Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Great OROP Betrayal

MUSINGS 25 NOV 2015 - A SENSE OF BETRAYAL
Col RP Chaturvedi
My father once told me decades ago, that Prime minister Nehru being a strong proponent of international peace, had declared at independence that in absence of territorial ambitions, India did not need an army; the country just needed policemen wielding danda.  Initial years of independence consequently saw gross neglect of the Defence forces; ordinance factories shifted to making household goods instead of munitions, army manpower got busy in constructing houses and so on. Peaceful bliss prevailed.  Ignorance is Bliss. My old man disapproved of this neglect and felt we were erring in neglecting the nation’s ‘immune system’ that allowed us to work, play, do business and lead a peaceful life. The Army’s role in not only saving the Kashmir valley from Pakistani forces, but also keeping Delhi safe during the independence carnage, against marauding mobs from neighboring areas was fresh in citizen’s minds in the fifties.
The Chinese proved Nehru wrong in 1962.  The resulting national humiliation still gnaws at the Indian psyche.
Seeing the recently tabled 7 CPC Report, I am convinced we are headed the 1962 way. The Fauj (term includes Army, Navy and Air Force) has been unabashedly further robbed of its rightful place, and in effect moved further down as the Poorest Paid Government Employees.
And yet, the perpetrators of this situation would sadly not be impacted by the consequences of this and many similar misdemeanors since independence. Only the soldier’s neck would be on the chopping block. He would still perform ‘with whatever he has’, including the equipment, manpower, and well- whatever meager salary or perks he gets. Regimental Izzat makes you do a lot, beyond the call of duty; despite being the ‘Most Poorly Paid Employee’ of the Government of India.
When we say the Government of India, we perhaps mistakenly blame the Legislative for the country’s ills. It is the Executive- the Bureaucracy that represents the continuity element of power, and not the legislative who may turn over with each election. Tragically for India, due perhaps to lack of perception, or for political compulsions of those holding ministerial office, the executive has usurped the powers absolutely. Those familiar with the BBC serial ‘Yes Minister’ would agree; but I am sure not many ministers have seen or are familiar or smart enough to notice. One effective Minister we have in recent times is the Raksha Mantri (RM), Mr Manohar Parrikar. Junior in the hierarchy and hence pliable through ‘guidance’, he is a hands on person with a reputation of effective administration as Chief Minister (CM) of Goa.
Point I am making is that unless the ministers ensure that their ministerial staff –babus- pull their finger out, India will continue to suffer maladministration.
Till some years ago, for Faujis too, ignorance was bliss. Despite years of successive neglect and down gradation (table below illustrates) in relativity, everyone served with deep devotion, unmindful of the world around and what the next guy was getting.
Civil Grade
3rd CPC
4th CPC
Remarks
Junior Time Scale
Junior to Captain
Equal to Captain
2/ Lt, Lt and Capt clubbed by 3rd CPC
Senior Time Scale
Equal to Captain
Equal to Major

Selection Grade/ Non-Functional Selection Grade (SG/ NFSG)
Equal to Major
Senior to Major


Sepoy, Lance Naik, Naik and Havildar

Lower Division Clerk
NaibSubedar (Gazetted Rank)

Upper Division Clerk (With less than five years’ service) (Non Gazetted Post)
Subedar (GazettedRank)
Upper Division Clerk (With more than five years’ service),and Office Supdt Grade -II (Both, Non Gazetted Posts)

Subedar Major (GazettedRank)

Office Superintendent Grade-I
(Non Gazetted Post)

We did not even notice the reduction in Fauji pensions in 1973, shortly after delivering the first Indian victory in history (not post history please, first EVER), or that while our Chief’s pension was increased just 45 times since sixties, that of the top civil servant went up by 108 times( Till 70s Pension of Chiefs was Rs 1000pm while that of the highest Civil services official was Rs 456). We did not notice that civil servants had worked out a series of schemes wherein nearly everyone would get top end pensions on retirement, and that he would get salary enhancement just because his batch mate got promoted. So it was Happy Hour all the time. For us, because we were ignorant. For Civil Services because they had everything worked out to their advantage. Just see the table below to see the comparative promotional avenues.
Service
Cadre Strength
Apex
HAG+
HAG
SAG
Indian Foreign Service
766
33

