OROP will motivate the brave soldiers

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Prime Minister Modi was anointed the prime minister candidate on 13 Sep 2013 by the BJP party for election scheduled in May 2014. On 15 Sep 2013, he was scheduled to address an Ex Service Man (ESM) rally at Rewari, Haryana.

The date of the rally had been decided before his elevation as the PM candidate. The rally was attended by General V K Singh(retd), the former Chief of the Army Staff and by lakhs of ESM. During the course of the rally, PM Modi had said that if BJP party came to power then within 100 days the government would sanction OROP and thus solve the grievances of the ESM pending since 1973.

The above promise was also repeated when he visited Siachen glacier and also given assurance in the parliament. Even in the Presidential address to the parliament, the President gave an assurance. The ESM were expecting that on 15 Aug 15, the Prime Minister would make an announcement from the ramparts of the Red Fort, in Delhi. This did not happen and some ESM have gone on hunger fast until death, since 16 Aug 15, at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi. On 24 Aug 15, the condition of Col Pushpinder Singh (Retd) became very critical, and he had to be shifted to Army Hospital.

The service class personnel are more disillusioned, since 1947, their status has been reduced by successive government. For example the salary of the Indian Army Officers was reduced on attaining independence. Lt Gen SK Sinha(former Vice Chief of Army Staff, Governor of Assam and J &K) states that his salary as a Major was reduced from approximately Rs 1100 to approximately Rs 700 on attaining independence. This was done to bring them at par with Civilian employees. Further in 1973, after liberation of Bangladesh, the pension of armed forces was reduced from 70 percent to 50 percent. The pension of civilian employees was increased from 30 percent to 50 percent. The Armed Forces were told at time in 1973, that this anomaly would be addressed in OROP.

Therefore what exactly is OROP. It stands for “ONE RANK ONE PENSION”. In order to keep the Armed forces young, the serving soldiers and officers retire at an early age. Majority of the soldiers retire after serving the Army for about 15 to 17 years. At that time their age is less than forty years. The pension given to a soldier is fifty percent of his last basic pay drawn. Even though a soldier gets his dearness allowances from time to time, that is enough for him to sustain his normal life, as it is at this age that his expenses rise exponentially like education of his children, purchase of house and marriage of his children.
A study has been done to find out the pension being drawn by armed forces personnel of various democratic countries. It appears that the Armed forces personnel of USA, UK, France, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Germany etc all draw pension between 70 to 75 percent of their last pay.

With every pay commission after every ten years, the salaries of the government employees have been increasing substantially. Therefore a jawan retiring in 2015, his pension would be almost four times that of jawan who retired say twenty years ago. This anomaly is there for all ranks of the armed forces, from a jawan to Lt General.

OROP entails that that for every rank a person retires, the pension should be same, irrespective of the year in which he retired, provided the person has put in same length of total service. Further his length of service in a particular rank has also got to be factored in. This is based on the premise that escalation factor of the cost index is same for both the individuals.

Therefore then why is the government not giving it, after agreeing to the basic argument number of times. The reason being that if the government gives it to the Armed forces, then there would be similar demands from paramilitary forces, like BSF, CRPF, ITBP, police forces, etc. Even the railway employees and central government employees would also ask for similar demands. Even a mine worker working in a coal mine would ask. All of them would further state they also serve the country. The armed forces logic is that all of them serve till 60 years of age, hence do not deserve to be covered by OROP.

As per calculation done by the government, the extra expenditure comes to Rs 8000 to 10000 Crores by different methods of calculations. Government may not have this kind of money. Further with every subsequent pay commission this figure is bound to increase.

There are some categories of personnel who are already covered under OROP. These are President, Vice President, Chief Justice, IAS/IFS categories of officers who retire as Secretaries, Supreme Court and High Court Judges, General/Army Commanders equivalent in three services. One logic being given is that to bring parity, even these categories of personnel should not be covered by OROP, if OROP cannot be given to Armed Forces.

Not granting OROP to the Armed Forces is doing major harm to the serving soldier and in turn to country. Present day soldier is highly demotivated, as he would also retire in few years time, and would see the same treatment being meted out to him. Further about 70 percent of the present soldiers are sons of retired veterans. They see their father/grandfather protesting at Jantar Mantar, and their demands not being met. It has come to light that some of them have even refused to go for duties like “aid to civil authority” like flood relief, earthquake, natural calamities etc, on the premise that these are not our duties. Armed forces are the last bastion of the government, and if they refuse to carry out the orders, then one can imagine what would happen to our great country.

We would appeal to the Prime Minister to expeditiously clear the OROP as has been promised by him number of times. It does not require a 56 inch chest; it only requires a heart, which could be in 36 inch chest.

(Brigadier Adarsh Dhawan Retd served in the Indian Army and is a NewsMobile mobile journalist the views expressed are personal)

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