Monday, 14 July 2014

Can We Expect a Quicker Decision Making in OROP: Updated

UPA’s slow decision making has resulted in a loss of opportunity”…. “Should we allow this drift to carry on and watch helplessly…Should we allow…to suffer because of our indecisiveness?...To me, the response and remedy are both clear.”  

One Rank One Pension

140.   We reaffirm our commitment to our brave soldiers. A policy of “One Rank One Pension” has been adopted by the Government to address the pension disparities. We propose to set aside a further sum of Rs 1,000 crore to meet this year’s requirement

-        Shri Arun Jaitely,
Union Finance Minister in his Budget speech

 "....In the first year only a token amount is spent....In the revised estimates it can go somewhere else...This isn't the value of the whole scheme...."    

                            Finance-cum-Defence Minister to the Times of India 
                            report on 15 Jun 14 in Bangalore edition.

“If you want to get people to believe something really, really stupid, just stick a number on it.

-        Charles Seife in his book
Proofiness: The Dark Arts of Mathematical Deception

In February 2014, Shri Chidambaram, the then Union Finance Minister, announced in the Parliament, in his Interim Budget, that the UPA Govt has decided to grant One Rank One Pension (OROP). And to make ex-servicemen/women believe him, he put a figure on it too – Rs 500 crore. He, as well as the then Union Defence Minister, reiterated in the many subsequent media opportunities that this was only the initial, token amount, and more, as required, would be made available.

A week later, with shocking alacrity and in a display of abnormal decisiveness, the then Union Defence Minister took a meeting where not only a definition of OROP was proclaimed and published, but also the CGDA was tasked to produce an implementation order in consultation with Service HQ, and if required Ex-Servicemen (ESM) organisations.

Every ESM and its Chairman/President promised not only the moon, but also the pot of gold at the end of the OROP rainbow. The much lamented Union Defence Minister and ESM orgs did not factor in two intangibles –

- there would be the usual slow pace of decision making by the Competent  Authority i.e. MoD, and

- CGDA’ office would “stick a BIG number” on the OROP and try to make every one believe that the seminal announcement of the OROP was a non-starter.

CGDA’s office had caught the Service HQ on the back foot in the interpretation of the Apex Court’s order in the Rank Pay matter, even though two of its Principal Field Controllers (PCDA (Navy) and CDA (Air Force) had opined that the Court’s order would apply to the 5th and 6th Pay Commission – an opinion vindicated by the Learned Attorney General for India on 3rd September 2013.

Probably to prevent another long-drawn out imbroglio, the then Union Defence Minister convened a Joint Working Group headed by the CGDA and requested the CGDA to be gracious (emphasis supplied) enough to resolve the issue with three weeks and have the implementation order issued.  

The present Union Finance-cum-Defence Minister took a meeting of 12 Jun 14 to resolve the OROP imbroglio. In a significant departure from the usual composition of such meetings, four ESM organisations (IESM, IESL, RDOA and Disabled ESM) were invited to attend.

Persistent requests to the four ESM’s representatives produced a (confused) picture of the proceedings and a barrage of missives from Chairman of a particular ESM to many who wield the weapon called “executive decision.”

And the following facts emerged: -

From the Rank Pay issue onwards CGDA’s office has expressed what meets the requirements of Seife term “virtual factitious disorder,” which is maximising a non-existent problem. It ensures that the Competent Authority is so alarmed that he/she will see the problem exactly as the CGDA’s office wants it to be seen.

It attracts the attention of the Competent Authority and influences the manner of thinking. It then leads Competent Authority to commit what Seife terms “pseucide” – in this case the trampling over the hopes of Ex-Services personnel.

In its apparent first use of the “virtual factitious disorder” principle, CGDA’s office [more the PCDA (O)] worked out tables in the Rank Pay case. CGDA’s office’s, in consonance with the advice of the then Ld Solicitor General’s advice dated 31st March 2010, stated for the consideration of the High Powered Committee and inclusion in Report that obeying the Apex Court’s order of 8th March 2010 provided calculations of Rs 1623.71 crore outgo on the Public Exchequer in the Rank Pay matter.

