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Sunday, September 20, 2015
It’s time to analyze OROP with our head, not our heart - By Chetan Bhagat
Few government professions in India enjoy as much public goodwill as our defence forces. Mention the Indian Army (for the purpose of this article, Army includes all forces — Air Force and Navy as well) and our chests swell with pride. The Army works well, stays quiet, is apolitical and does a great job protecting our borders from some of our not-so-friendly neighbours. Even in times of domestic trouble, such as riots or floods, the Army is called in and things begin to get better. In times of war, or during terrorist acts, our soldiers lay down their lives or suffer grievous injuries in the line of duty. With all this selfless sacrifice, it is not difficult to see why the Army enjoys so much support from our civilian population. Our local culture, films and songs show the Army in a positive light (unlike the police and politicians). Media coverage, too, focuses on their sacrifice and hard work.
While this positive image is great, it can cloud an objective analysis of how we manage our defence resources in certain situations. One such issue is the OROP scheme. While OROP means ‘one rank, one pension’, it is a bit of a misnomer. It actually means one rank, the latest, highest pension for that rank, irrespective of when you retired. Army veterans essentially want an upward pension revision system for all past veterans or their surviving spouses, estimated to be around 3.2 million in number. There are several reasons why their demand is justified. Pension discrepancy between an officer who retired in 1990, versus an equal-ranked officer who retired in 2015 can be dramatic. A certain consistency was required, especially since the Army intrinsically believes in the concept of rank, and even allows one to keep it after retirement. Most political parties had also promised OROP in their election manifestos, so the government had to deliver at some point. Popular and social media also sided with the veterans, with arguments ranging from “they guard our borders so we should give them what they want” to “how can we disrespect our soldiers?”
Somewhere in all this, things became too simplistic. The Army was good and the veterans were always right. The political class and the government were all stingy, greedy and insensitive. After all, those who protect our borders must be treated well. OROP was seen as something that meant soldiers were treated well. Hence, you better give OROP, and now!
People who wanted to do an objective analysis had to scurry and hide in a corner. For nobody could hear a word against OROP, and with the veterans protesting in the Capital, even the government was pushed to a corner. OROP was announced. The government estimated a liability of around Rs 12,000 crore per year to just implement this one recommendation. However, the veterans were not happy. As you read this, other protests are being organized as the veterans feel many of their demands are not met.
What should we do? Should we still maintain the ‘Army Good, Politician Bad’ argument? Should we still say ‘give them whatever they want because they guard our borders’ (by the way, the Border Security Force, or BSF, does not get OROP)? Or should we now at least look at various aspects of OROP and, dare we say, its pros and cons?
We should. For, in a country of limited resources like India, an expense as big as OROP must be examined carefully, and kept in limits. At present, our defence budget is Rs 250,000 crore. In addition, we pay defence pensions of around Rs 60,000 crore per year. OROP will add another Rs 12,000 crore to it annually. Note that these pensions are, by definition, for services already rendered.These funds are given out with no output obtained in return. While we all agree we should treat Army personnel well, what’s better? To pay the veterans more, or to pay new hires in the Army more? To pay the officers more or the jawans more? To pay more to get better talent, or pay more and create more jobs? Should more money be spent on pensions, or more hospitals for veterans? Should war-affected veteran families be paid differently from those who retired safe and sound? As a solution to increased pension expense, can veterans be re-hired in certain jobs useful to the economy? Also, if we have OROP for defence, why not for our paramilitary and police? Can we afford to pay them all?
All these issues make OROP more complex than it seems, and it is about time we have a sane, objective debate about it rather than an emotional, army-is-amazing-so-just-give-it-everything one. Forget OROP, many sectors don’t even have pensions. Sure, a certain form of rank and pay equalization needs to exist so things don’t fall too far apart. However, it has to be done in the context of what is possible, affordable, and after analyzing what alternative welfare those funds can provide and the precedent it will set for others. Only then will we reach a good conclusion on OROP. We love our Army with all our heart, but it’s time we also think about issues related to it with our head.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.
Menon - Yes Chetan, OROP should be analysed with our heads – but with those heads that house knowledge and brains.
