The Term OROP is not well known in public space but is a huge matter of expectations and dream among Armed Forces Pensioners. Since, a bench of Honourable Supreme Court of India, headed by the lordship of a CJI Dr. DY Chandrachud, dealt with the subject matter in detail, it is considered that, it will be appropriate to bring these facts to the kind notice and necessary action at his kind end, as prayed by the Senior Citizen veteran.
An open letter regarding justification of implication of OROP at the present secenerio written by Mr Prabhakaran, an ex-serviceman /defence pensioner is reproduced here . The veteran has sound knowledge on OROP and it is an eye opener with the ground reality of OROP. In his petition, the veteran has critically analyse the OROP Scheme when the tax payers hard earned money is wasted on a manipulated scheme – the so called OROP.
According to the physical evidence, there is no evidence of One Rank One Pension (OROP) prior to 1973.
(i) There is a claim that the One Rank One Pension (OROP) was in vogue to defence personnel, prior to 1973 and the same is not supported by any evidence.
(ii) But, as per available data prior to 1973, the rate of pension of Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs) and Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs) who together constitute 92-95% of the total defence pensioners, was 70%, which was reduced to 50% on the recommendations of the third central pay commission. There was also a caveat to it that this rate of pension will apply only if one completes a full service of 33 years.
(iii) The effect of this 20% reduction coupled with the above caveat was so harsh on the NCO community, that, a 33 years old, young soldier who got retired after 15 years of service, received only about 30% of his pay, as pro rata pension. It was a fatal fall from 70% to 30% actual.
(iv) So there was a felt need to take care of this sudden reduction in the pension of NCOs and JCOs in order to keep the moral of these cutting edge soldiers/pensioners high. There arose the demand for, so called OROP.
(v) On the other hand, the pension of the commissioned officers who constitute 5-8% of the total of defence pensioners, was left untouched, by the third CPC.
- OROP is an inappropriate term, but a deliberately coined phrase
(i) If the OROP scheme is meant to take care of the sudden and shocking reduction in the pension of NCOs and JCOs, then the term OROP is an inappropriate one.
(ii) The term OROP, indeed encompasses and means to include all the defence pensioners, irrespective of their ranks including the Commissioned Officers, who normally retire at 56 – 58 years of age with a spcial provision to continue in service, if they so choose, in the same rank and salary until their actual superannuation. Obviously, the commissioned Officers are not the intended beneficiaries of OROP.
(iii) Therefore this term was deliberately coined to enable the inclusion of commissioned officers, into the scheme. Any other term would have excluded them, because their pension was never reduced at any point of time. Also, they have had no complaint of reduction in their pension unlike NCOs, in 1973.
(iv) As the senior level commissioned officers only used to brief the parliamentarians and other officials connected with the subject, they managed to coin and retain the phrase OROP. They only made us to sit in dharna and participate in relay fast etc. in demand of OROP, by virtue of which, we also have become the party in endorsing the term, unwittingly.They knew that as long as the scheme’s name is OROP, they stand to benefit, by default and if this phrase is changed for any reasons, they are not going to get any benefit. The reason being that they never were the victims of any of the four reasons explained in succeeding paragraphs, for which the OROP was demanded.
(v) If we look back into the history of the so called, OROP, it all began with the idea of mitigating the hardships faced by the Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs) of all the three wings of the our defence forces, due to the following four reasons:-
- The Primary reasons for demand of OROP
(a) Non-commissioned officers (NCO) reire at a relatively younger age:
the non-commissioned officers are, retired at an young age of 33-38. To quote para 9(iii) of Koshiyari Committee report on OROP, “nearly 85%of armed forces retire at the age of 38 (should be 33-38) 10% retirements take place at the age of 46 (should be 41-46) and remaining 5% retirements happen at the age of 56 to 58”.
The 5% above, amounts to the normal retirement of commissioned officers and may be a micro percentage of Senior NCOs/JCOs. The remaining 95% amount to the retirement of NCOs.
At the age of 33-38 years,the family responsibilities of the retiree, are at its peak, with aged and ailing parents still alive who need financial, physical and emotional support; he, himself married just a few years ago with one or two small kids to take care of; the siblings are yet dependent and still remain unmarried etc.