Just in case the impact of outgo of Rs 1623.71 crore was not enough of a shock effect, Competent Authority averred that “….Though Rank Pay is not applicable in respect of civilian personnel, certain changes in pay and pension as admissible to them would have to be carried out resulting (in) an additional outgo of Rs 6000 crore approximately to the public exchequer” (paragraph 18 of the Additional Affidavit filed by UoI/MoD on 14th November 2011 provided by MoD through reply to RTI application).

To give it an aura of authenticity, MoD, the Competent Authority, “solemnly” swore the above averments in the many affidavits it submitted to the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the Rank Pay case. It is a different matter that none of the civilian organisations have raised a demand even four years after the Hon’ble Supreme Court’s order. It appears civilian personnel, other than those who made the averment, are wiser and more intelligent than the Competent Authority gives them credit for!  
CGDA’s office has now projected an amount of Rs 9100 crore to implement OROP from 1.4.2014. The doubtfulness of this amount can be worked out by some one with a basic grasp of Excel.  It can be ascertained with a high degree of certainty that Rs 9100 crore would be needed if

(a)                Every one of the 30 lac or so pensioners is “rewarded” with pensions for 30 years or more of service, irrespective of the fact that many officers served lesser qualifying years of service,

(b)               Every JCO/OR  is “rewarded” for 30 years service though quite a number were discharged and some were invalidated in lesser qualifying years of service and,

(c)                If every JCO/OR pensioner is paid OROP at the highest pay/pension drawn (X Group) for 30 years of qualifying service.

So, by putting in a large number (Rs 9100 crore), the shock & awe effect has been created, given the oft proclaimed “the coffers are empty.” No consideration appears to have been given to calculations by Service HQ based on valid data that

Option I - Rs 4500 to Rs 5000 crore would be required for both categories of pensioners – officers and JCO/OR,

Option – II - Rs 7200 crore if the true OROP principle of same rank, same years of service, same pension amount is followed by paying all JCO/OR pensioners at the ‘X’ Group rate of pension.

It is now four months since the UPA Government’s announcement of OROP and two months (almost) since Prime Minister Modi led NDA Government is in the place to make quick decisions.

Will the Union Finance & Defence Minister reverse the slow decision making that was the hallmark of the UPA Govt, and its nemesis?

Defence Forces pensioners await Shri Jaitely’s quick decision making, in contrast to the slow decision making of the UPA Government, and fulfilment of the Prime Minister’s assurance at many public functions.          

My suggestions: -

First, Service HQ (Chairman CoSC & COAS) must write to Defence Minister for a solution of the remaining two issues in the UoI Vs. Lt Col N K Nair & Ors case (I.A. No. 9 of 2010 in TP (C) No. 56 of 2007) - (1) whether and where there 4th CPC recommended a Minimum Pay for Each Rank and also (2) in light of then Ld Solicitor General  (now a judge of Hon'ble Supreme Court)'s opinion of 17 Oct 2012, whether the top of the integrated pay scale should be increased by the quantum of the Rank Pay of Brig i.e. Rs 1200.

This is necessary because it will impact on the re-fixation for 5th CPC and for 6th CPC for which MoD has sent a DGL again on 4 Jun 14 vide file No. 34(10)/2013-D(Pay/Services) as indicated in reply to RTI reference No. 35(1)/2013/D(Pay/Services) dated 4 Jul 14.

Second, the Service HQ (Chairman CoSC & COAS) must write to Defence Minister to order the CGDA to convene the Joint Working Committee forthwith and hold day-to-day meetings (similar to the day-to-day hearings in courts) till the modalities are worked out and placed for decision by Defence Minister. Anything else will be as with the UPA Govt's MoD - no/slow decision making.

Third, Rank Pay addition must be factored in for the calculations of revised Basic Pay + Rank Pay for those retired in 5th CPC tenure so that their pension re-fixation corrected.

For those who are serving/ continued to serve in 6th CPC, their pay in the pay band must be revised, and consequential changes in Grade pay, if any, be incorporated to arrive at total emoluments.

Fourth, after following the above steps, now that the correct Pay in the pay Band and Grade Pay, if applicable has been arrived at, the pension should be determined as on 31.3.2014 for payment of OROP with arrears from 1.4.2014.


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