Surprisingly a Fauji Brat has total disconnect with fauji issues. This is not pulp fiction that can be churned out at a dime a dozen. It affects live people who have given their best to the Nation. It is always better to ascribe facts to ones writings unless it is intended to be a potboiler.
Firstly dear Chetan, OROP is not a ‘Scheme’. There is no scheming plan behind giving a person what is rightly his unless one schemingly tries to deny those dues.
Secondly, being a fauji brat you should know that the Army is not to guard the Borders. You have the Border Guards a.k.a the BSF for that. Ideally only 40% of the Defence forces should be deployed in hot areas where rapid deployment may not be possible. The rest are supposed to practice, and practice, for War. When Hostilities are imminent the Border guards are replaced by the Army and it is the Army that goes into war. The auxiliary forces like CRPF, BSF etc (jointly referred to as CAPFs) hold onto to areas captured by the Army that surges ahead. Just because the Army obliges the incompetent Administration (Babus) and Governance (Netas) by getting deployed on internal security please do not assume that this is their role.
They (the Army) are doing the job of CAPFs. Would you advocate paying them for this additional task? The role of the Paramilitary or Ardh sainiks is different and that is why the Army profile is maintained young. You cannot have a 50 year old Paramilitary Constable huffing and puffing while attacking through a minefield for a distance of over 800 yards and then engaging in hand to hand combat with the enemy. Didn’t your Dad tell you these tales of Valour?
Now about the costs that the babus have led people like you to believe. Rs 12000 crores is retrospect due to the delay caused by ‘scheming’ babus and not by an OROP scheme. The Govt. did not have to think with its head or bottom to write of Rs 40000 Crores as MAT to Corporates or 4750 Crores as salary hike to10 lakh bankers credited with Non Performing Assets of 3 Lakh Crores. The annual outflow is about 8200 Crores and that is about 2.2 of the Defence Budget.
In fact as a percentage of GDP, defence Budget has decreased over the years. Also, the conjured Rs 60000 Crores of Defence pension. Maybe you should know that it is actually around Rs 54000 Crores. This includes 22% Civilian paid out of Defence Estimates and 78% Defence personnel.
However, the payouts are 45% for Civilian paid out of Defence estimates and 55% for Defense Pensioners.
And – stop comparing of apples with orangutans – as in ‘many sectors don’t have pensions’. Many authors don’t get their books converted into movies for a fat sum so; will The Chetan Bhagat not permit cinematisation of his books?
Lastly – YES- we need to use our Heads – ONLY if the brains that are normally found there haven’t slipped down. ================================================
GV NARAYANA AF Veteran
YES MR C BHAGAT. Your OROP essay is akin to ASS's KICK WITH A COW's FACE.
Your homework on the subject is very very poor.
you would better maintain "Army best, Politician bad and St Fr Babu Worst" argument. Have some research and you will agree with this.
Sir, penning on matters of military is no childplay, unless you have some first hand experience. You are good at fiction, may be better as a judge in a dance competition and best at dancing with those dance comopetitor. And matters of military or civil administration and the intricacies is not your cup of tea.
And avoid venturing into it unprepared.
Anyway, thanks for dishing out some good words on FOUJIS, though your remarks at best are taunts.
A very interesting rebuttal to CB by Lt Gen BPS Mander (Retd). As received.
There is a very peculiar syndrome in India that when you excel in one field, you tend to believe that you have become in an expert in all. That is precisely Chetan Bhagat’s problem. Writing fiction, which he does well, is far removed from delving in facts and reality. While in fiction, the only limits are your own imagination, the latter requires attention and analysis of hard boiled facts which is not everyone’s cup of tea. OROP can never be analysed with the ‘heart’, and it never was; so let us desist from throwing red herrings into a smouldering pot.
Let me kill this point first. Whoever has spread this canard that the Army is asking for OROP because it ‘guards the borders and so it should get what it wants’, has reached the nadir of thought. Nobody is asking you to follow the ‘Army good, politician bad’ argument. It is invention of an empty mind and just goes to show that the concept of OROP has not been understood at all. Please recall the manner in which the defence forces have been short changed from independence to now, not only in finances, but in stature; and then say what you have to. Then also, sit and compare the NFUs and self fattening doles of the bureaucracy, not to mention the perfidious insertions in CPCs recommendations before making any such insinuations.
