RANK INJUSTICE- OROP
The much awaited & much heralded NDTV programme on OROP was telecast to the satisfaction of the ESM, on schedule.
We were fortunate to have all the high ranking Veteran Officers, who are deeply involved with the issue, taking part in the debate. Of course, Rajeev Chandra Sekhar, MP, who is more dedicated than some of the ESM themselves for the cause, was on Video Conference mode. His contribution to the debate, having established his moral superiority in refusing the Pay Hike, was in full view. All the participants did a commendable job.
Barkha Datt, played the role of third umpire to full satisfaction, steering the debate away from the emotional plane, to the path of sensibility.
Davar was true to his political masters. He never wavered. His contention that the Govt has already brought the pre 2006 retiree PBOR at par with the post 2006, was straight away rejected by Gen Oberoi, who pointed out the actual pensions of sepoys of both the categories. Though the usage of the term PBOR was objected to by (Hony) Lt Pandey, for ease of progressing the debate, the anchor suggested that they continue with the term. Davar also explained that the RM has said that the issue could be resolved over a period of time. “Why not now” was the chorus of protest from the Veterans. He also highlighted that the Separate Pay Commission will be formed in next four years, when issue of OROP to Veteran Officers will also be resolved. Shri Chandra Sekhar promptly cautioned him NOT to create rift between the Officers & PBOR. The Officers form not more than 2 % of the Veterans.
At the outset, Lt Gen Raj Kadyan explained that “the demand for OROP is not new. It was in vogue earlier. From 1982, this has been our consistent demand. It is not for extra emoluments alone, as being interpreted by some people. It is for the restoration of honour & equity amongst the ranks, irrespective of their dates of retirement.
The former Defence Secretary, Indu Libheran was the first to express her reservations. In her opinion, the demand of OROP will create more problems, than solving a few anomalies. Asking for better compensation package for the early retirement, for the risk factor & hazardous service conditions, may well be within the cards. OROP per say may not be legally tenable.
Prof (Dr) Ajay Shah also echoed the same sentiment. He said that in the present day conditions, a son drawing more pay than his father, for the same employment, is quite usual. However, his comparison of a Fire Fighter from a Fire Brigade facing similar risk of a soldier, was laughable. He was also put down effectively by Veteran Manavendra Singh, stating that the Fire Man has a choice in entering a burning building. But a soldier, in action always enters the burning building, because it is his duty. ( My Comment-If that was the comparison, we could never have captured the lofty heights in Kargil. Officers & men literally went into battle with death staring at them, at every step- Bharka Datt was an eye witness-)
Capt Siddhu’s introduction into the debate, though well received on the emotional plane, could not add weight to the issue of OROP. Gen Oberoi did clarify the plight of disabled Veterans like him, explaining that their pension has two components- the service & percentage of disability. One young girl pointed out that how could a disabled Soldier look after his family when the pension was not even sufficient to maintain himself. Siddhu made a pertinent point about how the IAS & IPS officers make rules only to safe guard their interests & protect OROP for their cadres. Indu Libheran pointed out that all IAS & IPS Officers do not retire with OROP. Where ever the Pay Scales are fixed they retire at a particular level, within the scale.
Cmde Udai Bhaskar mentioned about his experience with Indra Gandhi, where she initially agreed to discuss the issue of OROP within the Cabinet but could not do so. He also mentioned that the increase in the Pay of MPs was not resented to, but the manner in which they enforced it was deplorable.
Ms Pinky Anand, Senior Lawyer of SC, cautioned that if OROP is implemented, there is likely to be a spate of litigations. She also questioned as to how we can have OROP, when the jobs performed are not equal?
Prof Ajai also was of the same opinion. He further refined it by stating that how the honour component fit in, when what the Veterans are asking really means better compensation for the reasons they have brought out.
My own assessment of the debate.
Dear Veterans, the debate was well received by the ESM community. More than 95 % of the audience present were Veterans or their dependents. Very few from outside our fraternity would have watched the show. However, it was a grand success. Barkha Datt palmed it off to the Parliament, for more serious discussion & decision.
Without getting emotional, we have to further stream line our next encounter.
Questions raised by the Civilian Dignitaries who were present.
a. All Civilian Cadre Officers do not get OROP. Apart from a few categories of Judiciary, Central Govt employees, MPs, Defence Service Officers & the likes, others are not covered by this criterion.
b. There was no qualm on seeking better compensation package to off set early retirement, hazards of service, difficulty due to weather & climatic conditions, separation from the family et al. But seeking OROP & liking honour as a factor, was not understood by them.
c. As the Lawyer raised the query, how can OROP demanded for all even though the jobs performed are not equal. She was of the opinion that it was not legally tenable.
These questions may be repeated in future also. The study team may consider these aspects & prepare for suitable clarifications.
Regards & Best Wishes,
Col (Retd) TN Raman
E5/230, AWHO Parameswaran Vihar,
67, Arcot Road, Saligramam,
Mob: 0- 9840033326