Issues related to OROP

OROP stands for One Rank One Pension which means same pension for same rank for same length of service irrespective of date of retirement. 

Presently two Colonels with 20 years of service get different amount of pensions just because they get retired on different dates. It creates huge anomalies in pension of retired personnel. Neither is it keeping up a pace with the inflation nor with the needs for survival.  

In 1973 this issue was firstly raised when the then PM Mrs Indira Gandhi modified the pensions of Armed Personnel without consulting them which went against them. As per Armed Forces veterans since then every Pay Commission(which forms after every 10 years) and every government has sidelined the demands of veterans over pay and pensions. Their pay scales and pensions continued to be less than their civilian counterparts. Another reason of low pension is their early age retirement with less number of service years. As the government wants to maintain young army so many of the soldiers have to get retired in early 40s or 50s itself whereas their civilian counterparts still get retired at the age of 60 only. It is also difficult for them to find an another job at this age.

Their demand remains unfulfilled despite the fact that in 2010-11 a parliamentary committee named as Koshyari committee found that there is a merit in the case and thus recommended its implementation as soon as possible and formation of a separate pay commission for Armed Forces. This committee report created a huge base for carrying out the protest and political propaganda and even for filing the PIL in Supreme Court.

Then in 2015 this unprecedented delay in implementation of OROP took a form of huge protest by the veterans. Veterans went into hunger strike. Police had to deal with the situation. Finally the government had to agree with some of the demands. It was decided to implement OROP retrospectively with effect from 1st July 2014 by the Finance Ministry. But the government put a clause that the pension will be revised only one in a five year. Now this created an anguish and anger among veterans who cited it as a clear dilution of the very concept of One Rank One Pension.

Meanwhile government has raised a new issue by saying that the benefits of OROP are not meant for those who have left the service prematurely. This move by the government was strongly opposed by the veterans. 

Upon this huge protest the government constituted one man judicial committee under the chairmanship of Justice Reddy, retired Chief Justice of Patna High Court to look into the anomalies if any arising out of the implementation of One Rank One Pension. The committee after huge consultations and receiving representation from armed forces submits its report to the government in October 2016.

With the implementation of OROP millions of ex-servicemen and widows including war widows will get benefitted. List of beneficiaries includes soldiers of all the ranks ranging from sepoy and havildar to Generals in all the three wings of Defense Forces. It also includes their dependents too.

Now the main issue lies about the expenditure to be incurred on this process. Though different sources have different estimates Ministry of Defense said it to be 8000 crores rupees. As per Finance Ministry this is a huge expenditure which is difficult to be managed through budgetary support. But veterans argued that this is just a small fraction of the total defense budget in India. Nevertheless there is always an option with the government to pay the arrears in phased out manner. However the ruling party is always in fear of losing out a large voter base if they mishandle the issue. Opposition parties are looking to grab the opportunity.

Another major issue lies with the government is the fear about the similar demands being raised by paramilitary forces or police or even the civilian staff also. But one thing should be noted here that unlike Armed forces personnel, personnel in these forces do not have to undergo early age retirement. If government asks them to leave the job at early age, government only should arrange for pay-pension parity for them with the civilian counterparts. One solution can be that the government should define it as military pension meant only for Armed Forces. Government should also clearly define the OROP and provide the rationale behind its implementation. 

However this OROP issue too has an emotional side. Armed forces have huge respect and honour in the country for the sacrifice they have committed in guarding the country against the enemies at frontiers. Armed forces have also played an important role in rescue operation during natural calamities for example Uttarakhand floods and Chennai floods. Hence on humanitarian grounds too many common men & women and even many of the public figures support this agenda. 

Logically speaking implementing OROP will help the government in long run. Youth are naturally attracted to the jobs which offer better remuneration. Indian armed forces are in great need of talented youngsters especially in the context of present changing geopolitical and security scenario in neighbourhood. China’s Peoples’ Liberation Army is huge in size and highly efficient too, with which Indian Army has to compete. Nevertheless the implementation of OROP will surely raise the morale of serving officers in the forces upon seeing the pay and pension parity with their civilian counterparts.