The second point is about the BSF and others who also guard the borders. We have no issue with them, as they are sister organizations. But this comparison must cease forever, because apart from the retirement age, there is a major factor which sets the armed forces apart. The Armed forces can take over their role, but they can never take over the role of the armed forces.
Also if there is a desire to give the OROP to paramilitary forces and police, for some unfathomable reason, please do so. We are not in competition with them. Or give us the same conditions of service as the PMF, where the defence soldier also retires at sixty. Let an ageing Army handle your country and see if it passes muster in the National Security Council.
Then there are two points that appear innocuously inserted in the article but have far reaching consequences. The first is this stuff about ‘whether to pay the veterans more to pay the new hires more’. This actually presupposes that a person in service will continue to serve in perpetuity and never retire. A serving soldier of today is a veteran of tomorrow; so what is applicable to the veteran of today is applicable to serving as well, albeit with a time delay. And to ask whether to pay the officer more or the jawan more smacks of a mischievous intent. Everyone knows that the pay scales are on a sliding scale of rank, so relationship between these cannot be divorced from each other. Is there an intent to drive a wedge between the soldier and the officer class? The results will be disastrous, even if it remotely comes to someone’s mind. The subject is best left at that.
The next is that the Army ‘intrinsically believes in the concept of rank and even allows one to keep it after retirement’. Let me give you a back ground to the Army ranks. Military ranks like ‘Colonel’ etc are authorised military titles as mentioned in the Article 18 of our constitution. These military titles are unique and have been given an exceptional status in the Constitution which says ‘Abolition of titles. No title, not being a military or academic distinction, shall be conferred by the State.’
And here is the reason for it. Commissioned officers are given these titles because in exceptional circumstances they are delegated certain judicial, executive, and operational powers which in normal course is vested with the President. These are:-
(a) Confirmation and execution of death sentences in times ofwar without any reference to the president for all accused so sentenced under military law.
(b) Establishing government in occupied and captured territories where the authority of constitution of India does not exist.
(c) Govern the areas under martial law where the writ of the civil government has ceased to run.
(d) Provide leadership and mange wars in a physical space falling outside of the jurisdiction of Indian Constitution.
The last point is about the financial effect and affordability by the Govt. There is a mention of ‘many sectors don’t even have pensions’. Yes they don’t. Because they have a eight hour job. They have overtime. They retire at 60. They sleep at home. They don’t have field areas. Their service conditions are friendly. It is an endless list. Pension is a security that, if you give your youth to the nation, the latter will look after you in your ageing years. Don’t ask this question from the defence forces; ask this to those who ironically are having the best of two worlds.
Then let me go back in history. I am sure that all are familiar with the fact that at the time of independence, the then honourable PM Shri Nehru appealed to the military to accept reduction in their compensation including pension, as poor Government of India couldn’t pay them that high salary with their stressed revenue collections. Military accepted the reduction showing true commitment to democracy, freedom and national development. But somehow the campaign of reduction of comparative compensation packages to military, which started as one time measure, is still continuing as a practice. It will be out of place to recount the kind of government expenses that are taking place and how little this amount of OROP is in terms of percentage; especially when it amounts to paying dues that should not have been taken away in the first place.
And I end, in good humour, requesting everyone not to fire these skewed arrows at us. If there is a problem, we are open to debate, provided it is one on one, and live on TV.
‘Tirchi nazron se naa maaro aashike dilgeer ko,
Kaise teer andaaz ho, seedha to karlo teer ko’
( Don’t shoot obliquely from a position of advantage. At least have the confidence to confront head on )
Lt Gen BPS Mander (Retd) ==============================================
Welcome to Sainik Darpan
The reply to Chetan Bhagat by Wg Cdr Unni Kartha (Rtd), shared by Col Latif is published at Sainik Darpan.
Appreciate your comments and suggestions. Looking forward.
