Friday, July 3, 2015

Time for a decision on One Rank, One Pension By FPJ Bureau

 By FPJ Bureau | Jul 03, 2015 12:09 am
Quite clearly there were genuine problems in conceding the One Rank One Pension demand of the retired military personnel. Implicitly, even those still in service would like OROP to be implemented, for sooner or later they too would stand to benefit from it. Successive governments have publicly expressed an in-principle agreement with this long-standing demand. But as the elections approach, political parties, especially the BJP and the Congress, vie with one another to assure the vast constituency of retired military personnel that OROP would be implemented. Indeed, on the eve of the 2014 Lok Sabha poll, the Congress while still in power publicly committed itself to implement the demand and in general budget made a separate provision of Rs 500 crore for the same. 
The BJP on the campaign trail did better, with its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi addressing a huge rally of the army veterans in Haryana and solemnly undertaking to implement OROP. Notably, the former Army Chief General VK Singh was present at the rally and exhorted the audience of the retirees from the three wings of the armed forces to vote en bloc for Modi. 
Upon coming to power, Modi too seems to have had second thoughts and was reportedly in agreement with the Finance Ministry which raised serious objections due to the huge financial burden involved in a full implementation of OROP. Of course, the mischief was done by the Congress Govt back in the early 70s which drastically slashed the pensions of the Armed Forces personnel, lending weight to the grievance that the IAS lobby invariably metes out step-motherly treatment to all other services. 
While civilian retirees help themselves to substantial pensions, it is the nearly three million military pensioners, including some three lakh widows, who are denied equitable and just pensions. Simply put, the OROP demand is for uniform pension to be paid to the same rank with the same length of service regardless of their date of retirement. However, if accepted in total, there will be an enormous burden on the public treasury with a conservative estimate putting the outgo involved currently at more than Rs. 16,000 crore per annum. But this could rise hugely when the report of the latest pay commission, which is set to give its report sometime early next year, is implemented. 
For example, an Army Major who might have retired in, say, 1990, would be entitled to get the same amount in pension if the OROP were to be fully implemented as a major retiring in 2015. This is the main stumbling block in the implementation of the OROP. An ever increasing burden on the public finances is what has made the Finance Ministry raise objections, though a committee of experts, including representative of the army veterans and officials from the ministries of Finance and Defence, are actively examining the demand.
But there are very good political reasons too as to why the OROP scheme should be implemented. One, the ruling party in its manifesto had committed itself to do so. Two and more important-the Modi govt needs to dispel the impression gaining ground that it too is a prisoner of indecision like the previous regime. 
Modi is known for taking tough and quick decisions. He should intervene on behalf of the lakhs of army veterans who have now taken to the streets to protest the non-implementation of the poll pledge by the BJP. Besides, the ruling party needs to stem the flow of bad news in recent days by offering OROP to a country-wide constituency of the armed forces personnel.
Given that the pensions and pay structures were skewed in favour of the IAS and other civilian services, the pronounced bias against the armed forces personnel injected into the system over the years thanks partly to the baseless fears of the political leadership of the Armed Forces’ intentions must be corrected.
Nehru was suspicious of the Armed Forces. His daughter influenced the Third Pay Commission to cut the pensions of the Armed Forces Personnel. The resulting imbalance in their pensions leading up to the vociferous demand for OROP dates back to her time in government. 
Modi has the opportunity to undo this injustice. He should be courageous enough to concede the OROP and, in the process, earn the goodwill of a key segment of our people.
(Source- The Free press Journal)

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