I am tempted to forward a mail which I sent to Thomas, who has been following the compensation package in the USA very closely (He has many friends and relatives in the US, and has attended a long course with their Air Force) and also his reply thereto.
I hold the view, that complete 'justice' for our ESM is contingent on our national ability to revise the terms of engagement of soldiers. Now, it is easy to dismiss this as a responsibility of the Government of India. Indeed, they have the ultimate power, and therefore the responsibility. But I suspect our own headquarters has not done enough to pursue this issue. Papers have been written at various levels. But no one has been able to evolve a consensus on this contentious issue even within the Army HQ, leave alone the polity of our land.
Sometimes, I feel that this should be a primary issue of the ESM organizations. The 6th Pay Commission made specific recommendations. But they say, "Man proposes, God disposes" In this case the 'proposal' of the Pay Panel has been summarily rejected by the MHA and MoD has caved in without as much as a whimper.
I am a die hard optimist. I have full faith in the ability of the IESM to fight it out. And yet, I am not too sure that the OROP will come through. Not during the foreseeable future any way. And what will come in its way is our numbers. They are too large.
To provide medical care for two million ESM with at least four million dependants is a daunting task. A visit to an ECHS clinic can be a harrowing experience.
May the Lord guide us on the righteous path.
Maj Gen Surjit Singh (Retd)
Thanks. Let me answer your points.
Q. "Every other country has OROP."
A. Thanks. No other country discriminates among pensioners on the basis of date of retirement.
Q. "But do tell me, which other country gives pension to all (or nearly all) soldiers who enlist?"
A. None at all. It shows how poorly we manage our human resources.
Q. "Also, is there any other country which retires its soldiers at the age of 35, with pension?"
A. Again, none at all. But sir, 23 years ago, when you were in the IV Pay Commission I sent you a note arguing for lateral transfer of soldiers from the arms to the services. What is the sense of approaching the Tatas, Birlas and Ambanis for crumbs from their table when we don't make use of the 5 lakh civilian jobs in the defence sector and an equal number of services vacancies within the armed forces? In my note of 1986 I had predicted that the government's pension bill will eventually exceed its salary bill. I think that has already happened for the Defence forces. Defence HQ do not feel the pinch because, under our opaque accounting system, the Defence pension bill is buried under a different ministry. Since pension is deferred wages the Defence pension bill should be brought back under the Defence budget. That will impose greater discipline and a greater sense of responsibility. We will not then send out jawans on retirement at age 35 with pension. We will absorb them in the services and Defence PSUs. Long time ago, the combatant jawan was semi-literate and usually from a farming background. Today the minimum entry level is matriculate. So the retiring jawan is far more employable. We need to go back to the old system of 9 years colour service followed by lateral entry to the services, defence PSUs and defence civilian jobs. Direct entry to the services should be stopped.
Q. "The total number of military personnel in all the five services of the USA is over two million. But the number of their pensioners (as per my information) is no more than half a million."
A. Quite right. But that is because the United States has a national contributory pension system called Social Security. Defence personnel are part of this system, whether in uniform or out of it. The Defence forces only give a Disability Pension, where applicable.
Q. "Comparison with other countries is not a plank on which this case can be based. At least that can not be the only basis."
A. Agreed that it is not the only basis. What we are asking for is pension equal to that of current retirees. Every other country gives this.