Sunday, August 14, 2022

SPARSH will make defence pension digital, but problems won’t disappear. Ask pensioners

Failure to implement revised OROP & go for SPARSH should ring alarm bells for Defence Minister. And it won’t be ‘minimum govt, maximum governance’. By LT GEN PRAKASH MENON

The management of defence pensions has been taxing the capabilities of the Ministry of Defence for decades. The implementation of the One Rank One Pension or OROP) scheme has turned into a legal and bureaucratic battleground. Some ex-Servicemen have locked horns with the Executive and the Judiciary, but justice remains elusive. Even the refixing of pension every five years that was due in 2019 has not been done. The reasons for the delay are revealing of the awkward consequences brought about by the interplay of multiple actors.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD), it is said, has not refixed the pensions on the due date since the issue was sub-judice. An unrepresentative group of ex-Servicemen had filed a case in the Supreme Court that the MoD was violating the OROP principle by replacing it with ‘One rank multiple pensions’ for persons with the same length of service. On 16 March 2022, the court dismissed the case and directed the re-fixation to be carried out from 1 July 2019 and arrears paid within three months.

Three months have elapsed on 16 June 2022 without implementation of the SC’s direction. Technically, it opens the door for contempt of court. The reason for this delay obtained through a Request For Information (RFI) has indicated that on 30 May 2022, a note was initiated by the Department of Ex-Servicemen’s Welfare in the MoD that various types of pension tables will be required to be prepared by the Controller General of Defence Accounts (CGDA), which is a time-consuming process and therefore the SC be requested to grant minimum three months more. Since then, no other proceedings involving the SC has come to light. Pensioners continue to wait.

On 29 July, Ajay Bhatt, the minister of state in the MoD, in reply to an unstarred question in the Lok Sabha on the implementation of the three months for refixation, replied that it was ‘under process’. What was left unsaid was that various executive arms of the government were overwhelmed by the effort required to implement the ruling of the SC. The CGDA, the prime institution involved, has had years to formulate draft pension tables – a task that should not be so daunting in the computer age and yet they are asking for more time.

(Soure : The Print)

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