Sol­diers de­mand One Rank, One Pen­sion

SP's MAI - - MIL­I­TARY VIEW­POINT -

When a for­mer ser­vice of­fi­cer writes on a sub­ject which in­volves ex-ser­vice­men’s ben­e­fits he is un­likely to be taken se­ri­ously be­cause he is ex­pected to take the side of his for­mer com­rades in arms! How­ever, notwith­stand­ing the skep­ti­cal view that my brief write-up is likely to in­vite, what dif­fer­en­ti­ates this is­sue of ‘One Rank, One Pen­sion’ (OROP) from other is­sues is that it high­lights the sheer ne­glect of the ex-ser­vice­men over the decades since in­de­pen­dence by suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments. There­fore let us un­der­stand what is driv­ing the OROP. Is it merely the money drawn as pen­sions drawn by our sol­diers who re­tire rel­a­tively early, i.e. by about 35 to 37 years of age when the fam­ily li­a­bil­i­ties are the great­est or is it the sheer frus­tra­tion that they have been de­lib­er­ately done down by suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments in terms of pen­sions and iz­zat. Per­haps this is the main rea­son for this anger and dis­may.

The mil­i­tary by and large has pre­ferred a BJP-led Govern­ment who is seen to be more sym­pa­thetic to their cause be­ing a self-pro­claimed na­tion­al­is­tic govern­ment as com­pared to the Congress-led gov­ern­ments. More­over this time Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi had made it very clear be­fore the elections that his govern­ment would grant OROP to the vet­er­ans if they came to power. Thus the de­lay in im­ple­ment­ing the scheme is all the more dis­turb­ing.

The widely touted ar­gu­ment against OROP to the mil­i­tary vet­eran is the like­li­hood of a sim­i­lar de­mand be­ing raised by other uni­formed ser­vices like BSF, CRPF, etc. But this is a red her­ring and a fal­la­cious ar­gu­ment be­cause un­like bu­reau­crats and para­mil­i­tary forces who all serve till 60 years of age, most mil­i­tary sol­diers re­tire at 35-37 years of age, while of­fi­cers be­low brigadier or equiv­a­lent do so at 54. We re­tire sol­diers early to keep the army young and phys­i­cally fit. Hence it stands to rea­son that they must be com­pen­sated ad­e­quately. This fact is so sim­ple that it needs no fur­ther ex­pla­na­tion.

There are many other star­tling facts which have emerged lately such as the ‘non-func­tional up­grade’ (NFU) to of­fi­cers in all-In­dia Group A ser­vices. This is a sort of ‘pay-pro­mo­tion’ al­low­ing them to draw higher pay than their rank un­der cer­tain con­di­tions. Al­most all civil ser­vants ben­e­fit from this while de­fence ser­vices of­fi­cers do not. NFU is a sort of ‘OROP by back­door for civil ser­vants’.

In all other democ­ra­cies the sol­diers have a bet­ter struc­ture of salaries and spe­cial al­lowances. Amer­i­can sol­diers have a 15-20 per cent edge over other govern­ment em­ploy­ees, Bri­tish 10 per cent, Ja­panese 12-29 per cent and French sol­diers 15 per cent. In pen­sions, while In­dian sol­diers get 50 per cent of their last pay per month, Amer­i­can sol­diers get 50-75 per cent, Aus­tralian 76.5 per cent, Ja­panese 70 per cent and French sol­diers 75 per cent.*

The In­dian mil­i­tary still car­ries the tra­di­tions of the UK mil­i­tary. The UK has em­braced OROP for sol­diers. Other coun­tries also com­pen­sate their mil­i­tary for its ser­vices. It is in keep­ing with this tra­di­tion that all Stand­ing Com­mit­tees of Par­lia­ment and the Courts in In­dia have up­held the de­mand for One Rank, One Pen­sion.

* ‘The Sol­diers Right’, Times of In­dia, June 16, 2015

LT GEN­ERAL V.K. KAPOOR (RETD)

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