However the early retirement of jawans is inevitable and essential to make sure that the forces are young, physically strong, so that they are ready to tackle any evil designs of our enemies and remain operationally fit and capable at all times.
To quote further from Koshiyari Committee report on OROP, “Armed forces have to retire early as a matter of policy of Government which causes loss of earnings to them because the benefits given by successive Pay Commissions which could have accrued to them if they were made to retire at the normal retirement age of sixty”.
Your lordship may kindly notice that extending the same benefit to those who retired early at the age of 33 and those who retired 25 years later at the age of 58, by which period two to three pay commissions would have been constituted and pay scales, basic pay and other allowances must have been revised multiple times. The commissioned officers were already enjoying the benefit of retirement close to 60 years of age like their civilian counter-parts and thereby able to avail the benefits given by successive Pay Commissions. How can they again claim to be part of the scheme that is meant to take care of only those who were denied these benefits?
(b) In 1973, NCOs pension was reduced from 70% to 50%, for 33 years of service:
in 1973, on the recommendations of the 3rd pay commission, the pension of NCOs was equated with the central government civilian employees by reducing their then prevailing pension rate of 70% to 50%.
In hindsight, it might be questioned as to why the same was not taken up, then and there, for a suitable remedy? But the military system and ethos never allowed the NCOs to participate in any discussions, deliberations and decision making process. We had no mechanism to redress our grievances although we constituted about 92-95% of the combatant manpower/defence pensioners . The situation remains so even today and likely to continue in future as well. Sir, we donot think that there is an other institution in any democratic country, wherein the decisions are taken not by the majority stakeholders, (accounting 92-95% of the strength) but by the minority officers of 5-8%, except in the case of NCOs of Indian defence forces.
There is another interesting fact. Since we are large in numbers, almost 2.5 million, even very small tweaking or tinkering of our dues will reduce the financial impact substantially. For example, a small reduction of 100 rupees in our pension will reduce the overall financial impact by
Rs. 25 crores per month and 300 crores per annum. It is a huge saving through an easy but an unethical method. Hence there was, perhaps an irresistible tendency to resort to it quite often in order to show the reduced financial impact of any proposal. We were the victims in the hands of our own people who had the opportunity of briefing the Chairmen and members of various pay commissions and other pay related committees/bodies.
(c) No guaranteed lateral entry or re-employment to those who retire young:
even though NCOs are retired when they were young at the age of 33-38 years, there was no guaranteed lateral entry into Para military or police forces, although many pay commissions strongly recommended for it in their reports.
Of course, there is a reservation of 10% group C vacancies and 20% in group D vacancies, in central and state government departments. There are some laxities in implementing these reservation. There is no ESM National Commission like SC&ST National Commission with the same powers to monitor the ESM reservation provisions. As a result, most of the NCOs, especially those who have retired from the army, out of frustration, took up jobs like chowkidars, security guards and watchmen in private housing societies and personal bungalows, for a paltry salary after swallowing their pride and self respect.
(d) Personnel in Border Security Force etc retire on attaining 58/60 years of age:
On the other hand, the NCO level personnel in paramilitary forces like Border Security Forces (BSF) which is akin to armed forces of India and perform nearly the same duties are allowed to serve upto 58/60 years of age.
- All the above statements can be verified and authenticated from a number of TV debates and discussions that took place during the period of OROP agitation, in which many retired senior officers have participated and articulated their demand of OROP, solely on the basis of the above four grounds. Many articles were also written and published in the leading newspapers, justifying the demand of OROP exclusively on the above grounds. In short, they have kept the guns on the solders of NCOs and fired.
- Of course there were some passing remarks, stating that the senior officers who had retired years ago are not able to maintain the same standard of living as that of the senior officers who retire now. This is no reason at all and defies logic. How can the government of India be responsible to make sure that the standard of living of two senior officers, one, retired 30 years ago and the other one retiring now, be the same? It sounds impractical. It’s for the retirees to find ways and means to invest the retirement benefits wisely so that they have a comparable standard of living throughout. Therefore this cannot be construed as a valid reason for demanding OROP at all.
