Monday, 10 March 2014

From BeeCee's Keyboard

You know I have not been much of a supporter of either OROP or the Dhanapalan case because both were only nibbling at the edges (my view) of the damage done by commissions/ omissions at Service HQ. My view being that Service HQ must own up and take responsibility.

It is not so much a question of sincerity as of application of mind and many of us just don't seem to get it. (I am not ruling out the possibility that maybe it is I, a non logistics, non-accounts guy, that doesn't get it). Take the case of terms like 'selection grade' and 'select list'. Many still seem to think that they are similar because they are, in plain English.

But in GOI's glossary of terms related to pay/ promotions etc, they are diametrically opposite. If you get promoted, you are in the 'select list', if you don't, you could be consoled by getting 'selection grade' (a higher pay) in the existing rank/grade. There has been some evolution from the original concept but in principle it remains the same.

That is why, in CPCs other GOI departments speak of 'selection grades in the ranks' but many Service officers who haven't grasped it speak of 'selection grade ranks'. The Civil Services seem to have got away from the confusion by replacing 'select list' with 'empanelment'.

In principle, selection grades, time scale ranks, and NFU are for providing consolation to personnel who missed promotion, but the quantum of benefit varies, that is all. But what is of interest, to me, is how differently Service HQ and Civil Services have handled it.

Prior to 4th CPC, NFSG was available to both at the JAG level and Maj level – JAG (SG) and Major (SG). This should have remained the lynch-pin of the pay structure for parity with organized Gp A Services.

Service HQ got rid of it and celebrated 'achievements at 4th CPC' while others just removed the NF (non-functional) but kept it as the lynchpin. Services also had a further benefit above SG of Lt Col (TS) with a fixed pay (implying automatic OROP) that benefitted the maximum number of retiring officers. This was also done away with, and additional damage inflicted by denying them RP. This does not appear to have been a unilateral decision by the CPC, but a concession to demands from the Services.

Interestingly, the 4th CPC calls Lt Col (TS) and Maj (SG) as 'selection grades' in the ranks of Lt Col and Major. They may have got Lt Col (TS) wrong, but were clear on the underlying concept. So much for our interlocutors who were to explain to them our rank structure!

The Civil Services reintroduced the NFSG concept (previously at JAG) during 6th CPC and pegged it at the HAG level (or is it SAG only, my info being sketchy now on these things) calling it NFU.

Service HQ sought to improve the benefit of TS to Col level but the way it was done and consequent hashing at 6th CPC has resulted in Col (TS) at 26 years drawing the exact replacement scale of the Maj (TS) scale of 14 years.

In other words, erstwhile Major (SG) is now called Col (TS) with the same pay scale pushed back to 26th year instead of 14th. We still have people praising Bagga/ AVS C report, just as we had an earlier generation singing paeans of the 4th CPC.
I don't know whether it is a generational thing or the DNA of us in uniform, even before the hot air settled after Mr. Chidambaram spoke, we had a chorus on. I could have used the term 'before the ink dried' but pen hasn't met the paper yet for OROP.

I am not in any way trying to belittle the work done by the veteran community or individuals who have spent years of effort on these matters. All that I am saying is that they are doing 'the nine stitches because Service HQ didn't do one, on time' (the amaxim a stitch in time saves nine!)

Taking a step back, the extent of damage at 6th CPC may have been a surprise, but not its direction, after the ill-considered fiddle with ranks at Bagga/ AVSC discussions. You may remember my reservations, even at the time.

I have no problem with Col (TS) or even Lt Col at 14 years, but we should have been extremely careful in fiddling with rank/ pay scale before 14 years. Even after that, there was every case to give Lt Col, the scale now given to Col. How did we manage to screw that up at 6th CPC? It will be interesting to watch how we handle NFU even if accepted by GOI.

OROP - It may be my lack of understanding, but I really do not know what is the significant difference between OROP and 'parity in pensions' which is available to all, including civilians. The limited number of officers I have spoken to, are not aware that 'parity in pensions' is a given. Admittedly, there have been shortcomings in its implementation. But I suspect most of them (Brigs and below) would be better off with restoration of their 'due pension' than OROP. But it's becoming harder and harder to explain to a long retired Major that the current pension of a Major (the one that he is seeking parity with, is that of a Capt (of his vintage) and not the pension he actually earned.)

The point that you have raised is one that I have also raised in the past but not really got an answer. Current pension rule is 20 years for full pension. Since 20 years is also eligibility period (or has that changed?), its somewhat 'all or nothing'.

With a 'years of service' element in it, OROP will necessarily be a variable pension for each rank, but the moot question is whether the variable will move upwards or downwards from the 50%. This may be where harking back to the military pensions concept could help with 50% being the minimum.

Let's wait and watch

Warm regards


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