Saturday, September 19, 2015
Veterans' agitation over OROP is back: Here's one viable solution to the issue
After the disappointment on the announcement to One Rank One Pension, the defence service veterans are returning to the agitation. While most newspapers blacked out the rally that they had organised last Sunday, the angst is rising.
Senior officials are holding back some of the agitators from taking the protest to the next level. A section of them wants to go ahead with a Rail Roko and are even ready lay down their lives for it.
It's time that the government learnt from past agitations, like the violent Gujjar agitation in Rajasthan that cost several lives. In fact, it is not that they don't understand it, but they do not see themselves as 'the government'. This lack of confidence makes the defence minister and even the prime minister almost helpless in controlling the babudom.
Interestingly, the government has accepted the concept of the OROP. The veterans have welcomed only one condition and all the other five conditions imposed by the government for implementing OROP stand rejected.
The only way to make both the veterans and the babus see eye to eye on the issue is by ensuring that the norms that govern the defence veterans is also applicable to all civil servants, babus and bureaucrats.
So if there is a minimum condition of 14 years of service imposed for defence officials the same should be applied to the bureaucrats. They will also get the benefit of their pensions if they meet the same years of service.
Similarly, the condition that the pension will be equalised or appraised after every five years should be applied to the babus too. This would be an important condition if it were to apply across the board as it will reduce the annual increase in the pension burden. Actually it will help setoff the increase in pension for defence officials with a corresponding reduction in the bureaucrats' pensions every year.
This setoff is a great way of justifying the application of the norms.
Babus cannot object to these conditions as they are the ones who have prepared it in the first count. Moreover, if they are so worried about the rise in the pension budget they should be willing to allow this balancing act.
There is also an historical precedent to this that can be used by the leadership. Last time in 1973 when equalisation of pension happened, the concept applied to defence services and babus at the same time. The pension for defence personnel was brought down from 70 percent to 50 percent of the salary, while for the babus it was raised from 30 percent to 50 percent.
Besides the historical precedence for the application of the OROP, there is also a legal status for this. As one part of the government (defence ministry ) is saying that they have accepted the concept of OROP, it should by law apply to bureaucrats too.
K Yatish Rajawat is columnist and policy commentator based in Delhi. He tweets @yatishrajwat