One Rank One Pension Imbroglio
ONE RANK ONE PENSION (OROP) dates back to about four decades ago when in the year 1973 in the Third Pay Commission the soldier who was in receipt of 70 per cent of his pay as pension on attaining the service laid down as eligibility for pension was subjected to new pay commission recommendations in which his pension was brought down to 50 per cent of the last pay drawn when the civilian employees who were only eligible for 33 per cent of the last pay drawn were taken up to 50 per cent. This differential was kept earlier because the soldier retired at an early age, at about 34 to 37 years of age as compared to their civilian counterparts. Even the officers retired earlier based on their ranks. The soldier did not resent the others getting an increase but he was appalled at this biased decision which incidentally was taken after the 1971 War when the Indian armed forces had soundly defeated the Pakistan Army, cut that country to half its size, and liberated a new nation called Bangladesh.
The soldiery (all ranks) is convinced that this deceit was especially foisted on the military by the bureaucracy (IAS officers) who has always been against the military establishment. Veterans feel that till the government letter clarifying all issues regarding the OROP is out in the public domain there is a likelihood of dishonesty and trickery on part of the bureaucracy of MoD.
The OROP Sanctioned by the Government
The government on its part has fulfilled one of its major election promises in the run up to the Lok Sabha elections of the BJP. The Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on September 5, 2015, announced the implementation of the long delayed One Rank One Pension for ex-servicemen.
Explaining the details on the cost of OROP to the exchequer, Parrikar on September 5, stated that it would cost between
` 8,000-10,000 crore at present which would increase in future. The expenditure on arrears alone would be ` 12,000 crore. Currently the pension bill of the defence ministry stands at
` 54,000 crore. There are about 2.45 million veterans and six lakh war widows who stand to benefit from the scheme.
The aim of this announcement was ostensibly to end the strike by veterans demanding OROP which had been hanging fire for nearly three months. However while thanking the government on its decision to sanction the OROP, the protesting veterans have rejected the ‘unilateral’ announcement as it ‘dilutes’ several core issues from the accepted definition. Parrikar, who has earned the respect of the veterans for the manner in which he has handled the issue of OROP, met the representatives of ex-servicemen later in the day, on September 5-and some understanding it seems has been reached.
Points of Difference
The overall situation of the OROP announcement made September 5 by the Government and acceptance/non acceptance by veterans is as under: Veterans are happy that at last OROP has been accepted in principle after a struggle lasting more than four decades and they have thanked the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister for this. The base year for OROP will be 201314. All veterans will be upgraded in their pension as on March 31, 2014, to their respective ranks. This has been accepted. The point not accepted is that ex-servicemen were to be granted top of the scale of pension on March 31, 2014 in respective ranks, while government is saying it will be average of the max-min pension on that date. This has not been accepted by the veterans and needs resolution. The interval at which pension will be equalised has also not yet been resolved. The government had stated that it would be done after every five years while the veterans had accepted a two-year period. Veterans have agreed for this to be resolved through a Committee but they have not accepted the “One Man Committee” announced by the government. Veterans want a five member committee which should have three ex-servicemen, one member from the Services HQ (a Serving officer) and one to be nominated by the Defence Minister. They want the Committee to be directly under the Defence Minister. This issue is yet to be resolved. Government wants to give six months to the Committee to give the report. Veterans want that the report should be sub- mitted in 30 days and should be implemented in next 15 days. This also needs to be resolved. While OROP would be applicable for the disabled and war widows, those opting for voluntary retirement and not complementing full service will be out of its ambit. This has raised a new point of disagreement between the veterans and the government. Parrikar has said that the government would give details on the voluntary retirement in the government order. This matter has also been discussed with the veterans and it seems that those who proceed on premature retirement and are in receipt of pension will continue to be in the ambit of OROP.
Further Action Envisaged by the Ex-Servicemen
Further action envisaged by the Ex Servicemen is as under: Fast unto Death has been called off with immediate effect. The persons on fast unto death have very kindly agreed to it. However the Relay Hunger Strike shall continue at Jantar Mantar and all other stations in India and will be called off only after all the pending issues are resolved by the Government. As per the united ex-servicemen associations, mass ex-servicemen rallies will be held all over India on 12 Sep 2015, and as per current indications the number of cities is likely to be 80. The Relay Hunger Strike will also continue till all issues have been mutually resolved.