Friday, August 28, 2015

OROP _ Two more veterans on fast taken to hospital


NEW DELHI: Two more ex-servicemen on fast-unto-death were hospitalized on Thursday, even as the government and military veterans held another round of hectic negotiations to narrow their differences over the one rank, one pension (OROP) imbroglio. 

The deadlock persisted despite efforts to end the impasse ahead of the golden jubilee celebrations of the 1965 war which kick off on Friday. After representatives of the veterans met Army chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag till late in the night, Major General (retd) Satbir Singh said they were yet to get any message from PM Narendra Modi's office. "We might meet defence minister Manohar Parrikar on Friday," he said. 

Earlier in the day, Major (retd) Pyar Chand and Havildar (retd) Saheb Singh were rushed to Army (R&R) Hospital after their condition deteriorated, which now takes the number of veterans hospitalized to four. Six other veterans are undertaking the fast-unto-death at their dharna site at Jantar Mantar, where the ex-servicemen have been protesting for the last 75 days. 

The PM's principal secretary Nripendra Misra has held a couple of rounds of talks with the veterans in a bid to resolve the deadlock but to no avail. 

As reported by TOI earlier, the veterans want OROP implementation from April 2014, as was earlier promised to them, but the government has proposed January 2015 as the rollout date. The veterans also want 2014 to be taken as the base year for fixation of their pensions, while the government is proposing that it be 2011. And three, the government is ruling out 3% yearly increment in pension. 

The OROP entails payment of uniform pension to military personnel retiring in the same rank with the same length of service, irrespective of their date of retirement. Plus, any further enhancement in pension rates should be automatically passed on to past pensioners. 

This will mean an additional annual cost of at least Rs 8,300 crore as pension for the over 25 lakh veterans in the country. Taking it into account from April last year, it adds up to at least Rs 16,600 crore, ahead of implementation of the 7th Pay Commission from 2016, as reported by TOI earlier.
(Source- TOI)

Demand for rolling pension change plan holds up OROP

Demand for rolling pension change plan holds up OROP
Ex-servicemen protest against the non-implementation of one-rank, one-pension scheme in New Delhi.
NEW DELHI: What exactly is holding back the implementation of one-rank, one-pension (OROP) scheme for ex-servicemen? Well, it's not a difference over the date for the scheme to kick in; it's a startling demand for a "rolling" pension adjustment plan - one that would be adjusted every year (the demand was earlier for even more frequent adjustments) as against the norm of a 10-year adjustment for all other government pensioners. 

The veterans' demand was like this - say, one colonel retired in 2005 and another on August 27, 2015. The moment the latter received his pension - which would naturally be higher than the colonel who had retired 10 years back - the older colonel and all other retired colonels should get the pension received by the last-retired colonel. And if another colonel retired a few months later, pensions of all colonels would have to be readjusted yet again.


The government viewed this demand as impractical and an administrative nightmare. Still, in the wake of the high-voltage emotive agitation, it is now prepared to adjust the pension of all retired services personnel once every five years (as against the norm of 10 years), but the veterans want a revision at least every year. The inability of the two sides to come on a meeting point on this is why OROP is stuck. 

They are, however, on the verge of reaching common ground with regard to the date of rolling out new pension parity formula and 2011 is the likely base year, sources said. The government has offered to roll out the proposed OROP from April 2014, while defence pensioners want it to be implemented from January 2014. This could cost the government an additional couple of thousands of crores, and may not come in the way of a deal.

 
But the demand for annual adjustment has created a stalemate. Sources said the revision will be made from 2011, with government proposing the next one in 2016. However, the Centre is finding it tough to concede the demand for annual revision due to possible implications on government spending. 

"An annual revision is very difficult as it will have major financial implications on a rolling basis. You can't keep adding surprises to the budget every year," said official sources. 

However, the veterans are unwilling to budge and have also turned down a proposal to refer the issue to the pay panel or have a pension table (something that was the norm until 1973) to deal with the issue. At best, negotiators are willing to refer the issue to a panel where they have majority representation — a position which is potentially fraught with the possibility of another set of complications being introduced. 

