OROP Only Partially Implemented: Open Letter by Ve

Dear Prime Minister,
Thank you for honouring the commitment that you made under the Tricolour from the ramparts of the Red Fort on Independence Day. You and the Raksha Mantri deserve to be complimented.
Though it took over 80 days of a Gandhian protest including a fast for justice by the Veterans to highlight their disappointment with the continuing delay in the implementation of OROP, realisation seems to have dawned on the government that a committed and disciplined community was being rapidly alienated.

After the government’s acceptance of OROP as a legitimate right of the Veterans, they have gone out of their way to accept substantive dilution in the provisions that they had been asking for.
However, in the form in which it has been announced, OROP will be only partially implemented. The Veterans are disappointed with the following provisions:
The one-man commission to be appointed to go into the anomalies left over after the grant of OROP will lack credibility without representation from the Veterans. A five member commission with three Veterans as members would be more appropriate. Also, instead of six months, the commission should submit its report in six weeks.
Re-fixing or increasing pensions after five years instead of annually, will once again result in juniors getting more pension than their seniors. This has been dubbed ‘one rank, five pensions’. The Veterans organisations are willing to accept equalisation every two years. Since the amounts involved are very small and the calculations are far from complex as these are done by computers – not manually – it would be more appropriate to accept this request.
The government announcement specified that the provisions of OROP rules will not be applicable to those opting for VRS, except those who are wounded during war or are boarded out due to disability. While the fine print of the government letter is not available yet, it appears grossly unfair to deny OROP to those who opt for voluntary retirement as over 40 per cent of armed forces personnel retire with disabilities caused or aggravated by the hazardous conditions of service.
It would be in the fitness of things to also take this opportunity to take a broader look at the pay and allowances of armed forces personnel. In view of the challenges faced by them, the hazards of the terrain in which they serve and the dangers to life and limb, the pay and allowances and pensions of armed forces personnel should be de-linked from those of all other employees of the Central Government.
Soon after the submission of the report of the Seventh Pay Commission, an Armed Forces Pay and Allowances Review Commission should be appointed to undertake a holistic review of the pay, allowances and pensions of armed forces personnel. The Commission should be chaired by the Raksha Mantri. Three former Chiefs of Staff, one each from the army, navy and the air force, should be its members.

The OROP imbroglio is bound to have had an adverse effect on the morale of serving armed forces personnel as many of them have relatives among the Veterans. This has happened primarily because civil-military relations in India have been bad at the best of times, both due to an uncaring political leadership – armed forces are not vote banks – and a vindictive, stubborn, envious and vengeful bureaucracy. The principle of civilian control over the military has been diluted as the political leadership has ceded control to the bureaucracy. This has been resented by the armed forces. The long-drawn fight for justice by the Veterans has plunged civil-military relations to a new nadir. There is an urgent need to make amends.
The art of leadership lies in taking personal charge when a situation appears to be slipping inexorably out of control. This letter is written with deep humility. I am sure you will initiate all measures necessary to bolster national security and do justice to serving armed forces personnel and the Veterans our nation is so proud of.
Yours sincerely,
A Veteran
September 5, 2015

(The writer is a senior retired officer of the Indian Army and the former Director, Centre for Land Warfare Studies, CLAWS, New Delhi)