OROP – The Nation Owes it to the Armed Forces – By Nitin G. Raut

The roll-out of OROP (One Rank One Pension) by Prime Minister Narendra Modi led BJP NDA Government is not just fulfilling an election promise but giving our Armed Forces personnel what is morally and legitimately due to them. If it took forty years for successive governments to decide, it only shows criminal insensitivity to the legitimate aspirations of our soldiers who, in answer to their call of duty have sacrificed their lives. And today, if OROP is approved, the nation is doing its duty.  It is we the citizens who should be obliged to the Armed Forces.

It is because the Armed Forces are guarding our borders that democracy is safe and it is only in such secure climate that economic development can progress. The onerous task of defending the nation is discharged by the Armed Forces whenever called upon to do so. They have sacrificed their lives in the line of duty. The least they expect is that their families and dependents are cared for.  Is this a price too high that the ex-servicemen should be made to wait for – forty years?

The OROP ensures that widows of the service personnel receive arrears, if any, in one installment while the veterans will receive it in four installments.  Every rank will get pension on par.

In 1970, the pension was 75% of the last drawn salary. Tragically, after the Bangladesh victory in 1971, the pension was reduced to 50%.  Is it not some bizarre decision tantamount to punishing the Armed Forces for their sacrifices and for ensuring victory for India?

Lt. Col. Anil Kaul, a Jaffna war hero retired in 2005 with a monthly salary of Rs.17,500 and, post-retirement, he receives a meager pension of Rs.9500. The nation ought to hang its head in shame for such a poor remuneration.

The hero of Bangladesh war Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw received arrears on his pension only when he was on the death bed in Connoor.

Many years back at the Reunion event of the Artillery Centre at Nashik, top officers were visibly moved by the plight of the war widows.

The family of 1965 Indo Pak War hero, Havaldar Abdul Hamid and Param Vir Chakra awardee lived in chill penury and severe destitution.

In India, no political leader appears to have the courtesy to attend the funeral of our martyrs or retired Armed Forces personnel. In the US, President Obama personally went to receive the US Troops, returning from Afghanistan.  And in the civil aircrafts the returning troops were given a standing ovation by the passengers.

In India, it is only during the wars that we remember our brave-hearts. Even on the issue of the announcement of the OROP by the BJP Government, the nation witnessed an ugly spectacle of political upmanship. A soldier fights for the country and not for any political party. Let our MPs and MLAs spend a few days on the frontline trenches or the icy heights of Siachen or the mosquito infested Indo-Bangla border or even in the blistering heat of India’s border in Rajasthan and they will know what it is to fight a war and what life is on the frontline.

A nation that does not respect a soldier’s izzat or honour is unworthy of its national flag under which our soldiers fight and even sacrifice their lives for our safety.

In fact, the BJP Government should ensure that school curriculum includes chapters on war heroes and their sacrifices.   Schools should adopt one martyr, preferably in the martyr’s village or town, to commemorate the day of his martyrdom. The nation should build a National War Memorial as a tribute to their sacrifice and bravery. It is more than 67 years after Independence and even after four full wars and major conflicts like Kargil, India does not have a war memorial.

In fact, if the ex-servicemen have to stage a dharna to fight for their legitimate dues it is a pathetic state of affairs. We want our soldiers to fight for the country and safeguard our borders when in service, and after retirement, they have to fight for their legitimate dues.  Is it not a national shame? By rolling out OROP the nation has not obliged them.  Armed forces personnel got and should get what is consistent with their izzat. The nation owes it to them.

Nitin G. Raut is an advocate by profession and a freelance writer.  E-mail: nitingraut@gmail.com

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8 thoughts on “OROP – The Nation Owes it to the Armed Forces – By Nitin G. Raut

  1. Can someone explain the rationale for OROP? How can a person who retired 20 years ago claim the same amount of pension as someone retiring today, even if in same rank? Seems absurd and preposterous to me.

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    • On 15-11-2015, Brig. Suresh Sharma replies:

      Let me first explain the reasons for the agitation by the veterans. The Defence Forces had a separate pay commission and had one rank one pension. It needs to be appreciated that rank has great importance in all activities in the Services. The pension of Service personnel was 70% of the last pay drawn and that for civilian staff was 33%. These benefits were done away with by the Third Pay Commission in 1976. The pension for Defence personnel was reduced to 59% and that for civilians raised to 50%. Surprisingly, the Service Chiefs did not make any objections. The rank and file were not even aware of these cuts or reasons thereof.

