The demand for One Rank One Pension (OROP) by the Defence Forces has been going on for many years.
However what has shocked me, is that Apex OROP perpetuity, was granted by the UPA Government, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to select branches of the civil services – aka IAS, IFS & IPS in 2008 . The Apex pay scale applies to all officers in the select civil services, retiring within the Apex scale pay band.
Apex scale is Rs 80,000 (fixed) per month, only the three service chiefs (Army, Navy and Air Force) and the Cabinet Secretary get a higher pay band.
The top brass of the Defence Forces were also covered under the Apex OROP, namely the the Chief of Army, Navy, & Air Force, the Army Commanders, a few
Lt Generals, and their equivalents in the Navy, and Air Force.
Today most IFS, IAS, IPS, officers retire in the APEX pay scale. Under the APEX OROP, their pension revision which is linked to ongoing regular incremental increases is guaranteed to perpetuity.
Whereas almost all the present and future members of direct recruits to the select Indian Civil Services will receive the full entitlement to OROP, a mere 0.13 percent of the Armed Forces Officers are covered by the special Apex OROP.
Apex-OROP whilst covering all civil service officers in the Ministry of Defence, including those responsible for providing various. “civilian” support services to the defence forces, like audit & accounts, Apex OROP excludes the senior most ranks within the Armed Forces, including most Lt Generals, Major Generals, Vice Admirals, and Rear Admirals, and Air Marshals, the commanders of the Armed Forces largest formations: its Corps, Divisions, Air Commands, Bases, Fleets and Training Establishments.
The entire MoD bureaucracy which include civil service officers on deputation, drawn from the IAS and from other civil services, the Indian Defence Estates Service, the Indian Defence Accounts Service (IDAS), and Indian Ordnance Factories Service. is covered by Apex OROP, and yet they continue to oppose OROP to the Defence Forces as sanctioned in its original form. Unbelievable!
Over the last 30 months, I have been following up on my late father’s pension arrears. My father was a war fatality of the 1965 Indo – Pak conflict.
Following his death the pension my mother had been receiving for close to half a century was ridiculously low.
My attempts to streamline and regularize my mother’s pension and get her fair dues from the Army, & Defense Accounts, led me through an incredible journey where I came upon a rigid, adamant, entrenched, and undaunted bureaucracy.
A bureaucracy which was determined to block every attempt to get the fair pension my mother rightly and legally deserved.
The general response often repeated to me at all levels was ‘the case is almost 50 years old, the records are unavailable, it’s too difficult’.
I had read about “babudom”, I had heard about the divide between the Defence Forces and the babus. In my quest for justice, I discovered “babudom” at its unflinching best, the incredible disdain and flippancy by the bureaucrats towards the Defence Forces.
The bureaucratic byline for non-regularisation of the pension is that it’s thePensioner’s responsibility to update the office about their pension. The fact that the pensioner or the widow could well be unaware of the nuances and details of pension upgradtion, living in a remote part of India, did not mean anything.
The Defence Account Services contritely concluded that it was my mother’s fault for not taking up the case for all these years. The fact that such a paltry, below par pension was being paid for the last 47 years did not deter the babus to think differently.
Everytime I met resistance, which I did at every level , I elevated the matter one rung higher. I went to the Army – AG`s Branch, the Defense Ministry, the Finance Ministry, and even knocked on the doors of the Prime Minister’s Office.
My mothers pension case was finally approved by the Defence Secretary – F.A, but was then subsequently blocked by the Banking bureaucracy.
The Defence Accounts, Allahabad, wrote to me saying that they had cleared the regularization of pension wef 2005, but held my mother entirely responsible for the delay, and therefore it was deduced, that no interest whatsoever was payable on the pension arrears.
I took the Govt, the Army & Defense Accounts to the Delhi High Court, I was so enraged. I argued that it was incumbent upon the Army & Govt to pay Interest for the lost decade.
On behalf of the Govt and Army, the case was contested by the JAG Branch of the Army, (upon instruction from GOI), who vociferously contested my demand for interest.
Defense Accounts stated in writing that Army Pension does not accrue Interest, period. The Delhi High Court prevailed, they ruled that the Army must pay 12% Interest per annum, for the delayed pension !
As for regularization of my mother`s pension, as of August 2014, I was able to ramp up the pension by 1,325% or about 13.25 times more than what she was getting prior to April 2013 !
For several decades there has been an exercise to cut the Defence Forces to size. Its confounds the mind that civilians in the MoD, get Apex OROP, but the men in uniform, barring 0.13% do not.
It is high time things changed. Parity and due respect must be given, and given now. The Govt did agree to OROP, and the broad framework was drawn up, and sactioned by the Parliament.
For the Defence Minister to now say that everyone has a right to make a demand in a democracy but not all demands can be fulfilled, is ridiculous in this context.
To say that the Defence Forces can go to the one man judicial commission, which is a representation of the Government for “fool proof” redressal is hard to swollow.
The demand for the Defence Services getting full OROP should be widely and publicly circulated and be made known. A clarion call should be made for pension parity, and/or for the IAS, IFS, IPS cadres to be divested of Apex OROP, and brought in line with Defence Forces`s OROP.
I am aware that OROP boils down to a numbers game. The Armed Forces and the veterans are far greater in number than the select civil services and their respective retireees. This however does not mean that the Government, outwardly favors the smaller branch, & ignores the larger populace.
It is a very sad day when the Defence Forces have to return their medals in a quest of something that was promised to them, that too over “Diwali” wherein it is largely believed that good prevails over evil.
Here the clock has turned back, and it would seem “Ravan” the politicians, the bureaucrats and the Govt have temporarily blocked the application and sanction of full OROP, as was approved and granted to them by Parliament.
The returning of medals by the Defence Forces will not auger well for India.We should heed history, when an Army is dis-enfranchised, it is definitely not good news; far from it.
As per the OROP notification, it applies to “Sepoy in Army and equivalent rank in Navy & Air Force retire after 17/19 years of engagement/service and officers retire before attaining the age of 60 years i.e. the normal age of retirement in the Government”.
The fact that an officer can voluntarily retire after 20 years of service, which is permissible in the Defence Forces is now no longer applicable or eligible for OROP, is a bit difficult to fathom, and that is putting it mildly.
Please do join me in spreading this message in any which way you can, be it with sharing this message or otherwise. People must come together, and when they do, the Government will listen.
OROP in full must be granted to the defence forces.
Sanjiv T Lall