The veterans have also argued that the yearly increments of a person in service need to be factored into the pension calculations. However, official sources point out that this will turn out to be an endless spiral. For instance, those who retire today will be earning less than those who retire in the same rank a year later after factoring in the increment that the latter would have earned. Going by the veterans' prescription, the pensions of all those of the same rank should automatically be revised every July. 

"You can very well imagine what will it mean." a source said."If a government servant is on leave, he does not get an increment which is due till he resumes work since the principle is that you have to work for your increment. Under the scheme that's being demanded, this principle will be overlooked. And yet we have offered to take a fresh look every five years," he added.


Sources also said the pension schemes of the UK, which the ex-servicemen had cited as reference point, provide for an annual adjustment for changes in cost of living index, while in India this is done twice a year through payment of dearness pension. 

Implementing the decision from April 2014 would result in the Centre having to pay Rs 12,000 crore as arrears up to August 2015, with the annual estimated addition to the pension bill expected to be around Rs 10,000 crore or over 18% of the budgeted for pension of Rs 54,500 crore for 18 lakh ex-defence personnel. 

The original suggestion from a section within the government was to implement a Supreme Court order in the SPS Vains case — which would have meant compliance with the court order and would have caused an annual addition of Rs 500-600 crore to the pension bill. But the PMO, it is learnt, sought a more comprehensive review to bridge the gap between current and past pensioners. 

Sources said the formula suggested by ex-servicemen is expected to benefit officers more as the government has implemented OROP for personnel below officer ranks (PBOR), who retired before 2006 as they are deemed to have served for 33 years. Based on the formula, a sepoy who earned a pension of around Rs 2,500 a month at the end of 1997, now earns over Rs 12,500 in addition to canteen benefits, estimated at Rs 4,000 a month for PBOR and around Rs 7,000 for officers. 

"The rationale is to ensure that a jawan who retires at 35 years does not lose out. The case of officers is different. Even if someone retires as a colonel after 25-30 years of service, he is around 50 years old," said an official. 

For officers of the Army, Navy and Air Force, the norms are the same as those for civilian officers and provide for indexation to inflation which is done through dearness allowance. There is also an indexation for wage, which is done once in 10 years through the pay commission award, along with a floor for modified parity. 

The defence personnel have contended that IAS officers, most of whom retire in the apex scale, along with the three defence chiefs get a better deal as their pension is upgraded to 50% of the pay when the new pay panel award kicks in. Government sources, however, said that an officer retiring as a joint secretary gets a pension of Rs 27,500 a month while a major general (who is of comparable rank) earns Rs 30,500 a month. 

(Source- TOI)

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Missing the bigger picture on OROP - By Raghu Raman

  • CALLS FOR PARTICIPATION: “One Rank One Pension is not just a dispute between ex-servicemen and the government. It is a national security issue where every citizen needs to pitch in.” Picture shows ex-servicemen at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi protesting for OROP.
    PTI
    CALLS FOR PARTICIPATION: “One Rank One Pension is not just a dispute between ex-servicemen and the government. It is a national security issue where every citizen needs to pitch in.” Picture shows ex-servicemen at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi protesting for OROP.
  • The One Rank One Pension issue has been ignored for too long. But any victory achieved through bellicose means will be, at best, pyrrhic, leaving a bitter legacy.

The Indian armed forces are fighting their toughest battle ever. For an Army that has fought on every terrain and in every operation imaginable, this battle is confounding. Because this time, they don’t know which side the enemy is on.
As the national discussion about the plight of ex-servicemen reaches a crescendo, the toughest battle is being fought not at Jantar Mantar between the khaki and the olive green, nor is it being fought between South and North Block that house the mandarins of the Defence and Finance ministries respectively. The battle is definitely not about the blame game between political parties, none of whom solved the problem when they could. Neither is it being fought on primetime channels where screaming ‘experts’ misconstrue volume for value.
The toughest battle is being fought by the young leaders of our armed forces – the Lieutenants, Captains, and Majors. It is they who have to lead troops into battle with no material incentives to assist them. Consider their situation.
Acute shortage of officers

It is well-known that the Indian armed forces are facing a grave shortage when it comes to junior leaders. Many active combat units are facing an acute shortage of officers. Young officers, barely out of their teens, are handling bigger responsibilities than ever before and stepping up to discharge additional duties.

