Tuesday, December 16, 2014

One Rank One Pension promise in peril? - Times of India Article



One Rank One Pension promise in peril?
Nalin Mehta,TNN | Dec 14, 2014, 06.18 AM IST

Military veterans claim babus are thwarting PM Modi's poll pledge of one-rank-one-pension by inflating its cost estimates

Roman emperor Augustus started the tradition of military pensions in 13 BC, when every legionary who had fought 20 years for Rome was guaranteed a pension for-life. It set the bar for modern armies, and independent India continued the British tradition of financially privileging military service until the mid-1970s, when soldiers were paid more than civilian bureaucrats, in service and after retirement. All that changed with the Third Pay Commission, which brought military salaries in line with civil services, and while soldiers have long complained about political control over the military in independent India mutating into bureaucratic control, a row over the NDA's promise for one-rank-one-pension (OROP) for military veterans is raising questions about the government's ability to translate its intent into action.

Fifteen months after Narendra Modi first demanded it immediately after being anointed the BJP's PM candidate, 10 months after the UPA government granted it, five months after NDA's finance minister Arun Jaitley confirmed it and almost two months after the PM told soldiers in Siachen that it was his "destiny that onerank-one pension has been fulfilled", military veterans are questioning why the promise has still not been implemented.

Number games

Put simply, OROP means that every pension-eligible soldier who retires in a particular rank deserves the same pension, irrespective of date of retirement. Currently, soldiers who left the armed forces more recently receive more than those who did earlier, because successive pay commissions hiked salaries. Two days after he was anointed BJP's PM-candidate in September 2013, Modi vehemently supported the OROP demand at a veterans' rally in Rewari. With roughly 12 lakh veterans also constituting a huge vote-bank, UPA government approved the demand in February 2014, and it was reaffirmed by NDA in July, when finance minister Arun Jaitley specifically provisioned Rs 1,000 crore in his 2014-15 budget (within an overall defence pensions budget of Rs 51,000 crore). Yet, it remains stuck in bureaucratic wrangling.

PAY OR PLAY 
Until 1973
9 Sep 2009
May 2010
19 Dec 2011
15 Sep 2013
Armed forces had OROP and higher pay than civilian counterparts. Third Pay Commission reversed this and equated military pay with civilian pay
Supreme Court: “No Defence Personnel Senior in rank can get lesser pension than his junior irrespective of the date of retriement" and "Similarly placed officers of the same rank are to be given the same pension irrespective of the date of retirement
Standing Committee on Defence2009-10, 7th Report recommends holistic implementation of OROP
Rajya Sabha Committee on Petitions, 142ndReport, headed by BJP MP Bhagat Singh Koshiyari, recommends OROP implementation
Modi, at his first rally after being chosen BJP‘s PM candidate, demands 'white paper' on status of OROP, says Vajpayee would have implemented if he had returned to power in 2004


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