Wednesday, August 19, 2015

OROP – A Fresh Approach & Honour, Dignity and Military

OROP – A Fresh Approach

The One Rank One Pay (OROP) issue for the armed forces has become a balloon that is being inflated continuously and is now close to its bursting point. The day it bursts it will play havoc with the nation in more ways than one. By default, the complete responsibility for the aftermath of the same will be dumped on the shoulders of the present NDA government as a whole and Mr Narendra Modi in particular. The fact that successive governments had been procrastinating on this issue will not come to the aid of Mr Modi or his government since all that is history. In principle any concept like OROP is bad in content since it ensures a ‘win-win’ situation for the recipients and a ‘lose-lose’ situation for the government on an eternal basis. It has to be understood that the recipient is not divorced from the government and vice versa. Therefore any one sided concept is not only unsound in principle but also not good for the nation’s health in the long run. If that be the case then it stands to reason that there is a need to find some other more practical solution.

Unfortunately the problem started with the greed and selfish action on part of the highest echelons in the Indian Administrative Services (IAS & IFS) when they covertly ensured OROP for all those who reached the ‘Apex Scale’ of basic pay of Rs 80,000. This was a clever move since nearly everyone in IAS or IFS reaches that scale by the time he or she retires. Thus nearly everyone from the IAS and IFS brotherhood was covered. To make it look like a universal phenomenon, a few posts in other allied administrative services and half the four star general posts in all three armed forces too were included in the Apex Scale. In nutshell while nearly all IAS/IFS officers were included in this scheme, a handful of others too were given a back door entry in the same to ensure that their parent services did not object or demand the same. This is probably the reason why successive military leaderships at the highest echelons did not really push for OROP for last forty years. In the recent past, OROP has also been made applicable to High Court judges including those who are inducted from the bar. This then is the genesis of the problem that the government of the day is now facing.
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As far as the military (Army, Navy and Air force) is concerned, there is no doubt that their service conditions and terms of employment, even in normal times, are distinctively more severe than any other government service. In case of a war or conflict a normal citizen cannot even fathom the seriously dangerous and adverse conditions that a soldier faces in war zones. Therefore it may not be wrong to say that there is neither any basis nor any logic in making comparisons between the service conditions of a soldier and any other government employee. The government needs to clarify the same and take a firm stand on the same once for all to rest the matter. As a corollary to this it is clear that basis of fixation of pay and allowances of the military has to be divorced from that of other government services. There can be no common ‘terms of reference’ for any pay commission to decide on the emoluments of the military and other government employees with a view to maintain the ‘equation’. It may be prudent and necessary to have separate pay commissions for the military to ensure that they get a fair deal.

One of the prime reasons for the demand of OROP from the military has been because of the early retirement that most soldiers face. It is no secret that bulk of the ‘other ranks’ in the military retire between the ages of 38 to 45 years. On the contrary in all other government services and in civil, this is possibly the prime age group from where one takes off for a better future, both monetarily and professionally.  This is denied to most soldiers because of the need to keep the overall profile of the military young, something that is of paramount importance if the military has to be effective. There are a host of other reasons too but this one reason in itself should be more than sufficient to justify the fact that a soldier needs to be compensated for this to ensure that he can manage a minimum decent life with self respect even after this forced early retirement. The same logic is true for those unfortunate families who lose their bread winner in wars or internal conflicts at a young age.