It is these young leaders who have to answer disconcerting questions from their troops, picketed in the heights of Siachen or the heat of the Thar, on why their own government is manhandling them. They have to justify the perceived perfidy of former Generals who seem to have forgotten their troops and the promises made to them. It is time we started thinking about our frontline troops and junior leaders who are getting disillusioned with their role models.
All stakeholders in this game, by definition, are on the same side. So, whether it is the ‘treacherous’ politicians; the ‘Machiavellian’ bureaucrats; the ‘arrogant’ policemen; the ‘indifferent’ bean counters or the ‘unreasonable’ ex-servicemen — they are all citizens of this country who will pay a heavy price if the fibre of our apolitical armed forces unravels. And it is unravelling.
Social media is rife with serious dissent among ex-servicemen and, more alarmingly, serving soldiers and officers. Conversations bordering on sedition are creeping into discussion threads. Junior officers are openly questioning the spine and integrity of their seniors. Soldiers from serving units are contributing monies to fund the One Rank One Pension (OROP) agitation, albeit in their personal capacities.
Sane voices who dissuade such collection are countered by those who challenge the basis on which Chiefs regularly contribute a day’s salary of the entire Army to the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund without the consent of their soldiers. Such open discussions — which just a decade ago would have amounted to heresy — constitute a grave development and provide a fertile ground for elements inimical to India.
It is critical to step back and look at the big picture. The fact that the OROP issue had been relegated to files for far too long is obvious from the critical mass of the problem and the indignation of the aggrieved. The fact that a former Chief chose to withdraw as an interlocutor underscores the divide and truculence of both sides. But it behoves the leaders of our Government, bureaucracy and most importantly the Defence Forces, both serving and retired, to realise that this impasse cannot be resolved in a combative manner. This is because, on one side you have the Indian armed forces, who have never learnt to take defeat regardless of the casualties suffered, and we should be thankful for that. Any result short of a victory will demoralise one of the finest armies of the world.
However, on the other hand, if the demands of OROP are achieved through bellicose means, what kind of armed forces would we leave as a legacy? One that fights its own government to get its due? Where does the story end? What prevents this pyrrhic victory from becoming a new ‘doctrine of belligerence’ that the armed forces use to press their demands in future? And what example will they set for their junior officers, struggling to keep their troops motivated?
The resolution to OROP doesn’t have to consist of a single silver bullet. Solutions can be a combination of the private sector stepping in with post-retirement options; the clustering of ex-servicemen into categories and re-skilling and funding them for entrepreneurship; and a slew of other measures to ensure the dignity and livelihood of our ex-servicemen.
We can achieve this outcome provided we comprehend that this is not just a dispute between ex-servicemen and the government. It is a national security issue where every citizen needs to pitch in. Because, if war is too serious a business to be left to generals, nation-building is too serious a process to be left to the politicians and bureaucrats.
(The author is a former Army officer and founding CEO, NATGRID.)
COMMENTS
  • BHART  
    Armed forces are demanding their right. And government should resolve this matter as fast as it can do.Indian democracy is serviving because our army is most disciplined and satisfied (despite having lots of problems) otherwise we have many examples of armed ruling across the world. Once become rebellious it will be difficult to make it as disciplined as it is now.
    about 3 hours ago
     (0) ·  (0)
     
    • VVyjayanthi  
      The government should reach out to the ex servicemen who had served their country and explain the administrative, legal and financial dimensions in implementing the OROP as per their demands. The government pays military pensions for a longer period as 80% of the forces retire at 35-40 yrs. Various political leaderships who had committed to OROP have done so without considering the nuances of its implementation - the ex servicemen were superb vote banks to be exploited. Once in power they conveniently forget about the various issues of retired servicemen and war widows. If finance is the problem then governments can look for other avenues to raise pension funds. Wasteful government expenditures can be cut. Scamsters and money launderers can be brought to book & the swindled money put to good use. Laterally induction of fit personnel into paramilitary forces can save pensions. The threat to boycott the 1965 war celebrations and the RD parade by the veterans is also uncalled for.
      Points
      2880
      about 3 hours ago
       (0) ·  (0)
       
