1 .The Genesis: The Sixth Central Pay Commission (SCPC) ruled that the pensions should be fixed at 50% of the “MINIMUM OF THE RANK IN THE PAY BAND, CORRESPONDING”. Instead of doing that, the wily babus at the ministry of defence (MOD), in cahoots with their counterparts in the finance ministry, placed the pensions of ex-servicemen (ESM) at 50% of the “MINIMUM OF THE PAY BAND, CORRESPONDING”. Since, all the officers from Lieutenant Colonel (Lt Col), Colonel, Brigadier and Major Generals were in the same Pay Band-4, it meant all these officers were placed similarly at the bottom of this pay band for pension fixation!
Imagine four different ranks and grades of officers drawing the same pension, irrespective of the differences in length of service and ranks! The only difference in their pensions was due to the differences in their Grade Pays. So, for example the brigadier just got Rs100 more than a colonel, as pension! Such cock-eyed fixing was a miracle of illogic created by the Babus! With such wrong action by the government, the demand for OROP gained momentum.
2. OROP: This is a long pending demand of ESM, since 1982. Since the service conditions of Army are different (like 92% of soldiers retire between ages of 35 and 42 and the remaining 8%—the JCOs like Subedars—retiring before 45 years of age, in order to keep the young age profile of the Army), there will be at least five CPCs in the life of an ESM. With every new CPC, he gets shunted further down than his serving brethren or the recently retired men. As a result, there are many families wherein a retired Subedar (now around 70 years old) getting much lesser pension than his grandson who retired recently from the same army as a Sepoy! It sounds ridiculous. But, it happens in our MBM, thanks to the short-sightedness and mean mindedness of our officialdom. There are many more such reasons /instances. But, due to my limitations, I omit them here. Hence, the demand for “Same Pension For Same Rank” persons who retired with the same length of service, irrespective of date of retirement. (That is the gist of OROP).
Two Cabinet committees found these to be correct and implementable. But, like a jinxed case, in both instances the governments fell just before the final decisions were implemented. The wily babus then held the sway! ‘FILES’ were ‘REOPENED’ with the implied delays. All major parties flaunt this concept of OROP in their manifestoes to win over the ESM before the elections and then forget it. Many parliamentary, all-party committees (the latest was in January 2012) too recommended the implementation of OROP. But, the Babudom is hell-bent on denying this. And, since our politicians are dependent on the babus to rule as well as make black money, the actual implementation never happened. The latest drama is what happened yester day.
3. Comparison of Grade pay with Civil Services: When I became an army officer in June 1965, my basic was Rs450 compared to the basic of Rs400 for IAS at entry level. This historical advantage has remained even now at entry level. But, at every stage of Central Pay Commission (CPC) from 3rd CPC onwards, the Army got short-changed. And, the bureaucracy with their wily ways, increased their own remunerations and perks, while cutting down those of others, including the Army Officers. For example, all of them (IAS) become joint secretary (they equals it with a Major General) and more than 90% become additional secretary (equal to Lt General) while less than 9% and 2.5% army officers reach these levels, due to the pyramid nature of Army’s hierarchy.
To overcome this, a running pay band of pay suggested was vetoed by the babus till the 6th CPC. Also, in the latest CPC, they introduced the concept of Non Functional Up-gradation (NFU) for themselves, where in all Gp A Central Govt Officers (like IRS, IA&AS, IPS etc) pick up the same grade (and hence pay and perks) within two years of his course mates in the IAS picking up a grade. For example, an IAS chap becomes a joint secretary in 18 years of service. So all central government officers draw the pay and allowances of a joint secretary within 20 years of service, even if there is no vacant official position for him to occupy! Funny, eh? Yes, it is a loot of the innocent taxpayer’s money!
Now, this NFU has been denied for the Army officers on the spacious plea, that they do not fall into Gp A Services. This has resulted in degradation of the status (and not just pay) of Army officers vis- a-vis other central government officers in recent years. Also, at 20 years of service, the best Army officer is still sweating out as a colonel. At best he may get promoted to the next rank of brigadier after 27 years and to major general with 31-32 years of service. Due to the pyramid nature of hierarchy, this is a given norm. But, the steps to nullify this disadvantage through a running pay bands and NFUs are NOT sanctioned by the government (read the powerful babus!).
4. False Propaganda: The babus are at their Goebbelsian best in spreading false hood and use words to tide over inconvenient facts. The Press Information Bureau (PIB) hand-out, issued last night, starts with the news that the ex-servicemen had a long pending demand for OROP, wherein the demand was made for similar pension for soldiers who have retired in the same rank with the same years of service, irrespective of the date of retirement. Of course, this is a fact and the truth. In the very next sentence, they say that the Cabinet has decided to sanction Rs2,300 crore to improve the benefits to the ex-servicemen (ESM). That too is a fact. What the fork-tongued, present day Goebbels have done is that they have smoothly disconnected the two sentences. If a casual reader tends to assume that this amount is to fulfil the demand for OROP, he can’t be faulted. At the same time, the babus have not said any lie! They have only, deliberately confused a layman! While not doing anything to grant the much abused OROP!
5. No Government Largesse: Again, the PIB is artfully concealing the truth here. There have been judgements by two different Armed Forces Tribunals (deemed to be equivalent to high courts) against the orders of the government, subsequent to the 6th CPC. Also, the FULL BENCH of the CAT has passed a judgement last year against the stupid government order on fixing of pension at 50% of the MINIMUM OF PAY IN THE PAY BAND instead of 50% of the RANK PAY in the band. The announcement of yesterday’s decision of the cabinet is an offshoot of these three adverse judicial judgements against the government. However, there is not even a mention of this fact in the government announcement. On the other hand, they make it appear as if they did this because their hearts bleed for the “Fauji Bhais”. I have never seen such a lot of shameless frauds, as herein.
6. NOT EXCLUSIVE TO ARMY: Three out of the four orders issued are relevant to both the men in uniform and the civilians. While no one will grudge this equal sharing of benefits, what grates is the presentation that this is something exclusive to the ‘Faujis’. The only concession now, which is not applicable to civilian counter parts, is the one on dual pensions. Since, the jawans retire at around 35 years of age, many of them find jobs on retirement. And, once they retire from the second job, there was a restriction on him drawing a second pension. That he worked for and earned it does not matter to the stone-hearted babus. This anomaly has been now removed, with the rulings of yesterday. Since a central government employee retires at around 58-60 years, this rule of double pension is NOT applicable to him, in any case!
7. Lack of Funds: Another excuse of the government is “lack of funds” whenever any benefit for the ESM is talked about. The irony is that when the Rs2,300 crore expenditure for “Fauji Bhais” was talked of as the latest BONANZA, in the same breath, the government announced Rs7,400 crore as expenses for additional DA to all the government employees and Rs2 lakh crore for the State Electricity Boards. Not to mention the lakhs of crores of rupees wasted/stolen in the various scams. Just sheer misleading duplicity of the babudom!
8. Disconnect between the Government and the Military: It is a very disturbing fact that presently, there is a lot of disconnect between the babus and the men in uniform—the two vital organs of the government. The efforts of the babus to deny men in uniform their rightful place in decision making is not the only cause. The mean-minded manipulations of the babus in recent years while dealing with cases of status and pay, only lead to loss of faith in this category. In my days, we used to blindly repose our faith in the ‘SARKAR’. But, with the advent of RTI and information explosion, the young and the old in uniform can no more be fooled. And, when there is opaqueness in dealings, the nation will finally suffer. A very disturbing thought, though.
Also read related article: Issue small, fallout fearsome! – Moneylife