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Monday, September 21, 2015
OROP: Stop misleading the people and come out with the arithmetic - By Brig V Mahalingam Veteran
The “public good will” which the author says the defence services enjoy loses all its import when a soldier is made to struggle to feed his family and finds no way to educate his children with his meagre pension. Under such circumstances, all talk of a soldier’s sacrifice in the line of duty, discipline etc. gives the impression of a mocking glee after being exploited, particularly so when he has been rendered voiceless. Do we realise that the retirement benefits which a soldier receives at the time of retirement is spent in the education of his young school going children and in marrying them off besides augmenting the short fall in his monthly budget? Are we aware that retiring 20 years later with the benefits of at least two subsequent Pay Commissions and increases due to increments, promotions and dearness relief added, the retirement benefits and pensions of a civilian is much higher than a soldier? Can we not see the disparity? Do we as a society realise that while a soldier is in service, his family suffers due to his absence and the constant anxiety of risks to his life and limbs while after his retirement it is the state of penury that plagues them.
Post retirement, are we as a country expecting the soldiers to go begging with their family behind them after having risked their lives guarding the borders in inhospitable terrain and weather conditions staying away from their near and dear ones? Is good living and the privilege of educating their children with aspirations for their future only the preserve of those who can manage their career and lives with income from both legal and other sources? Are soldiers not entitled to live with dignity and pride of a retired warrior? Or should they perish as defeats in the streets of this great country?
The author seems to be complaining that “people who wanted to do an objective analysis had to scurry and hide in a corner?” If indeed some people have sprinted away, taken cover and gone mute it is nothing but their feeling of guilt and an attempt to hide facts from the people of this country. When the author says that the “government estimated a liability of around Rs 12,000 crores per year to just implement this one recommendation”, is he not telling a lie? What is he attempting to convey when he says “per year”? Is he not trying to misrepresent facts? Is that not aimed at misleading the people? Is the author aware that the soldiers were cheated in broad daylight in 1973 by reducing the officers’ pension from 70 % of last pay drawn to 50 % and that of the soldiers from 70 to 37 % with a promise of OROP yet to be delivered?
Does anyone know the financial implications of OROP as per the government’s calculations? Till date the government has not spoken a word about it. Why are we writing about an issue without even knowing the facts? Before penning that article, I wish the author had done some homework to understand the ‘arithmetic’ of this scheme which this good governance government has been working out for the past one year! Is it not sheer intellectual dishonesty to write something without knowing the facts thereby spreading falsehood?
The military veterans want the “arithmetic” of this scheme as worked out by the government which seems to be scaring them to be put out in the public domain. This will enable the people of the country to see the actual financial liability and the scheming ways of those who are attempting to block this benefit to the Veterans. Let me assure one and all, if indeed this scheme is going to cost “tens of thousands of crores” as being falsely propagated, many of the Veterans would stick their neck out to moderate the demand. If the government fails to place facts in the open, it would be for no other reason than to cheat the Veterans.
The author’s statement “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?)”, is yet another propaganda tool of the government to confuse the issue. The military is not demanding OROP because they are guarding the borders. It is to compensate the soldiering community for their early retirement. The loss to overall life time income of an officer due to early retirement is to the tune of rupees one crore and that of the other ranks is about rupees 80 lakhs. This is not including the increased retirement benefits, the perks and facilities which one enjoys by serving up to 60 years of age. The central armed police force personnel do not retire at the young age of 35 / 40 or their officers at the age of 54 as in the case of defence services officers. The question is why should a soldier earn less than his civilian counterpart? Are they doing an inferior job? Or are they the second class citizens of this country?
The author’s statement “in a country of limited resources like India, an expense as big as OROP must be examined carefully and kept in limits” is a very welcome assertion. Did anyone question the impact of tax exemptions to the tune of Rs 62398.6 crores to the corporates, a figure 8% higher than the previous financial year 2013 – 2014, an ever-increasing loss in perpetuity year after year? What about the non-performing assets in the public sector banks which stood at Rs 2, 27,264 crores at the end of 2014 of which Rs 34,620 crores have been written off this financial year (FY)? Aren’t the balance amounts going to be written off in due course of time without even debating it publically, unlike the OROP? What about the agricultural loan waiver of Rs 60,000 crores which went up to Rs 71680 crores during the FY 2007–08? Many complain even today that the small farmers and the poor did not get the relief. What about the Rs 2.79 lakh crores written off during the same FY, the tax and duty dues to the government? The combined loss to BSNL and MTNL during the FY 2014–15 is to the tune of Rs 53.52 billion rupees. Were these losses to the tax payer “examined carefully” and were they not “big” enough?
The author states “we pay defence pensions of around Rs 60,000 crores per year. OROP will add another Rs 12,000 crores to it annually”. This is unsubstantiated data and is sheer falsehood, probably created to scare the common man. The defence ministry’s pension bill for the FY 2015–16 incidentally as per official documents is Rs 54,500 crores. Of these it is learnt that approximately Rs 22500 crores is spent on the pension of civil pensioners of the ministry. The author may like to check on his facts.
While implementing the 6th Central Pay Commission’s (CPC) recommendations, the government granted Non Functional Financial Upgradation (NFFU) to all officers of the Organised Group A Services (58 Services) under a logic “most of the services still have a great degree of stagnation at Senior Administrative Grade (SAG) and Higher Administrative Grade (HAG) levels”. The NFFU is the financial upgradation to an officer of the service irrespective of the place or his appointment as and when an officer of his batch is posted to an appointment tenable by SAG or HAG grade of pay. By this process, every officer of these services will reach the apex scales during their service which will automatically entail them to receive OROP. Compare this to the stagnation in promotion in the defence services. It is only 0.8 % army officers who reach the level of major generals, equivalent of Joint Secretaries after 28 years of service while 100 % officers of these services reach that rank in 19 years of their service. Pray tell me where exactly is the stagnation? Why this twist in logic?
Where did the logic of “country of limited resources” and “an expense as big as OROP must be examined carefully and kept in limits” vanish when the Indian bureaucracy indulged in serving their own self surreptitiously? Are we aware of the way the bureaucracy has managed treatment for themselves abroad? If not readTreatment abroad: Government to reimburse the total cost incurred by bureaucrats. The story of how the bureaucrats had granted for themselves two additional increments beyond those sanctioned by the Union cabinet is available at Primus Inter Predators? Do these advantages to the bureaucracy not have financial implications? Why are we as a nation blind to these transgressions and chose to question only OROP which is the legitimate demand of the military veterans?
Let us now think about these issues “with our head”? Why not have the same retirement ages for the civil services too like the defence services, the officers retiring at the age of 54 and the others after 15 to 25 years of service depending on their rank? Let us have the same proportion of vacancies in various ranks and similar promotion system to avoid disparity. We will be thus providing the unemployed youth of this country increased job opportunities and will enable greater turnover of personnel in government services. In such a scenario, there will be no case for OROP to anyone.
Questions like “to pay the veterans more or to pay new hires in the army more” posed at the end of the article only confirms a soldier’s suspicion that he has been used and is now being considered expended material to be allowed to perish without incurring any further expenditure. Such ungrateful thought besides rubbishing a soldier’s sacrifices in his younger days has very serious repercussions on the morale, the risk taking spirit and the sacrificing attitude of the serving soldiers. Don’t forget when a serving soldier sees a veteran being treated the way he has been, he knows his future.
When a government breaches its part of the unwritten obligation to a soldier to take care of him and his family in his sunset years, can the soldier remain unaffected? Will he falter in his commitment to kill and get killed if need be to protect the integrity, dignity, honor, values and objectives of the nation on behalf of the people?