Demand for OROP came about since it appears to be one obvious solution to the above problem. But in hindsight OROP does not seem to be the optimum solution. Therefore other solutions need to be explored to resolve the problem. One possible solution lies in the problem itself. The problem is that most soldiers retire at an early age. The solution is based on the premise that the nation can look after the soldier for a few more years before he actually starts getting his pension. The aim being to give him a few more years for resettlement once he is out of uniform. This means that if a soldier retires at 40 years of age, the government guarantees him his last pay drawn, till say 50 years of age after which he becomes a pensioner.  It will be fair if some specific allowances related to service conditions like free rations and uniform allowance are withdrawn as long as the basic and rank pay are assured.  Once the soldier attains the age of 50 years, his pension could then be fixed as applicable from that day at rates as applicable on that day.  This logic could be applied for all those who retire prior to the age of 50 years. Unlike OROP such a move will not be eternal in nature since there will be a cut off at the age of 50. However, it has to be understood that this kind of arrangement can only be instituted for those who are still in service. It will not help those who have already retired. Frankly for those who have already retired the government has to come up with some out of the box solution other than OROP. May be a onetime up-gradation to the pension levels as applicable on the basis of the 2006 Pay Commission could go a long way in mitigating the financial woes of a large section of ex servicemen. A completely rigid attitude on part of either the ex servicemen or the government is not likely to resolve the problem in any manner.

It will also be prudent for the government to rethink the OROP scheme that the IAS/ IFS fraternity have granted themselves and withdraw it unconditionally to avoid the OROP monster raising its head any time again in the future. If this is not done then the government has no grounds to oppose the same for military or other government services. Frankly these Apex Grade officers will hardly lose anything since all of them are more than well off financially at the time of their retirement. The same would also be true for the High Court judges and therefore the OROP granted to them too should be withdrawn.

In conclusion all one can state is that all of us belong to the nation and therefore we are the nation. If that be true it stands to reason that one cannot chase unviable solutions or make demands on the nation that have the potential to bleed the nation in the long run. There will be times and periods in the history of any nation where some generations may feel that they have been hard done by the system as a whole. This will be particularly true for a poor nation that is in the developing mode and more so if the nation is as large as India is. May be there is a case for some of us to accept the same and seek consolation by terming it as a sacrifice in the service of the nation. It may sound a bit too idealistic but then when the nation calls, a soldier is never far from being idealistic.

 Lt Col Saroj Chadha, an engineering professional, is a successful entrepreneur. Having retired from the Indian Army after having served for over 23 years, he has also been a consultant for leading Indian and Multinational electrical companies. He lives in New Delhi.

Honour, Dignity and Military

Honour, Dignity and Military are words synonymous to each other albeit the connection between the three are not only little understood by some in this country, there are others for whom the first two words are alien and the third word a necessary evil. The neglect of defence over the years has found little discussion in the media. What does get discussed at all is linked with what TRPs would be earned. But at least those who get to read articles in various blogs on the net are aware that as per the Rules of Business of Government of India, the responsibility of the defence of the country remains officially with the Defence Secretary, not the Defence Minister, and that while some 100 amendments have been made to the Constitution of India, no government has ever made any effort to amend the Rules of Business considering the underlying advantage as discussed later. The second major advantage is that that the Army, Navy and Air Force headquarters continue to be ‘Attached Offices’ as in British India, which implies that the MoD bureaucracy remains unaccountable and yet supreme with the military kept away from higher defence organizations, MoD and even the official defence-industrial set up. 

This system suits the mafia with many successive governments who have used the Defence Minister for boosting the ruling party’s kitty, as well as lining individual pockets through defence deals, both within the country and ex import. That is why despite scores of defence scams, no bureaucrat or politician has ever been questioned, leave aside prosecuted. The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan should actually include cleaning this type of filth but even the more recent scams like Tatra, Eurocopter and VVIP helicopter will perhaps be buried or at best blame restricted to persons outside the MoD.
Now we know that the Defence Minister is NOT responsible for the defence of India. But the answer to the question remains ambiguous as to who in the country is responsible for maintaining or shall we say overseeing the honour and dignity of the Military over and above the Service Chiefs heading the “Attached Offices”? This official responsibility cannot be found anywhere or perhaps has been guarded more than the files on Netaji Subhash Chander Bose. If this was not so, how have successive governments successfully downgraded the standing, pay and allowances, and pensions of the military right from the time of the 3rd Central Pay Commission without anyone questioning the political authority responsible for the Honour and Dignity of the Military?