      • RSR S  
        Almost every post in media is written by the officers and centres only around the Commissioned Officers to show them the most deprived people though every Officer gets around 45,000/- (Minimum of Major in 2015 including DA) in his monthly pension. None of these learned writers includes the Jawans and their widows, either in any Pay/pension related topic or in his comments. Only Jawans (Junior Commissioned Officers, Non Commissioned Officers and Sepoy) retire (or are kicked out) between the age of 35 to 40 years and live in inexplicably harsher conditions than the Officers during service.
        Points
        630
        about 3 hours ago
         (0) ·  (1)
         
        Patriot Down Voted
        • AALLAN  
          Beautiful Article !
          about 5 hours ago
           (0) ·  (0)
           
          • SSekhar  
            Dear Sir, 1.This article is among the very best written on this subject.(Disclosure, I am a proud veteran) 2.The writer is highlighting the national security issue rightly;we have many second, third generation soldiers in the Armed Forces.Thus, we have Col Pushpinder Singh on fast at Jantar Mantar, and his son as a serving Officer. Can you imagine what is going through his mind and that of thousands of serving soldiers whose fathers, grandfathers are made to go on fasts, agitations for what is their right? And further humiliated by policemen on the eve of Independence day? 3.The real problem is the disconnect of the Armed Forces community with the ruling elite.It is reasonable to assume that if some of our senior politicians, bureaucrats,or their kith and kin served or are serving in the Armed Forces,this issue would not have come to such a pass. The cultivated disdain the elite has for Soldiers coupled with the pettiness of the IAS lobby is a poisoned cocktail. This has to change
            about 5 hours ago
             (1) ·  (0)
             
            Patriot Up Voted
            • MMajor  
              It is evident that Mr Modi's cocktail of nationalism and economic paradise doesn't include the serving soldiers and veterans of the Armed Forces. He wants to continue with his election vote catching mode of governance and back track on his earlier promises on technical basis.
              Points
              1930
              about 5 hours ago
               (0) ·  (0)
               
              • BYBrig YVR  
                A simple return to pre 3rd pay commission status of the Defence Services will resolve the issue. The defence services have been exploited for too long by the IAS and the civil services and the Government.
                about 7 hours ago
                 (2) ·  (0)
                 
                Patriot · KS Up Voted
                • Venkatakrishnan Subrahmanian  
                  The opinion by the army officer himself has emoted repeatedly what would happen if the OROP was resolved. He has identified certain viable routes of empowering the exservicemen. He does not want the generals nor the politicians to sit across and iron out the differences. Who else would do? Why does he play the card of national security in the long drawn game of OROP? What were they doing all these years? Why talk about the victor and vanquished? Is the government not democratically elected? Does it not represent `the constitutional majority of the country'? The writer has gone overboard.
                  Points
                  1980
                  about 7 hours ago
                   (0) ·  (0)
                   
                  • MGMB Gopinath,  
                    Considering the sacrifices made by the soldiers since independence they are not putting claims for impossibles. In fact they were the silent sufferers hitherto living under the hope that their problems would be solved very soon. That very soon prolonged for more than 40 years. Nationalism is evident only in rhetoric now. It was not so in earlier times. But the patience shown by soldiers over the years have gone against them. The Government must take initiative to solve the problem. After all they are asking only moderate things considering the huge sacrifices made by them and they have in mind welfare of tomorrow's ex-servicemen too.
                    about 8 hours ago
                     (1) ·  (1)
                     
                    KS Up Voted
                    Naveen Down Voted
                    • AAA.R Ahmed  
                      OROP is a fair Demand and Ex-Servicemen are requesting for it from more than thirty years,they are patiently insisting for it. Different Governments different political parties like Narsimha Rao's congress or Vajpayees NDA or Janata Dal's third front every government assured them that they will soon take steps to make it happen,but these Ex-Servicemen OROP is still remains unfulfilled. Indian Citizens should understand that these people had fought for the country and many of them died for the cause of protecting motherland.their deeds in wars are unparalleled with any country's army in this whole world.now they are old and fragile and what they get through pension is not sufficient for their livelihood, and there is vast differences in pay of pensions like one gets a pension of Rs.3500/- on the other hand one gets more than ten thousand. Instead of watching these old men staging protests,the government should declare a date for Implementation of OROP.
                      about 8 hours ago
                       (1) ·  (1)
                       
