Saturday, November 4, 2017
Why OROP is important for ex-servicemen Col Dabby S de Mello (Retd)
Aquestion often asked: “Why One Rank One Pension (OROP) only for military retirees?” Before attempting an answer, it is important to know that the acronym OROP is not an entirely a correct definition of the issue. It should have been “Same Rank, Same Service Tenure, Same Pension” — SRSSTSP. Since it would have been quite a mouthful, the term OROP became common.
OROP, the genesis
Maj-Gen Rajinder Singh ‘Sparrow’Shergill, a Cavalry Officer, hero of Zojila and twice Mahavir Chakra awardee, after his retirement and, as a sitting MP in the early eighties, spoke thus in Parliament: "I have the honour to state that I retired from the army as a Maj-Gen and have two sons serving in the army. Assuming that they also retire as Maj-Gens and, after retirement, if they stayed under the same roof as I, the sons would be getting more pension than their father because the father retired earlier. What a dichotomy!" Mrs Indira Gandhi, then Prime Minister heard the General Officer with rapt attention and understood what he spoke. A sharp woman, she was immediately convinced in principle and realised the dilemma of Maj-Gen ‘Sparrow’, and that of all military retirees, needed holistic consideration/re-evaluation. The same day in 1983, she constituted a committee headed by KP Singhdeo, a Brigadier in Territorial Army and a sitting MP from Odisha, to examine the issue and suggest measures to bring parity in pensions of the past and future defence retirees, on a basic premise of natural justice, that no senior may be brought lower than his junior — a concept which is now understood as One Rank One Pension.
The present government, in its pre-election gambit to woo ex-servicemen in 2013, promised to fulfill this long overdue and legitimate entitlement. However, in a display of bad faith, on November 7, 2015, the NDA government drove the last nail in the coffin by diluting and granting a falsely labeled OROP.
Why OROP only for military retirees?
Any organisation that has service conditions similar to that of the soldiers of the Defence Forces has a rightful case for OROP. The average soldier retires at young age of 35, just when his domestic responsibilities are waxing, and risks both his life and limbs as part of his duty and obligation to the nation. His fundamental rights are curtailed by the law, under sovereign guarantee that his needs will be cared for and therefore he has no institution to fall back to except the government. Unlike the police and every other organization in India, soldiers are prohibited from forming unions or associations to fight for justice. Not to mention the type of hard field service locations that he has to endure, and implications on his family, affecting financial life, and, looming early retirement. The latter is because the state requires a young and fit force, and because its pyramidal structure cannot absorb him, he is let go in the prime of his life.
In a nutshell, OROP to the military retirees is meant basically to compensate for their mandatory early retirement.
Why no OROP to other uniformed services
Regarding no OROP to other uniformed services Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) like BSF, CRPF, ITBPF etc, the answer is in the questionnaire: (a) Irrespective of their rank, they can serve up to 57 years unlike the military personal who are made to retire at 35 and upwards depending upon their rank. (b) The CAPF are assured minimum three promotions, but for defense forces, there is no such assurance. The service conditions of Defence Forces and CAPF too are different.
The concept of “One Rank One Pension” was formulated after deliberations keeping all stakeholders in the loop. The concept was approved by two Parliaments, UPA- as well as NDA-led, but even after more than three years of the latter, it is yet to be implemented in its entirety.
The government brazenly continues to deny the ex-servicemen (ESM) their due- their promised OROP, not realising that today's soldier is tomorrow’s ESM and his morale is the nation's biggest strength. It is neither statesmanship nor good governance and is not in the overall interest of the security of India.
Why are faujis still protesting?
If the NDA government loftily claims that OROP to military retirees has been granted, then why are faujis still protesting? It is because the government, in November 2015, arbitrarily altered the approved definition of OROP, equalised the pension of the past defense pensioners by giving them one time raise and maliciously termed it as OROP. The veterans felt let down at that sellout and decided to continue their peaceful protest from Jantar Mantar, asking the government for the approved and promised OROP in its entirety. Surely they are not foolish enough to continue to agitate if the actual OROP had been granted.
The NDA government should well heed the warning: the defence fraternity of near five crore is a formidable electorate. Military veterans (many of them war-decorated), mostly in their twilight years, have been protesting peacefully from a footpath near Jantar Mantar for the past 28 months, asking the government to fulfill the promise of granting them correct OROP.
The government continues to remain in denial mode. The exservicemen have no one to fall back to except their civilian brethren. Shouldn’t the people of the country sit up, lend their ears and peacefully be their voice too? For, didn't these retired soldiers keep you all safe when they were young and in active service?
(Source- The Tribune)