      The next blow came with the 4th Pay Commission in 1986. It introduced rank pay for all officers as compensation for the hard life. The Government reduced the pay by an amount equal to the rank pay and added rank pay. The net result was zero increase. Again, there was no objection by the Service Chiefs. The rank and file did not have access to these facts. One officer, Major Dhanapalan came to learn about it and got a favourable judgement from Kerala High Court. The Government lost the appeals to Supreme Court, full Bench of Court and SLP. The Government restricted the benefit only to Dhanapalan. Some officers formed an association to fight the case and won even though the Government went through appeals to Supreme Court. The Service Chiefs had to take note of the feelings of the rank and file.

      The 6th Pay Commission introduced a running pay band for group of ranks. It also awarded increase in pension not to be lower than 50% of the minimum of that rank in the pay band. By a slight of hand the Government paid at minimum of pay band and not of that rank. The increase had to be won by resorting to the Supreme Court.

      The attitude of the Government of fighting the cases in the courts has led to loss of trust for fair dealing. The worst case was of an MVC awardee with bullet wounds and confined to a wheel chair had to appeal to the court for his disability pension.

      The case for OROP rests on the following reasons:
      – The personnel retire early. This reduces their earning period at an age when family liabilities are high.
      – It is difficult to find a job at that age and adjust to civilian life.
      – Breakdown of joint family life has created another difficulty for soldiers. Each person has to fend for himself.
      – The promotions are slow and few. Large number of personnel have to serve at comparatively low salaries.
      – Long periods of separation from the family have a financial burden.

      The retirement age has to be kept low due to requirement of serving in difficult terrain. The Defence Committee of the Parliament had taken note of these conditions and had recommended OROP. The Defence personnel in USA get about 20% more pension than the civilians. UK too has special relief in pension of military people.
      Brig. S. C. Sharma [Retired]

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      • Just as those who can afford to pay the full price of LPG cylinder are rejecting subsidy, the retired persons from armed forces or from any other avenue of govt. service, should opt out of pension if they have sufficient resources to live comfortably for the rest of their life , without receiving the pension. This choice should be reversible any time. The nation is likely to go bankrupt because of the unbearable economic burden of pension payments.
        Subhash Athale.

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      • Further to Brig. Suresh C. Sharma’s reply to Mr. R. Sankar’s comment, Nitin G. Raut adds the following:

        In my article on OROP the question of “rationale” was raised. I am surprised by such callous indifference and civilian ignorance. Such coffee house critics should spend one day in the minus zero degree icy heights of Siachen or a week in the trenches facing the enemy, or with a patrol in the blistering deserts of Rajasthan or some time in the claustrophobic submarines or go on the courageous sorties of Indian Air Force Fighter Pilots over hostile territories.

        A civilian pilot and an IAF pilot fly the same machine. The former starts with a salary of over Rupees two lakhs or even more while the later with perhaps Rs.30,000 to Rs.40,000. Same will be the case with an Indian Navy Officer and a Merchant Navy Officer.

        But what makes the youth to opt for IAF and the IN? If they choose the life of such occupational hazards for the defence of the motherland, it is because their values are different. They could have also chosen the life of comfort. But many of them sacrifice their lives in the prime of their youth for our safer tomorrow.

        When 39 years old Colonel Santosh Mahadik died fighting the terrorists to save the nation, it is because he first thought of the nation’s security. He left behind him a grieving wife, two toddlers and aged parents. And there are many like him. And the brave wife said her children will join the Armed Forces. They are the real heroes who stay in India and will never think of leaving India.

        Is it not then the moral duty of the nation to ensure that their families are looked after or that in their retirement they live a decent life? What kind of citizens are we that we crib a decent standard of living for men of our Armed forces.

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  2. This is for not only the retired persons from armed forces, but also for all retired Govt. servants.
    Those who have sufficient income from other sources to live comfortably for rest of their lives should voluntarily forgo their pension payments. This is just like we expect that those who can afford to pay the full price of LPG cylinder, should voluntarily forgo the subsidy. Their right to get pension payments any time they desire, in future, should remain unaffected.
    Subhash Athale.

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