One Rank One Pension – The long outstanding demand of the military veterans
The One Rank One Pension (OROP), the long outstanding demand of the military veterans. Unfortunately, the govt has been playing ‘Snakes and Ladders’ with this issue, the only ladder in the board being the announcement regarding acceptance of OROP by the erstwhile finance minister during the Interim Budget 2014 – 15 on 17 Feb 2014, followed by a reiteration of the intent by the present incumbent in his budget speech on 10 Jul 2014.
Modi, as the Prime Ministerial candidate, made a promise to implement OROP at his inaugural election rally in Rewari on 15 Sep 2013 in front of a mammoth crowd of military veterans. He followed it up by reiterating the Promise in his election rallies in Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Karnataka and Rajasthan. After assuming office he visited military and naval establishments and went to the extent of stating that ‘OROP has been implemented’ during his visit to Siachen in Oct 2014. Now it is May 2015 and the ‘implemented’ OROP is still hanging fire.
The administration’s ingenuities to delay, confuse and dilute the scheme make an interesting study. To start with it was pronounced that the satisfaction level would be 80% as 100 % satisfaction is never given in real life. Then the bogey of the civil bureaucrats demanding OROP was put out. Next it was announced that the exact cost of OROP to the exchequer was being worked out. The erstwhile FM announced OROP in Feb 2014. Chidambaram is not a slip shod minister who would make an announcement in the Parliament without getting the financial implications JUSTIFY. Subsequently the present FM made the pronouncement in the Parliament. Did he make the announcement without knowing the costs?
Thereafter the cost speculation went wild with assessments ranging from Rs 600 crores to Rs 14000 crores and the DM is on record stating that his own assessment of the cost is between Rs 6000 and Rs 8000 crores. After this narrative had run out of steam, the Veterans were told that the govt letter was being drafted. With a clear definition of OROP and the Service Headquarters putting out a draft implementation orders, one year delay can only be attributed to the perverted thinking of the bureaucracy.
The net result is the allotment of Rs 500 crores made by the earlier govt and Rs 1000 crores in 2014 – 2015 budgets by the present govt have lapsed to the govt probably as intended!!
Take a look at the time delay. The Defence Minister (DM) is on record stating that the scheme will be implemented by Mar 2015. The goal post then got shifted to ‘before the completion of one year in office’ that is by 25 May 2015. A few weeks ago, the target has been further stretched to Jul 2015 through quiet whispers. The latest one heard was the DM stating at a media conference that he cannot commit to a date as the matter is under consideration outside the Defence Ministry. As of today, the OROP issue it seems may not be resolved in the near future. The Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on 22 May 2015 had said that the “methodology of calculation”was still being worked out in consultation with the Defence Ministry.
The aim appears to be to drag the proposal closer to the 7th Central Pay Commission and lob the ball in the Commission’s court. This will force the entire process to start afresh. OROP thus seems to have reached square one – an effect of the Snake in the game that the bureaucracy has been playing.
What is the intention? My own guess is that the bureaucracy has found a way to dilute the benefits to make it ‘One Rank Half Pension.’ Remember some time back the DM had talked about ‘Military Pension?’ He also made a very confusing statement subsequently: “We should have a pay scale kind of scheme, where over a particular period you fix a pension – let us not define the period because we are in active discussion on that with finance ministry – and then at the end of the period they can all get upgraded, or rationalised.” The ‘Military Pension’ plan it appears may be in accordance with the definition of OROP but will fall short of the pensions of the present day retirees and probably delinked from the last pay drawn. In the bargain the new retirees may draw lesser pensions than what they would have, based on their last pay drawn. Is this the reason how the Rs 14000 crore estimates came down to Rs 8300 crores? There seems to be no end to the treachery of the bureaucracy.
Courtesy V.Mahalingam – The Times of India
(The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and the article was not intended to represent the views of 90paisa.org)