In this murky backdrop, it was heartening to hear the Independence Day broadcast by Defence Minister Mohan Parrikar wherein he spoke about his constant endeavour to work towards welfare and well-being of serving and military veterans, and also that his thoughts are with near and dear ones of those who laid down their lives for protecting the nation – indicating he is possibly in-charge of the Military’s Honour and Dignity or at least cares about the issue.

But then something extraordinary and heinous happened on August 14 when Delhi Police and CRPF assaulted the peacefully protesting military veterans and war widows at Jantar Mantar in a bid to evict them, an obvious pre-planned operation. Who planned the operation and gave the nod to go for veterans will remain hazy in the usual web of carefully orchestrated media obfuscation but the fact remains that both the Delhi Police and CRPF function directly under the Ministry of Home Affairs. Bassi, the Delhi Police Commissioner who executed the political nod became notoriously famous overnight with his photograph with the national flag upside down (shown below) receiving thousands of hits globally.

The police assault on the military veterans at Jantar Mantar was was covered live on TV channels. Some in the social media termed it Modi’s Mini Jallianwala Bagh action with Delhi Police Commissioner British Brigadier Dyer. 82 year old veteran Bishamber Singh of 5 Grenadiers (picture below alongside the picture of the Defence Minister) who had fought three wars for India had his medals including his Sena Medal (Gallantry) ripped off his chest by a goon of a policeman. The indigenous Dyer (Bassi) refused to take any calls by the military veterans at the site who were desperately trying to contact him. The situation would have gone uglier but for MoS (External Affairs) General V K Singh who intervened on August 14 against Police action at Jantar Mantar and got the veterans’ agitation restored, with his personal staff running around and securing the permissions for veterans to continue their agitation gracefully. Otherwise the damage would have been much more, as intended by the mafia.

It is not that the political hierarchy cannot fathom that when the military fights for the Honour and Dignity of the country, their own Dignity and Honour being attacked even if they are ignored in the vote-bank calculus will leave deep scars, the kind of which will hollow this country from within. Images of the police action at Jantar Mantar on August 14 against military veterans have gone viral world over. India has indeed become a laughing stock of the world. The previous government was accused of making the system hollow by pitting the IB against the CBI but this government has surpassed all that by making the police attack the peacefully protesting military veterans. Astonishingly, the Prime Minister, referred by some as ‘master tweeter’ because of his all and sundry tweets, has nothing to say about the dastardly action. The Defence Minister’s Independence Day broadcast made no mention of the police action just a day prior either. So was the case with the President who happens to enjoy all the privileges and perks as Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. Though the police assault on military veterans happened during the same day, his evening address to the nation missed any mention completely. Does the military need a Supreme Commander anyway when the Services HQ are “Attached Offices” and MoD ruled by unaccountable bureaucrats? The bottom-line is that neither the President, the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister feel any remorse about striking at the psyche of the military anyway.

Analyzing why such incident happened, a large cross-section points at the hydra resident in the system that pans all political parties, and in this case is spearheaded by a serpent within the government. The hydra understandably draws its power from organizing funding for elections and more significantly has the power to make or break even top rung political authorities because of foreign support and backing of prominent presstitutes in the media. The situation has aggravated because the government has made no effort to undertake administrative reforms. The hydra has been there for decades, has its tentacles all over including in intelligence agencies and has been constantly working to denigrate the military and keep the defence of the country defunct. So, where the August 14 police assault on military veterans was obviously pre-planned, in early March the President of a so called Patriots Forum had already written to the Prime Minister to strategize and put in place “Anti Coup Measures”. This fellow, former Special Secretary of the Intelligence Bureau, is obviously part and parcel of the hydra and on the payroll of forces inimical to India. There appears to be a carefully orchestrated design to hollow this country from within. The August 14 police assault was meant to be much more brutal and at least one presstitute TV channel task force was positioned to cover the the veterans assessed to react with equal violence against the police but the veterans steadfastly refused to take the bait. And, then came simultaneous intervention by the MoS (External Affairs) Gen VK Singh as mentioned above, which saved the situation.