- In order to mitigate the hardship of NCOs, due to all the above adverse situations, initially, Government of India, tried to bridge the gap in the pension of the past pensioners by increasing the weightage of qualifying service, applicable upto the ranks of Havildars, twice in the past. The very fact that NCOs, upto only Havildar and equivalent ranks were considered for bridging the gap, is proof enough that all others were not adversely affected to entail them for such consideration and consequently for the benefit of OROP too.
- In the meanwhile there was an agitation organized by the Indian Ex Servicemen Movement (IESM), an association of Ex servicemen, at Jantar Mantir. As the agitation gained momentum, the then UPA government hurriedly accepted the OROP demand and allocated a sum of Rs.500 crores for its implementation. Thereafter there was a change of guard in the union government and the government formed by the NDA in May 2014, formally notified OROP on 07/11/2015.
- This notification resulted in substantial reverse benefit, to those who have served for longer and until superannuation and those who held/promoted to higher ranks. The NCOs who were retired early and young, have hardly got any benefit. This has defeated the very purpose for which OROP was demanded. It, indeed killed the very spirit of the OROP scheme. It benefitted the commissioned officers, who are not the actual indented beneficiaries, with windfall increase in their pensions.
- Since unintended beneficiaries were included into the scheme, as explained above, there was a huge drain from the public exchequer as well. The burden of footing this unintended expenditure fell on the solders of honest tax paying citizens. Moreover this is a recurring expense and the outlay could keep growing after every five yearly revision. Hence it’s continuation and sustainability itself can become doubtful over a period of time, unless some urgent remedial measures are taken at the earliest.
- Public money can only be spent wisely and properly for which purpose it was to be spent. Any extravaganza out of public fund is unconstitutional as the constitution of India has an implied and inbuilt provision to ensure government accountability for how and where it spends taxpayer money.
The maxim that “you cannot spend your way to prosperity” is now widely accepted. Fiscal policies must therefore be embedded in caution than exuberance. In restraint than profligacy.
This very principle was violated when the non eligible Commissioned officers were included in the OROP scheme. On this reason alone the scheme qualifies to be challenged under Public Interest Litigation (PIL) category.
- Proposed alternate scheme-Early Retirement Equalisation Pension (EREP)
Then there arises a question as to what is the alternate scheme available to ensure that the grievances and hardship, the NCOs are facing due to the four reasons given above, are effectively addressed and redressed in a fair and just manner. At the same time the claim of other pensioners who have retired late and continued in service till superannuation for pension, in proportion to the length of service rendered by them also need to be taken into account, while formulating any alternate scheme and there is no wasteful expenditure from public exchequer so that the scheme is sustainable.
- This proposed alternate scheme is called Early Retirement Equalisation Pension (EREP). The methodology of the scheme is as detailed below:-
A Sepoy/NCO who retires after 15 years of service will be entitled to 70% of his Last Pay Drawn (LPD), as service pension. This was the rate of pension NCOs were getting prior to 1973. The same shall be reduced by 1.25% for every additional year of service, as computed hereunder:
15 years – 70.00% 24 years – 58.75%
16 years – 68.75% 25 years – 57.50%
17 years – 67.50% 26 years – 56.25%
18 years – 66.25% 27 years – 55.00%
19 years – 65.00% 28 years – 53.75%
20 years – 63.75% 29 years – 52.50%
21 years – 62.50% 30 years – 51.25%
22 years – 61.25% 31 years – 50.00%
23 years – 60.00% & above – 50.00%
The most important feature of EREP scheme is that at no point of time, a senior will draw less pension than the juniors.
- The EREP scheme will apply equally to both Commissioned officers and NCOs. There is no need for periodic review and there would be lots of saving to public exchequer. While the Last Pay Drawn will be revised on the recommendations of each future pay commissions, the rate of pension as above will remain the same. There will not be any undue benefit or wind fall increase in pension to anyone. There will be an uniformly controlled pension benefit to all. The scheme is more just, scientific and fair. It ensures equity and justice.Its a win-win to all.