Unending wait for one rank, one pension
Lt Gen Harwant Singh (retd), Hindustan Times Chandigarh, December 04, 2014
The government’s dilly-dallying on the grant of One Rank One Pension (OROP) continues to agitate the veterans. Koshyari Committee of Parliament has defined what OROP is and recommended its implementation. Demand for OROP was first raised in mid-eighties and a hunger strike by veterans was undertaken at Red Fort. Thereafter, this demand has been raised at every forum, including the dharna at Jantar Mantar, and veterans returning thousands of their war medals to the President and collecting signatures in blood.
Defence forces have been persistently wronged by successive Central Pay Commissions (CPCs). Around 99.5% of the defence personnel retire before the age of 60: age at which all central government employees retire. Nearly 80% of IAS officers manage re-employment for five years and the more manipulative can get this extended up to as much as 20 years and more!
Soldiers retire at 35-37 years. Early retirement with inadequate monetary compensation shortens the life span of veterans. Life expectancy of civil employees (IARM report) is 77, of railway employees it is 78 while that of army officers it is 67, of junior commissioned officers 72 and in case of soldiers it is 59 to 64. Early retirement with much less pension, increasing family commitments and financial worries take their toll. Even though, at retirement, they are physically fitter than their counterparts in the civil.
Truncated careers, extremely limited and delayed promotions, hard living conditions in uncongenial environments, risk to life and limb, recognised the world over and termed as X factor and fully compensated, is simply overlooked in India.
Taking the existing pay, etc, and assuming there being no increase for the next two and a half decades for civil employees, a soldier retiring at 35-37 years would get approximately Rs. 37 lakh less compared to his equivalent in the civil, by the time both reach the age of 60: age at which a civil employee will retire. Thereafter, a civil employee gets much more pension than a soldier. In the case of officers, the financial loss due to early retirement and limited and delayed promotions and subsequently lesser pension, is far greater. When increases by subsequent CPC are taken into account, disparity for defence personnel increases exponentially.
The 6th CPC, with an IAS officer on it, (a permanent feature on every CPC) granted to IAS officers and all AIS (All India Services) and Group A services (nearly 4 dozen of them) what is called Non-Functional Up-gradation (NFU), a sort of ‘pay promotion’ unrelated to job content and performance parameters, etc, but the same was denied to defence services officers, thus consigning to the dustbin the traditional pay parity between the commissioned officers and the AIS.
NFU to AIS means that they can circumvent the pyramidal cadre structure and earn pay advancement right up to HAG level (additional secretary – Lt-Gen) without going through any selection process or availability of posts, etc. This in a nutshell resulted in all officers of these civil services rising one level below the apex (secretary) level. Whereas 99.5% armed forces officers (major generals and below) stagnate in Pay band 3 and 4. This largesse was to meet the aspirations of civil services. Apparently and by implication the denial of NFU to defence services officers meant that they have no aspirations! NFU is simply a plunder of the exchequer.
Change after mid-50s
Up to mid-fifties, a brigadier drew more pension than a chief secretary of a state and soldiers and others 75% of the last pay drawn as pension. A major-general drew more pension than secretary to the government of India. This was to compensate for early retirement and extremely limited and delayed promotions, beside the then acknowledged X factor.
The condition of 33 years’ service to earn full pension works only against defence services personnel because majority of them are compulsorily retired much before completing that length of service. Of the three career progression benefits available to all central service personnel, nearly 80% of defence personnel have to contend with just one, due to retirement, before second and third come into play.
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