC) in 1973 when Indira Gandhi was the prime minister. Though subsequently re-sanctioned in principle, OROP has never again been re-implemented for the armed forces.
OROP has political consensus and approval of the Parliament, but successive governments have failed to undo the injustice done to our armed forces four decades ago. Even a nod from the Supreme Court has not helped.
When Prime Minister Narendra Modi entered the scene, expectations ran high with our armed forces community. But the breakdown of talks after Independence Day has deepened the crisis.
The impression that has clearly emerged from failed talks with military veterans is that lurking deep within the system is a formidable force with an opposing view. It seems the government is struggling with another constituency ­ the civilian bureaucracy ­ that is deter mined to retain its own OROP: Obdurately Retain Our Precedence.
The country has to contend with the bureaucracy , to whom the political system remains beholden. Regrettably , political indifference has allowed a `Yes Minister' syndrome to prevail.
With the nation in full support but the bureaucracy out of sync, the only way that OROP for the armed forces can ever be implemented, is through a politically overriding mandate.
Curiously, OROP is going the same way as the attempt to reform our armed forces with a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) system. The similarity is startling.
In most countries with major armed forces, CDS has been accepted as the greatest reform since World War II. India remains the exception. In some countries such as the US, it had to be enforced through a strong political mandate.
To the bureaucracy, what finally matters is the inter-se equation with other institutions. And the military has always been their main obsession. When opportunity came their way in 1973, the CPC introduced a devious civil-military fiscal equivalence wherein a combat soldier was placed below a semi-skilled worker.
Further, not only was OROP withdrawn but the scales of military pensions were drastically reduced by almost 25% and that of the civilian bureaucracy increased by a similar amount. Thereafter the bureaucracy contrived a mechanism that linked pay scales to rank structure, acquiring for itself the prima donna status.
No modus vivendi is likely to resolve the impasse with OROP; it requires an overriding political mandate. Hope springs eternal with Modi at the helm; he could well take the bull by the horns.

Sushil Kumar(The writer was Navy Chief and Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee)
(Source- TOI)

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