Tuesday, June 16, 2015


Jun 16 2015 : The Times of India (Hyderabad)

Roman emperor Augustus started the tradition of military pensions in 13 BC by guaranteeing life pensions to every legionary who fought 20 years for Rome. It set the bar for all modern armies and independent India continued the British tradition of financially privileging military service until 1973, when soldiers were paid more than civilian bureaucrats.


That changed with the Third Pay Commission, which brought military salaries in line with civil services. It set us down the road to the current fight over one-rank-one-pension (OROP) by military veterans. 

With ex-soldiers going on relay hunger strikes in over 50 towns, putting up posters across cities with the A R Rahman-Rockstar catchline `sadda haq aithe rakh' [put our right here], circulating internet memes showing soldiers turning into skeletons as they wait for their dues, and at least one former army vice-chief writing publicly to veterans to pose a “viable and potent threat of sabotaging the aspirations of BJP“ in upcoming Bihar elections, OROP has become a political hot potato. 

Yet, listening to the agitators it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the fight for equal pensions is at its heart a proxy battle for what soldiers see as restoring their lost `izzat', for getting what they see as their rightful place in the civil-military balance where political control of the military has translated into bureaucratic control. 

The biggest argument against OROP ­ the notion that every pension-eligible soldier who retires in a particular rank should get the same pension irrespective of when he retired ­ is: What happens if other uniformed services like BSF, CRPF and so on also demand the same right?

This is a facile question because unlike bureaucrats and paramilitary forces who all serve till 60 years of age, most military soldiers retire at 35-37 years of age, while officers below brigadier-or-equivalent do so at 54. The nation retires soldiers early to keep the army fit and young. They must be compensated adequately.

Secondly, the Sixth Pay Commission granted what bureaucrats call “nonfunctional upgrade“(NFU) to officers in all-India Group A services.This is a sort of ’pay-romotion' allowing them to draw higher pay than their rank under certain conditions. Almost all civil servants benefit from this while defence services officers do not. As lawyer Navdeep Singh points out, NFU is a sort of “OROP by backdoor for civil servants“. 

Third, for some unfathomable reason, serious disparities seem to have crept into other field allowances. For example, army special forces soldiers get an extra Rs 800-1,200 per month as allowance, while Cobra commandos of the paramilitary forces earn an extra Rs 7,200-11,000 per month. 

Fourth, compared to the bureaucracy, police and paramilitary, defence forces keep their career pyramid much steeper to ensure professional standards. Only 0.8% of defence officers make it to the rank of major general after 28 years of service, compared to a much higher rate of civil servants who are eligible to become joint secretaries, an equivalent rank, at 19 years of service. 

Fifth, other democracies privilege their soldiers better. In salaries and special allowances American soldiers have a 15-20% edge over other government employees, British 10%, Japanese 12-29% and French soldiers 15%. In pensions, while Indian soldiers get 50% of their last pay per month, American soldiers get 50-75%, Australian 76.5%, Japanese 70% and French soldiers 75%. 

The UK has embraced one-rank-onepension for soldiers. Our two biggest strategic challenges, Pakistan and China, have of course always privileged their military . This is why the Supreme Court on 9 September 2009, parliamentary standing committee on defence in May 2010, and Rajya Sabha committee on petitions on 19 December 2011 all backed the OROP demand. 

The question is how much it will cost? This is where soldiers allege bureaucratic games. In 2011, the defence ministry told a parliamentary committee that annual costs would be Rs 3,000 crore while the finance ministry calculated a figure of Rs 1,300 crore. In 2014, the defence ministry's controller general of defence accounts reportedly estimated Rs 9,300 crore and current reports point to a figure closer to Rs 8,000 crore. 

Whatever the final number, it is much more than the Rs 1,000 crore that finance minister Arun Jaitley allocated to OROP in his 2014-15 budget. Even so, for a country with an annual defence budget of Rs 2,20,000 crore and which relies so much on its soldiers, we should be willing to bear this.

The longer the fight drags on, the longer India's soldiers feel unappreciated.Nehruvian India, fearful of military coups which engulfed every other post-colonial democracy from Asia to Africa, gradually reduced the place of soldiers in the administrative hierarchy in orders of precedence and pay. The time has come to go beyond patriotic slogans and meaningless jingoistic saluting and reset the civilmilitary balance, restoring the military its rightful place in a confident democracy. 

With military veterans asking “where are acche din for us“, returning their medals and sitting on relay-hunger strikes, the prime minister must heed to Chanakya, the architect of the first pan-Indian empire, who is said to have advised Chandragupta Maurya: “The day a soldier has to demand his dues will be a sad day for Magadha. From then on you have lost all moral sanction to be king.“

(Source- TOI)


  1. Is Mr. Jaitly THE FINANCE MINISTER of India listening.

  2. Why the disparity in pensions? All old retirees hang their uniforms in their respective ranks at the highest of scale of their rank(in most cases with some stagnation increments) but when they are fixed in the new pay commission they are brought to the 50% of the lowest of scale(rather than highest of scale)!! The 7th CPC needs to correct this anomaly. So atleast once in 10 years OROP of all Central Govt emp is applied.

  3. The ground reality of OROP. A widow of Sepoy with 15 yrs is presently getting a normal pension of 3462/-(auth PCDACircular 502). The OROP draft(as available on net) proposes 5646/-. Not too much to ask for.A widow of Brig normal pension is 17487/-(PCDA circular 500) the OROP now proposes Rs 23421/-. An increase of 2200 and 6000 respectively is not too much to ask for widows of men who have laid down their lives/served the nation. The journos/def analysts are not highlighting the effect of OROP on an individual. Since numbers(pensioners) are large Rs 8300 Crores seems large.

  4. Everybody in our country knows why a police man traval by motorcycle and a jawan of defence go by an by cycle even today.Even today State government begging for their veterans welfare through flag day funds. Why?

  5. FM must make public statement on OROP.

  6. OROP can't be brushed under the carpet and it will have to be given and givem sooner than later but since it is not being given gracefully, Modi government may have already lost the goodwill of serving and retired soldiers alike due to the foolish behavior of supposedly the most intelligent minister Mr. FM. Even now, they don't want to stop loss by ignoring the fasting ESM and taking the issue lightly .Mr Modi will repent Mr Jaitley's decisions at leisure,

  7. Good afternoon Sir ji ke afyer 14 Jun all the exservicemen are sleep no take voice with any leader no comments has beem given by any leader it means no orop has been implimented even no media person take up our voice . All the politicion are laier .

  8. M.R. Sharma ji Mr FM is going to London to meet with Mr Lalit Modi for collection of rs 8300 cr which was black money taken during IPL wait for till 2019