46
164
Indian Revenue Service (Income Tax)
5872
26
91
300
635
Indian Revenue Service (Customs & Excise)
5578
14
38
100
340
Indian Account & Audit Service (as on 1 Jun 12)
874
5
5
59
340
Indian Postal Service
562
1
6
26
73
ARMY
1100000 (Offrs40000)
7
90
295
1117
Indian Administrative Services (IAS)
4000
76



Indian Defence Account Service
671
1
4
19
113
Indian Defence Estate Service
183
1
-
7
19
Indian Ordnance Factories Service
1718
1
9
11
224
DRDO Scientists Cadre
7256
5
15
46
373

Ultimately Faujis came out of their naïve bliss. In 2008, as the Sixth Pay Commission Report was awaited, some veterans formed the Indian Ex Servicemen Movement (IESM), to work at creating a conducive and respectable environment for ex servicemen (ESM) to live in their final years. There was a lot lacking. Faujis had been neglected by the Ministry of Defence (MoD), whose very charter is to ‘Look After’ their interests. More we researched, more we found shocking revelations of neglect. Among that list we chose One Rank One Pension (OROP) as the top priority of demands.
To keep a young profile,  Defence Forces compulsorily retire their personnel early in youth. (Hence the term ‘Jawan’, a term often confusingly and mistakenly used for Police personnel, even in media, though the correct term is ‘Constable’).  97% of Faujis retire between age 35 and 42 years, as against all Government employees who retire at 60. To compensate for this early retirement, a soldier’s pension till 1973 was calculated at 75% of last pay drawn, an officer’s at 50%, and a civilian’s at 33% of last pay drawn. In 1973, with a sleight of pen, everyone’s pension was brought to 50%- Fauji’s reduced, civilians increased. As if this was not enough, a condition of minimum 33 years of service to earn full pension was introduced. Not many Defence personnel serve that long as mentioned earlier. Magnanimously (?) a ‘weight-age’ of 7 years was given to ESM. SO to get full pension, a soldier required to at least serve 26 years (33-7).
Problem was: If a soldier went home with 20 years’ service, he would effectively land up with 20 /26 of last pay drawn, ie just 38%. In effect therefore, in 1973, Fauji pensions were lowered from 75% to approximately 38% of last pay drawn, while Civilians were raised nearly two fold.
As compensation for this ‘standardization’ Faujis were assured of suitable lateral induction in other Government services- Police, Administration, PSU etc- to allow them to also serve till 60 like everybody else. When this did not happen due mainly to ‘Turf considerations’, Government introduced the concept of OROP, recommended by various Parliamentary Committees on Defence The first, the KP Singh Deo Committee report submitted on 27 Oct 1984 stated “ Ex Servicemen throughout the country have raised the point very emphatically. They are of the view that a Defence Forces’ Pensioner, irrespective of his date of retirement, should get the same pension as another pensioner who retired later for the same rank and the same length of service. Whenever pensions are revised, the same should be applicable automatically and with prospective effect to existing pension, widow’s pension and so on, whenever revised should again be automatically applicable to older cases. The committee requests the Government to consider the matter particularly in the light of the principle which has been established regarding the pensions of the judges of the Supreme and High Courts “
Indira Gandhi was assassinated four days later. The Committees’ recommendations on OROP and Formation of a Veterans Commission have since remained unimplemented till date, despite being recommended by successive Parliamentary Committees, and recently being principally approved unanimously  twice in Parliament by first the UPA and then the NDA Governments taking over in mid 2014 .
The logic of OROP is the early compulsory retirement of Defence personnel. It is thus beyond comprehension to now see OROP being demanded by Police Forces, Railways etc.(Just to set terminology right- Ranks are a pure Fauji phenomenon. Prefixes like Joint Secretary, Secretary, DIG, IG etc are appointments and not ‘ranks’), while their personnel superannuate at around 60 yrs.
Isolated protests for implementation of OROP have been on since the Eighties. The movement acquired intensity with creation of IESM in 2008. Confabulations with Government officials, ministers, protest at Jantar Mantar and across the country, return of medals and letters signed in blood, to President, urging his intervention as Supreme Commander did not fetch results.
In 2011, taking note of the Veteran unrest, a Parliamentary Committee (Koshiyari Committee) comprising members from all parties was formed to study OROP in all dimensions. They interacted extensively with all stake holders including Veterans, CPF organizations/ associations, representatives of Finance and Defence Ministry etc, over six odd months and tabled the report on 19 Dec 2011. The Report defines, recommends and lays out the road map for implementation of OROP for defence personnel including the monetary aspects involved, and is therefore the culmination and not the Start Point of OROP negotiations.
When Mr Modi promised implementation of OROP in end 2013, it is improbable he was not aware of the issues involved.
