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One Rank One Pension: HURDLES & MORE HURDLES, By Col (Dr) PK Vasudeva (Retd), 9 June, 2015 Print E-mail

Defence Notes

New Delhi, 9 June 2015

One Rank One Pension


By Col (Dr) PK Vasudeva (Retd)


Three days after completing his first year (26 May) in power, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in an interview to a daily on 29 May, said the Government was “in constant discussions with the Armed Forces personnel to arrive at a please-all definition of one rank one pension (OROP) of which there are varied versions. So we are trying to arrive at a please-all decision”. Asked if the Government would expedite OROP, the PM said the Government was committed to it. “The government has been formed for five years.”


All the ex-servicemen (veterans) have no doubts and have full faith in Prime Minister Modi but they are now doubtful on the version of his interview when he stated, “there are varied versions about the definition of OROP” and in the end said, “the Government has been formed for five years”, implying thereby that the decision could be further delayed beyond the eagerly awaiting period of the veterans. It seems that the babus have wrongly briefed the PM as the serving soldiers are not part of the decision making body in the Ministry of Defence. At least, Modi could have given a time frame for its implementation.


According to the veterans there is only one definition of OROP that has been cleared by both the Supreme Court of India as well as the Standing Committee of Parliament on Defence, i.e. that is “payment of a uniform pension to personnel retiring in the same rank with the same length of service, irrespective of their date of retirement” which has been officially accepted by the MoD. At present, pensioners who retired before 2006 draw a lower pension than their counterparts and juniors who retired afterwards.


The disparity between past and present pensioners has grown with every successive Pay Commission. It became most visible after the implementation of the Sixth Pay Commission’s recommendations in 2000. A soldier who retired before 1996 gets 82 per cent less pension than a soldier who retired after 2006. Among officers, a Major who retired pre-1996 gets 53 per cent less pension than a Major who retired post-2006.


Until 1973, officers drew 50 per cent of their last drawn salary as pension every month and other ranks/junior commissioned officers drew 70 per cent because they retire early in age. But this changed after the Third Pay Commission’s suggestions came in that year: military pensions were reduced and aligned with civilian pensions on the insistence of babus.


Many of those who resist OROP argue that, given the alignment in military and civilian pensions, the scheme for the military may prompt similar calls from others. Their argument is, however, misplaced. Notwithstanding the pensions, the military is distinct from other government services.

In the Armed Forces more than 85 per cent of the other ranks (OR) retire between the age of 34 and 38, NCOs and JCOs retire between the age of 40-45 years (only 10 per cent OR become JCOs), and the 98 per cent officers retire between the age of 50-54 years with only 0.2 per cent retire at the age of 60, whereas all the Central services employees, including Central police services, retire at 60 years of age. Early retirement and extremely limited avenues for career advancement (promotions) place the defence personnel at a great disadvantage vis-à-vis their counterparts in the civil services. The civil services do not even permit Armed Forces personnel for lateral entry when they are young, disciplined, well educated, skilled and experienced after early retirement and when they have another 20 years of their productive life.


Further, civil servants are protected under Section 47 of the Disability Act and cannot be discharged by the Government on account of disability until they reach the retirement age. This section does not apply to the defence forces and they can be discharged anytime on account of disability.


In 1983, the Supreme Court had ruled in the case of DS Nakra and others Vs Union of India that “pension is not a bounty nor a matter of grace depending upon the sweet will of the employer. It is not an ex-gratia payment, but a payment for past services rendered.”


The apex court spoke again on this issue in the case of Union of India & Maj Gen SPS Vains & Others in 2009. It ruled then that no defence personnel senior in rank could get a lower pension than his junior irrespective of the date of retirement, and that similarly placed officers of the same rank should be given the same pension irrespective of the date of retirement.

On February 17 this year, the court, while hearing a contempt petition filed by Maj Gen (Retd) SPS Vains, directed the Centre to implement its six-year-old verdict and follow the OROP principle for retired Armed Forces personnel. It reminded the BJP-led government that the party had promised to do so in the run-up to last year’s Lok Sabha elections.


The bench, comprising Justices TS Thakur and AK Goel, warned the Government of contempt if it failed to abide by the order within three months. “We make it clear that no further time will be granted for the purpose of [the] implementation of the judgement,” it told Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand.


The decades-long governmental apathy towards ex-servicemen’s demands has put a financial squeeze on veterans who retired years ago and now can’t meet the rising costs of living with their low pensions. Many have died and many more may also die waiting for justice. It has also projected the Armed Forces as an unattractive career option for the youth. Lured by the far more lucrative salaries in the corporate sector, hundreds of officers opt out of the services for better financial prospects. This has led to an acute shortage of manpower in the Armed Forces to the tune of 15,000 officers in the Army alone.


While the Armed Forces are called upon in aid to civil authority in emergency – be it the Yemen evacuations, the Uttarakhand flood rescue operation, or Operation Maitri in earthquake-hit Nepal – there is nobody heeding the call when they do not even get their due. The Central Government must fulfill its much-repeated promise if it wants to keep the country’s Armed Forces motivated.

The Prime Minister on whom the Armed Forces have the greatest faith must realise that there exists a very strong bond between the veterans and the serving troops. Today’s soldiers are tomorrow’s veterans, and this betrayal on part of the Government will affect their morale severely. --- INFA


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

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