Jaihind & Warm Regards,
Mahendra Sonawane Editor, Sainik Darpan
" The saddest part that I noticed this morning, at the end of your article, you have even solicited SMSs @ Rs 3 per sms. I presume that if 5 lacks citizens and veterans send you hate sms, you would be richer by Rs 15 lks by this evening, "
Please read on Unni Karatha's rebuttal to Chetan Bhagat:-
Refers Sunday Times Chetan Bhagat’s ‘It’s time to analyse OROP with our head, not our heart’
From your internet CV I gathered that your dad is (or was) an army officer (Lt Col) and your mom a NFU Govt employee in the agricultural ministry. I hope they are alive and well and pensionable ? If they are not, please accept my heartfelt sympathies. I too am an old, tired and retired soldier; perhaps a man like your dad. I can quite well imagine the trials and tribulations that you may have faced in your youth, the trauma of a gypsy’s life, moving from one school to another, making a few cursory friend here or there, but growing up lonely and sad. Perhaps you never liked the disciplined life that your dad proscribed, did you dislike your dad or the army for it ? I noted from your CV that one or both your parents made great sacrifices, way beyond the call of duty, to put you through IIT & IIM and spent money that they never had, to get you into a bank in Hong Kong, where despite 11 yrs of pampering at mind boggling salary, you were found a non-performer and cocked up the ‘khushi’ life facilitated by your doting parents. A loser. You then turned a writer and self-published banal, idiotic and highly unreadable trash. But I want you to know that, because you are an army brat, I love you like a son. I am proud of your accomplishments, even if you sit on your brains, become a presstitute, turn Judas, and write articles like the one in ToI this morning with no clue about what you are writing – just like the trash I have written about you above.
‘Excuse Mois S’il Vous Plait’, the above was simply to prove a point to you, lacks veracity, conviction or evil intent – I am not a presstitute!!!
This style of insidious reportage, propaganda bending facts, ill-conceived notions with a hidden agenda (like injecting a vaccine), paid reporting, or psy war, was invented by Dr Goebbels, the German propaganda minister during WW-II. Our MoD now even has a Psy War Cell !! Our venerable propaganda ministers (Jet Lee and Sharp Shooter R’Hore) are even more brilliant than Go or Mo Bhai, and have encouraged elevation of insidious and obnoxious reportage to a fine art, with Pulitzer calibre presstitutes like Shekhar Gupta. Now you too. I congratulate you on your joining this exclusive band wagon, the intellectual whores. The media of every kind seems to be within the iron fist of the propaganda ministers, with the ability of blacking out even the internet (another report in ToI that Surat has been blacked out).
The saddest part that I noticed this morning, at the end of your article, you have even solicited SMSs @ Rs 3 per sms. I presume that if 5 laks citizens and veterans send you hate sms, you would be richer by Rs 15 lks by this evening, that is besides what Lee & Hore Pvt Ltd, or ToI, must have paid you to write this deeply hurtful, but clever canard. You can now go laughing to the bank when it opens tomorrow. I have also noted that within minutes your article has triggered an online battle between ill-informed supporters of BSF and the army. Well done ‘Beta’, that is exactly what Lee & Hore Pvt Ltd wants. Screw the incredible Indian Army, Navy and AF, by bayonetting the hapless veterans.
Now that you have set the cat amongst the aged veteran pigeons, I humbly request you to pay a visit to Jantar Mantar, talk to a few tired and retired soldiers like me on what is OROP all about ? Investigate the gross injustice perpetuated by successive Govts for 40 yrs. Read the Koshyari CommitteeReport,the SC judgement, and check out two all-party parliamentary approvals, all about implementation of OROP which Lee, Chaddi & Hore Pvt Ltd doesn’t want to do using concocted and incredible arguments, God knows for what purpose or intent. I strongly recommend that you meet the functionaries of the OROP protest to hear what they have to say, ask Air Mshl Savoor Rtd about the actual financial implications. Find out the truth behind the evil machinations of Lee, Chaddi & Hore, our GoI Pvt Ltd.
And after you do all these, fully educated yourself on the subject of OROP, please sit and write another balanced analysis. I will then be even more proud of you, sing your praise all the way when I go to Valhalla. By the way the Lt Cols, Cols, Brigs and Generals (+ their equivalents), they are not fighting for OROP, they are simply, peacefully, seeking justice; not for themselves, but for the men whom they commanded in peace or war, in the best traditions of the armed forces of India. So what if they are retired, it is a family like none other. Believe you me Chetan, if these old men start a fight, god bless you all.