One Rank One Pension
Why India must be told the truth
On one side of the OROP are the ESM who showed their commitment to India when they fought to guard India’s sovereignty, integrity and every inch of land. In the process giving lives and limbs, sanguine in the belief that the Government of the day will look after the widows and children or reward ESM for loss of life, limb or our valour and loyalty.
On the other side of the OROP is a Government that, repeatedly, reminds 125 crore Indians (of whom 31% gave BJP 282 seats in the Lok Sabha and 19.3% still favoured the Congress with 44 seats), with passionate oratory and tantalising slogans that it is committed to OROP for Armed Forces.
The PM-candidate enthused ESM by his oratorical flourishes in Rewari in September 2013, with his subsequent assurances and statements of implementation of OROP within (the now familiar but jaded) 100 days of forming the Govt. Between September 2013 and through till May 2014, the enthusiasm of ESM was fuelled by the PM-candidate mentioning his commitment and the date-line for OROP in addresses to audiences that had more than a fair sprinkling of ESM.
The speeches and pitch might have been the catalyst for the hitherto foot (and much else) dragging UPA Govt to open the OROP box by including it in the statement on the floor of Lok Sabha on 17th February 2014, and setting aside Rs 500 crore and subsequent statements that Rs 500 crore was just a token amount and more would be forthcoming as soon as the amount could be worked out.
Those speeches might also have been the catalyst for the otherwise slow moving Defence Minister of the UPA to constitute a Joint Working Group, engrave the definition of OROP in the pages of MoD’s files with alacrity, even haste, and set, what now seems to be the OROP fireball on its way.
Jean Paul Sartre said, “Commitment is not just a word. It is an act.” So, the newly formed NDA Govt had its chance of converting that commitment of OROP into fulfilling a promise in the Budget 2014-15.
It took the Govt fifteen months, as on 15th August 2015, to realise that there is a technical problem and, that there is also a problem of arithmetic. With resources of the ‘plastic frame’ (to quote Avay Shukla) the Govt seems nowhere near solution to the OROP. That brings me to the question whether the IAS (to quote Avay Shukla again) used sleight of hand to reward their incompetence with the Non-Functional Financial Upgradation (NFU), so that performance and promotion of one is presumed to be windfall for the others, even though 2 years later, non-performance notwithstanding!
Though many of us think Budgets are made by the Finance Minister (FM) and his sealed up bureaucrats in North Block, they are by norm, prepared in consultation with the Prime Minister. FM (also the Defence Minister till November 2014) must have been aware of the PM’s priorities when he framed the Budgets 2014-15 and 2015-16.
The Budgets for 2014-2015 & 2015-16 make it clear that Ex-Servicemen (ESM) have been led up the path by repeated announcement that this Govt is committed to OROP.
To substantiate, if one needed it, only a cursory reading of Demand No. 22, available on the Ministry of Finance website [Source: Notes on Demands for Grants, 2015-2016, MoD, Demand No. 22, and Defence Pensions at indiabudget.nic.in/ub2015-16/eb/sbe22.pdf] is required.
As may be seen in the extract of Demand No. 22 below, the FM did not project any demand for OROP and so FM (also the Defence Minister) made no provision in Revised Budget 2014-2015: -
(in crore rupees)
Note: -1. Pensions and Other Retirement Benefits:. Defence Pensions provides for pensionary charges in respect of retired Defence personnel (including civilian employees) of three Services viz. Army, Navy and Air Force and also employees of Ordnance Factories, etc. It covers payment of service pensions, gratuity, family pension, disability pension, commuted value of pension and leave encashment. The increase in BE 2015-16 is mainly due to normal growth in pensionary benefits and increase in provision towards payment of Gratuity, Commuted Value of Pension and Superannuation and Retirement Benefits. Increase of higher provision is also due to increase in number of pensioners and anticipated provisions of Dearness Relief” (emphasis supplied).
The Note (below the table in Demand No. 22) makes one realise the jumla as it shows a conspicuous absence of OROP in thought, word, or deed, in contradiction, if one needs it, to the repeated “assurances and commitment.”
