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Sunday, May 31, 2015
'One rank one pension' overhaul delayed as paramilitary forces fear demoralisation
Concerns raised by chiefs of paramilitary forces over the granting of one rank one pension (OROP) only to the armed services could be a reason for the perceived delay in the announcement of the mega scheme. “Several chiefs of paramilitary forces have discussed the issue with home minister Rajnath Singh and told him that it would lead to demoralisation in their ranks,” an aide close to the minister said.
Singh, in turn, has flagged the “deep resentment” among paramilitary forces to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and finance minister Arun Jaitley, HT has learnt. The government is now caught between an upset paramilitary force that has a strength of over nine lakh personnel and defence ex-servicemen who are threatening an agitation on June 14 if OROP is not announced soon.
The initial corpus of the scheme is estimated to be around Rs 8,300 crore. This amount would increase considerably if the scheme is rolled out to paramilitary forces too.
A senior official in the finance ministry, however, said they were hopeful of “pushing the one rank one pension for the armed forces under the military category”.
HT spoke to two paramilitary chiefs who said “their boys” faced equal if not more hardship than the army but currently get a lower risk allowance. “In Kashmir, we feel as cold as the army does in -10 degree temperature and face the same enemy,” one chief said.
Another pointed to the fact that the paramilitary forces account for more deaths than the army in Kashmir, the northeast and in Maoist-affected areas. “The last time the army fought a war was in Kargil in 1999. We are battling terrorists and Maoists every day. We have to keep our men motivated,” another chief said.
Officials close to defence minister Manohar Parrikar, however, said he has firmly voiced his opinion that while paramilitary personnel retire only at the age of 60, army jawans start retiring as early as 35 and so their pensions can’t be equated.
Six paramilitary forces have, however, petitioned the 7th pay commission and submitted memorandums asking for parity in allowances. BSF director general DK Pathak confirmed a memorandum has been submitted. “We have flagged our concerns and the commission will be touring various centres,” he said.
The director generals of paramilitary forces have asked the commission to create a uniform band in which every soldier — army, navy, air force, BSF, CRPF or ITBP — is given equal money under allowances categorised as risk allowance or hard area allowance. “Granting of OROP to the defence services when we don’t even get the same hardship allowance leads to demoralisation. We are told we can’t get the same allowance because the government does not have the money,” the director general of one paramilitary force said.
One rank one pension remains a promise the Modi government has not been able to fulfil in one year. Ex-servicemen were expecting the PM to make the announcement at his Mathura rally on May 25. The delay resulted in army veterans boycotting a function attended by Parrikar earlier this week.
“We are committed to OROP and are working out final calculations,” a finance ministry official said. “The concerns of the paramilitary forces are an issue but not insurmountable.”