When after coming to power he placed Mr Jaitley in charge of both Defence and Finance ministries, many thought it was a good move, to expedite various maladies facing Defence, including the long pending OROP.
We were proved wrong.
Whether it is internal BJP politics vis a vis NaMo, or his electoral loss grudged to lack of ESM votes in Amritsar, or his inability to control an recalcitrant bureaucracy, Mr Jaitley has been constantly trying to “Redefine” the long established definition of  OROP and indicated that election promises are not meant to be honored. He reluctantly met veterans, only to advise them to ‘lower your expectations’, as if OROP was a new ‘demand’. And what were veterans ‘demanding’? Just this: “Implement OROP”.
During Mr Jaitley’s stint as RM the OROP file remained in cold storag in MoD.  Mr Parrikar relieved him towards end 2014, and got the OROP file- complete with financial outlay, sent from MoD to Finance Ministry by early 2015 within three months, despite reported MoD staff inertia. Mr Jaitley, his predecessor, had let the file stagnate during his time as RM.
In a professional environment implementation of OROP should logically have followed soon thereafter. Mr Parrikar accordingly kept assuring veterans of likely dates by which OROP would be implemented. Such periodic and well meaning assurances, sabotaged no doubt by the unbridled Finance Ministry, unfortunately has ruined the credibility of this honest, hands on, capable and well meaning minister, having a respectable performance record as CM of Goa.
Parrikar was not the only one affected by the File languishing with Finance Ministry for over five months.  Veterans too, familiar with Bureaucratic tactics, were getting uneasy. A country wide Relay Hunger Strike (RHS) to press for speedy implementation of OROP was therefore commenced from 15 June 2014. With 15 Aug approaching,   PMO apparently got the OROP file resurrected and veteran hopes rose. Sadly, no announcement was made by PM from Red Fort; instead a day earlier, on Pakistan Independence Day, Delhi Police tried to forcibly evict the veterans protesting peacefully at Jantar Mantar. It’s difficult to believe it was stray action by a constable on the spot. This mishandling reflects a serious flaw in Indian governance- of letting simple problems grow by not attending to them , perhaps attribute political motive or a ‘foreign hand’, sedition or simply give Naxal hues; and then having conditioned public opinion,  use force to crush what was actually not a problem to begin with. Is OROP a problem? Is Rs 8300 crore such a problem, as to have a senior bureaucrat reportedly bemoan “OROP over my Dead Body”. Does it not indicate extreme hatred; an expression that Faujis use to indicate resolve to fight to the end?
The approaching Bihar elections resuscitated the OROP issue. In a hurriedly organized Press Conference on 5 Sep – 83rd day of Veteran protest- RM accompanied by the three Chiefs of Staff read out Government’s announcement on OROP. His body language showed his discomfiture with what he read. The announcement violated every ingredient of OROP, and introduced a new clause of denying this concept to people who took VRS (Forces have no VRS, so much for the standard of Bureaucracy we have; and yet who were perhaps hinting at Premature Retirement (PMR)). The Veterans rejected this package masquerading as OROP. A Veterans rally was called at Jantar Mantar on 12 Sep, to express anguish over the RMs announcement.
Now the Government went to war with its veterans. Social Media went active, declaring that the rally was cancelled, Delhi was bedecked with posters purportedly from ESM thanking NaMo for OROP, and buses bringing in participants for rally from neighboring states were stopped at border. It was the largest ESM Rally, with a floating attendance reported to be over 45 thousand. Press apparently was told not to cover the event. I was unwell that day and looking at TV news, wondered if the rally was indeed on.
Since then the issue has hibernated. Social Media has been abuzz with clearly sponsored hate messages and mails questioning the intent, honesty, motives and Greed of Faujis. It appears that the oldies protesting at Jantar Mantar, who shaped the destiny of our country, warding off external and internal threats to India, covering up for nearly every other department’s failure, protecting lives during disasters, despite the country having dedicated organizations for it, have suddenly become objects of hate in the country.   
In the above backdrop, and obviously in continuation, comes the report of the 7 CPC. Shockingly while it showers enhancements and perks on everyone, particularly the Police Forces, it depresses pay /removes existing allowances of the Defence Forces. As example, while allowances for serving in Siachen are31500, that for a Babu posted from Delhi to Guwahati is well over Half a Lac per Month!! Below is a comparison of pay, pension, allowances& other benefits between Central Govt civilian employees and defence personnel that existed even before. How does the Media /Government propaganda mill lie blatantly that the Fauji is better paid than he deserves?
Type of Allowance
Civilian Employee
Faujis