But, Indians learnt the consequences, from the pocket-money days to the salary earning days, if one does not budget expenses vis-à-vis income made evident by Mr Micawber’s famous, and oft-quoted, recipe for happiness:
"Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen [pounds] nineteen [shillings] and six [pence], result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery."
So, the FM (also Defence Minister from 27th May 2014 to 8th November 2014) did not even plan for the OROP in Budget 2015-16 and hence the misery of the arithmetic.
The technicality is that, 15 months or less after May 2014, while the Govt gave away as revenue foregone an amount of Rs 62, 398 crores (see Annex 12 on MoF website for more details), the Govt made no realistic provision for OROP either in Budget 2014-15 (wherein Rs 1000 crore earmarked for OROP was deducted in the revised budget when the FM was also the Defence Minister), or 2015-16 when the Defence Minister must have apprised the FM on the funds required for OROP. The evidence is there on MoF website but extracted here for ready reference From Implementation of Budget Announcements 2014-15 (pages 33 and 34): -
One Rank One Pension
(Position reported on 30th January, 2015)
S No. Para No.
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. [Nodal Ministry/Department: Ministry of Defence]
Status of Implementation
A working Group was constituted under the Chairmanship of CGDA for examining the proposal. The Working Group after deliberation suggested some possible options for implementation of One Rank One Pension (OROP). Meetings were held on 26.8.2014 under the Chairmanship of Defence Minister (emphasis supplied), with Defence Secretary, Secretary (ESW), FA (DS) and CGDA on the implementation of OROP. The modalities are under consideration.
Work in progress
(Just a reminder: FM was also Defence Minister from 27th May 2014 to 8th November 2014).
The dictionary defines scam as not only misuse of official machinery for pecuniary benefit of a coterie or cabal but also falsehoods uttered with full knowledge that it is not the truth. Does this qualify as a scam on the nearly 30 lakh ESM, widows of ESM?
The Govt made oft repeated ‘commitments’ before about the implementation of OROP from the seas (the decks of Gorshkov/INS Vikramaditya is as close) to the mountain top (well, Base Camp on the Siachen nearly qualifies) and the ramparts of the Red Fort on 15th August, one of the most important of three days to us Indians.
But then, just like that mischievous boy who yelled “Wolf! Wolf” till the villagers disregarded his cries when the wolf really appeared, the Govt’s “We committed to OROP! We are committed to OROP!” repeated so often but no fulfilment on OROP, ring so hollow so what are 125 crore Indians including the ESM to believe?
If this Govt can starve (no pun intended) the ESM for Rs 8300 crore, are Indian citizens also likely to witness that the PSB won’t get the Rs 20,000 crore “re-capitalisation” from our hard earned income and taxes paid thereon? It would be befitting punishment for the Banks for carelessly lending savings of 125 crore Indians.
It also means this Govt can go about the serious business of seizing assets from those who borrowed thousands of crores of our rupees and returned nothing. The Govt thus can stop the defaulters laughing all the way to Switzerland or Cayman Islands or take selfies in Cannes, or the Adriatic or Las Vegas or wherever and end the fast unto death of the ESM.
In a reply to a RTI wherein the Mod had referred in July 2014 issues in the Cabinet Secretary Committee report to the 7th CPC, it was clearly brought out that a change of Terms of reference is required. MoF indicated that it was up to the MoD, the administrative ministry to refer the issue to the 7th CPC without responding to the issue of the ToR.
Similarly, it is common knowledge that the Services HQ have not referred the OROP to the 7th CPC under the (mis)understanding that this Govt would implement it before 1.1.2016.
If the Govt refers the OROP issue now to the 7th CPC, would 4 months extension be adequate for the CPC to address an issue that the Govt with the phalanx of its IAS, IDAS, IAAS could not resolve? Or will the 7th CPC be granted another extension till it goes through the procedure of inviting a Memorandum, then comments of MoD and MoF and then …….?
Don’t the 125 crore Indians deserve to be told why the demands of the ESM for OROP deserves so much of the Govt’s disdain?
Is the OROP slated to disappear into black hole of List of Commitments (LoC), to be recovered in February 2019 in yet another interim budget in a sad repeat of 17th February 2014?
E & O E