                      KS Up Voted
                      Naveen Down Voted
                      • RRavi  
                        It is important that a soldier on retirement at such young age must be reoriented towards useful employment as he enters the civilian life. His Military duties of 24 hours 365 days a week, for 15-20 years make him unsuitable for a civilian life where people of his age are at their prime. Making a soldier a Security guard outside bungalows and industry are a real downgradation. The resettlement dirctorate must come up with innovative training methods for absorption in civil life. These are capable men selected from amongst the best when they were enrolled. Must create a think tank of intellectual capability to understand the soldier and what he can be capable of and come up with meaningful options for reentry in to the civil life. I am sure when the issues are analysed solutions will come.
                        about 8 hours ago
                         (0) ·  (1)
                         
                        Naveen Down Voted
                        • Srinivasan Iyer  
                          The promise made by Modi at his first election speech with a former Army Chief sitting by his side (and now a minister in the Govt) has been in the Defence and Finance Ministries for over a year. There is a long standing feud between the bureaucrats and the Service chiefs which not only delays in procurement but also affects the morale of the servicemen at all levels. The excuses given by the Govt so far seem shallow on shortage of funds. This can and should be resolved with some staggered payment system. Allowing this prbloem to fester could seriously affect the morale of our services from the top to the lowest level. Modi always claims that he is a decision maker. Let him prove it!!
                          Points
                          2605
                          about 10 hours ago
                           (0) ·  (0)
                           
                          • MRMurali Raghavan  
                            It is absolutely necessary to keep our defense forces motivated at all times. OROP agitation will discourage the youth to go for employment in defense services. OROP should be resolved immediately.The Union Government should work on providing the right compensation to those in service so that there is hardly any discontentment. Risk perception at different levels could be one of the major guiding factors in determining the pay scales. The Government should be in a position to attract talent in order to ensure that India is in the safe hands of a smart defense force.
                            Points
                            1185
                            about 10 hours ago
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                            • Varghese Varghese  
                              BJP is learning the hard way what it is to be in the driver's seat. On this and other similar issues, the ruckus created by the BJP while in opposition, is still fresh in our minds.
                              Points
                              5530
                              about 11 hours ago
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                              • MMajor  
                                The author could have given a moral lecture to the government, but asking us to retreat is illogical. True, certain ills crept in the junior ranks of the regular Army, and the blame lies with the government of the day, for they stretched the OROP issue too long with imagined technicalities invented by the bureaucrats just to dilute the original definition of the OROP to save few pennies. The Veterans were trained and fought battles in the past for the country with no compromises in the end results. Retreating is not in their blood, our elders in the past retreated giving time to various governments to react positively, but they left the will to gain the final objective. And we will never disgrace them and their wishes. As a finality, it is pay up time for the government
                                Points
                                1930
                                about 11 hours ago
                                 (0) ·  (0)
                                 
                                • M Govinda  
                                  Bigger picture is much larger and wider... The present struggle for fulfilling the promises on OROP is again only a symptom and the real ‘disease’ lies hidden elsewhere. The reforms era in India has witnessed total neglect of the public sector and government employees. It served well for certain vested and some political interests. Leaving the wider issues, let us look at pension-related developments. Centre, even before there was any legislative sanction, discontinued a well-established pension scheme effective January 1, 2004 through a notification. Even at that time, GOI was aware of the sensitivities of the issue and shrewdly excluded defence services while making New Pension Scheme applicable to all central government employees. The ‘divide and rule’ worked and as the employees on the roll as on December 31, 2003 were not affected, the protest from unions were feeble. Gradually, NPS was forced on most of the public sector organisations and state government employees . M G Warrier

                                (SOURCE- THE HINDU)