Disabled Employees


(a)    Protection of Service




(b)   Pay and Allowances









(c)    Pension



(d)   Right to life of dignity of self and family


Govt has to retain them till 60 yrs under Disability Act

Full protection under Section 47 of the Act. Will not be discharged on account of disability.


Full pay and allowances admissible till the age of 60 even if unable to attend any official duty.Can even be kept on supernumerary post and paid all pay and allowances.




Entitled to full service length till superannuation and pension thereafter.

Full pay and pension and complete Government protection/cover with entitled facilities Admissible to dependents

Invalided (Thrown) out of service immediately

Defence Forces exempted from operation of Section 47.Hence no protection of employment available in case of disability.

Employee can be discharged on account of disability.
Nil Admissible







 Nil Admissible



 Nil.No facilities or protection for self and dependents


Increase in Pension of highest rank employee from 1973 to 2006

108 times
Highest Civilian Functionary Pension
1973- Rs 416.50/-pm
2006- Rs 45000/-pm
45 times
Highest Def Rank Pension

 1973 -Rs 1000/-pm
 2006 -Rs 45000/-pm

Period of Service

Upto60 years of age

85compulsorily retired between 35 -37 years age.

12-13%compulsorilyretired between 40-54 years age

Career Progression

Three Promotions at 10,20,30 years of service

Three promotion at 8, 16, 24 years of service.

85% compulsorily retired at 15-17 years’ service; thereby denied 3rdcareer progression

Officer’s Promotion opportunities

100% Joint Secy at 16-18 years’ Service
100% Addl Secy at 32 years’Service

1% Maj Gen at 32-33 years of service.
3% Lt Gen 33-35years

Non-functional Upgradtion (NFU)

       JS Pay at approx. 22 yrs.
       AddlSecyPay at 32yrs

Nil
When posted in Peace stations in NE like Shillong,Aizawl, entire Sikkim and Ladakh

       Spec Duty Allowance. 12.5 % of Basic
        Double HRA
       Hardship allowance .
       25 % of basic pay (for IAS officers of UT cadre)
       Detachment allowanceRs300 per day for all CAPF personnel

Nil
Kashmir/ NE Regional HRA

Double HRA

Nil
Instructor Allowance (in NDC, War College etc)
Rs19,000

Rs1800 for Col & above

HQ Allowance

Rs4,000

Nil
Para Allowance (For
Special forces and Para personnel)

Rs7,200 to 11,000 pm for COBRA Battalions (commando battalions)

Rs800 to 1200 pm

Outfit allowance

Rs7,500 every three yrs

Rs3,000 (every three years—8 Uniforms)