Whether the orders for the police assault came from Modi himself, is a moot question but it definitely had the stamp of the PMO, with Deep Throat tweeting that matters of internal security go from the NSA directly to PMO with the Home Minister sidelined. To add to this, veteran diplomats acknowledge that in matters of foreign policy, the JS sitting in PMO is more powerful than the External Affairs Minister; matters going directly to the former and the latter not even having the power to change even a full stop or a coma in what comes down the channel from PMO. But the fact that there has not been an inkling of remorse from the Prime Minister exposes the dark truth that he was in full picture. When one attended the pre-election BJP rallies, Modi’s entrance was preceded by the entire congregation shouting “Dekho Dekho Kaun Aaya, Bharat Maa Ka Sher Aaya”. The expectations of the masses and the massive mandate given to Modi was with the expectations that this Sher would vanquish the hydra – symbolized by Kali Nag. It indeed is no easy battle but as the battle lines are drawn, it appears that the hydra is winning. 

There is still hope that the Sher may able to draw upon his reserves and go for the kill but that the future will be witness. On the other hand, if the Modi government is to join forces with the hydra like the previous government then it would be advisable to disband the military, in line with Nehru’s dream that police forces are sufficient to defend the nation, rather than denigrating the military. Such a move will probably get the unanimous support of the entire opposition with no debate required in the Parliament. According to a veteran diplomat, the SP in Amritsar used to be a personal selectee of Chief Minister, Punjab since the former was supposed to hand over Rs 5 crore to the CM annually. That may figure obviously would have multiplied manifold and may well be a practice pan India. 

By this token, Bassi would perhaps be an ideal CDS of the police forces charged with defence of India – both external and internal. But perhaps, the hierarchy may take a cue from Dubya Bush who disbanded the trained Iraqi Army, which then became the core of the ISIS. What perhaps the coterie is not letting Modi gauge also is that while the whole world scoffs at India for ridiculing the military veterans and the Military in turn through such actions, Prime Minister Modi stands in the centre of the scorn and mockery.

Prakash Katoch is a third generation army officer hailing from Himachal Pradesh. He is a former Lieutenant General from Special Forces.

Lt Gen Prakash Katoch is third generation army officer hailing from Himachal Pradesh. He is former Lieutenant General from Special Forces and post retirement has published over 530 articles on international affairs, geopolitics, military, security, technical and topical issues besides authoring two books. He is active in seminars at both national and international levels.

(Source- via e-mail)


  1. Although even basic understanding of the above article itself -- leave apart comprehending the serious consequences of the issues raised -- is beyond the IQ level of most of our great parliamentarians but effort may be made to reach this to them as the sensible among them -- there are only a couple of those in Congress party and the Family Members are certainly not those -- could be expected to try and put some meaningful pressure on the decision makers to forget about the petty politics in the interest of the nation and take urgent corrective steps to meet the challenges facing the nation.

  2. Sir, armed forces retain their ranks even after retirement till death and they are expected to rejoin duties when required like our Supreme commander retains his rank. except armed forces does any one in Indian services retain any rank including civilian employees in defence under the Supreme Commander. We the defence personnel relinquish our appointments like other government employees but retain our ranks given by the President. We are asking for one rank one pension so that the serving jawans and officers feel it as a pride and remain in military discipline. Who else in our Indian Government hierarchy retain their ranks after retirement, and how can they compete with armed forces retained their ranks and asking for OROP. Does any one in the nation have sense as to why armed forces personnel in the uniform are asking for OROP? In emergencies the armed forces retired people are called back to join the duties, does any one in civil appointment including IFS, IAS, IPS, police, Central & State Govt employees are ever called back or do they join duty even if they are called back during emergencies. We smilingly sacrifice for our nation, is there any one in civil jobs who can do this job. Today I read something about former defence secretary saying "OROP will be on my dead body" if an officer of that caliber says such cheap and negative way, why cant we say "yes we want OROP at any cost". Please understand the language here. No one can command defence forces except defence officers. Let no civilian officer can equate with defence personnel and demand for One Rank One Pnesion, they never have a rank nor they retain any rank after retirement.