All this makes me wonder. Is it all really just about OROP?
Or, more seriously it’s a Power Game of a Government Service for absolute power over the other- Fauj, with disregard to consequences, similar to behavior of Queen Kaikayi of Ayodhya?
Following the devastating 7CPC Report emerging, some very insulting and arrogant messages against Faujis, purportedly sent out by Mr Vivek Rae, member 7 CPC have appeared on Social Media. Though he has clarified these are ‘fake’, and promised to lodge Police complaint at our suggestion, these fickle and foolish messages pointing to a convoluted and immature mind do reflect the rumblings in some ill informed quarters, and need the record to be set straight.
·         The message contends that while a General cannot order opening fire, a DM with 8 years of service can. Obvious reference is to Army called out for Aid to Civil Power,  when  local law and order situation has gone beyond the control of Civil Administration and police despite being deployed has been unable to control it. As per Constitution of India Defence Forces cannot operate against Indian citizens UNLESS Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) has been invoked. Else, the District Administration- the DC with 8 yrs service, has to take responsibility in writing. It’s a legal requirement. Nothing to do with rank or power. In AFSPA areas no such rule apply.
·         Increases in Police pecuniary enhancements have been justified on grounds that they like Adminstrative services operate in Districts, and cognizance needs to be taken of ‘deliverables’(sic). This shows ignorance of what the Army is doing ‘in the districts’ aside from their multiple duties concerned at the border (even if located in peace areas)- because aside from training for war, the units also keep strong watch on local developments, flood relief and other plans for Aid to Civil Authority. Tragic that its Dual contributions have gone unacknowledged by CPC!
·         A canard has often been spread that Defence Veterans must not opine/ write/ talk about matters concerning the serving Faujis. This seems atrocious when everyone in the country is able to express opinion freely on ANY subject. Film Stars talk about how wars should be fought. Non players comment on how Sachin should play. As experts, Veterans are best placed to opine or mentor the Indian Citizenry and caution them of dangers lurking. At the moment, those who know, can sense a reversion to 1962 due to malafide eating into the Fauji entrails.
·         Babus simply love to comment on the Fauji education standard. Blatantly false, this petty idea misses three major facts. One. That entry level of Fauji Officers is low, but competition hard. Many rejects from these entrance exams later appear, and make it to the Civil Services, and in the meantime they do get somewhat higher education. Two. While in service, the Faujis do a variety of technical courses, now recognized by Universities of higher learning. And Lastly. Three. High or Low education, Fauj PERFORMS. Delivers. Each and Every time. On time. Same cannot be said about so many others. So what ‘deliverables’ are being talked about? If we HAD ‘delivery’, shape of things in India –Law and Order, Social Discontent, Corruption would have been different.
·         Veterans are often ‘reminded’ of need to be apolitical. Organizationally ‘Apolitical’ is an operational imperative. Yet it does not imply ‘Political Ignorance’ or Naivette. Individually there would be political loyalties- people you vote for; but organizationally while in service one can not have ‘My Party’ syndrome. Veterans have no such restraint, and I suggest being Political or exercising ‘Political Expediency’ is acceptable, legal behavior.
·         During current protests, Veterans have been compared to Unions. This is absurd. Unions anywhere have backing of the associated Service, denial of which causes inconvenience to public- Banks, Transport, Safai Karmcharis Unions have illustratively used their power thus. What does a Veteran deny? There are limitations to a Fauji Protest- not Strike mind you, since he does not work, how can he ‘strike’ work? Truth be told, in case of emergency a veteran would head out to assist. Army serves for Izzat. No matter how badly equipped, paid or manned it would perform. Dying is NOT why we enroll, as many snide references from the ignorant point- we enroll to Defend, including dying/ getting wounded; yet historically there have been armies that surrendered at the earliest whiff of danger. We are lucky ours is NOT one of those. So let us not be foolish to keep gnawing at its élan. They need to be appreciated and not contested.
·         Sadly the Government has attempted to handle the veterans peaceful protest in a typical ‘Political’ way- maligning, threats of force, divisiveness, misinformation. The long term manifestations of creating fissures, between Fauji- CPFs, Officers- Men, Serving Fraternity – Veterans, have skipped attention. Though the current perpretattors of such mischief will not face the consequences, it would be felt by Faujis, whose neck would be on the chopping block. And yet, if some national fiasco took place, these very mischief mongers would conveniently wiggle out and Fauji made the Fall guy. Aim of this write up is to educate on some critical consequences of the neglect and alienation of the Military.
Since independence there has been a gradual neglect of the Military. Kept away from public view, and only seen on ceremonial occasions or when there is a need to resolve natural or manmade administrative or law and order situation, it returns to the barracks. Its achievements are forgotten, whether it is victory in 71, Kargil, dousing of oil well fires, construction of bridge at Commonwealth games after the civil administration failed to do so, or the disaster relief on numerous occasions. We don’t’ even teach tales of valor in schools. Uniforms and rank badges of Army are cloned by not only Police forces of all nomenclature but also by Private Security Services. Any number of guards go around wearing Olive Green uniforms and vehicles of numerous organizations are painted in a color that should identify Army. Why has this happened? Who let the niche’-ism diminish? Any Political Party? Which one? Or it’s simply the Executive who failed us? It was one of their jobs, No? The ‘Deliverable’?

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