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Limitation of PCDA Circular No 547 - BY Brig CS Vidyasagar (Retd)

, by indianmilitaryveterans

Indian Military Veterans
Dear Sir,
1. I have put in red colour important aspect of pension fixation as given in para 3 of Circular 547 of PCDA(Pensions) Allahabad. Even for JCOs and OR the pension fixation now being adopted as per Circular 547 is fixing notional pay in 6th CPC corresponding to the pre-revised scale from which the pensioner has retired in 5th CPC scale of pay. Then arrive at pension which is 50% of notional pay. This clearly tells no two Havildars of say 24 total years’ service will get the same pension as it depends upon how many increments these Havs drew in the rank of Hav. The Hav who got his promotion earlier and drew more increments will draw higher last drawn emoluments and hence higher pension.
2. Method of Pension Fixation. The method of pension fixation adopted so far for JCOs and OR is based on three parameters (a) Rank (b) Group X or Y and (c) No of years of total service. All Havs of Group X or Y with say 24 years’ service used to get the same pension.
But the method now adopted by Min of Def (ESW) vide their letter No: 1(04)/2015(II)D(Pen/Pol) dated 03 Sep 2015 which is reproduced in Circular 547 is to change it to fixing notional pay in revised scale of pay i.e. 6th CPC corresponding to pre revised scale of pay i.e. 5th CPC at the time of retirement of JCO & OR. Now you will realise all Havs of same service in the same group will not get the same pension. That Hav who has earned more increments in the rank of Hav and who has drawn more pay in service will get higher pension on his retirement.
3. Let us analyse fitment table for JCOs and OR as given in SAI 1/S/2008. We will take the case of Hav as nowadays all post – 2006 Sepoys retire with pay and pension of Hav due to Assured Career Progression (ACP i.e after 8 years Sep gets pay of Nk and after 16 years he gets pay of Hav and retires with pension of Hav).

Extract of Circular 547 of PCDA(Pensions) Allahabad
Para 3. After issue of GOI, Ministry of Personnel, PG & Pensioners, Department of
Pension & Pensioners’ Welfare letter No. 38/37/08-P & PW (A) dated 30.07.2015, it has
been decided that with effect from 01.01.2006 pension/family pension of Pre-2006
JCOs/ORs pensioners/Family pensioners shall be determined as fifty and thirty percent
respectively of the minimum of the fitment table for the Rank in the revised Pay
Band as indicated under fitment tables annexed with 1/S/2008 as amended and
equivalent instructions for Navy and Air Force, plus Grade Pay corresponding to the
pre-revised scale from which the pensioner had retired/discharged/invalided out/died including Military Service Pay and X group pay.
4. So far Circular 501 which fixed pensions of pre – 2006 JCOs and OR as per the number of years of total service, group and rank. The number of increments earned in the last rank i.e. Hav was not taken into consideration. So two Havs of same Group Y with total service of 24 years used to get Rs 7,375 per month as pension. The number of increments earned by him in his last rank have no bearing on his pension.
5. But with Circular 547, this has been replaced by what was his scale of pay in 5th CPC and his pension is fixed by taking notional pay in 6th CPC corresponding to his pre – revised pay i.e. 5th CPC pay and then his pension is fixed at 50% of that total notional pay in 6th CPC.
6. For example as per SAI 1/S/2008, if a Hav was drawing a pay of say Rs 4,000 in 5th CPC, then his notional pay in 6th CPC is Rs 12,290 and his pension is Rs 6,145. Whereas the Circular 501 which fixes pension so far for pre – 2006 Havs has higher. So with Circular 547 JCOs and OR will now get less pension.
7. Since method of pension fixation has undergone a sea change it is not easy to find out how much is loss in pension. You have to see PPO of Hav and then find out what is his pension firstly by notional pay fixation corresponding to his basis pay in pre- revised (5th CPC) scale and then see the total pay in 6th CPC and then half it to get the pension.

Regards,
Brig CS Vidyasagar (Retd)
9493191380

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Limitation of the PCDA Circular No 547

, by indianmilitaryveterans

Indian Military Veterans
Dear Sir,
After reading and re-reading of Circular 547 especially the para 4 below, I am now convinced that pension being drawn by JCOs and OR as per Circular 501 will be protected. So there will be no reduction of pension.But SAO of PCDA(Pensions) Allahabad confirmed that Circular 501 is amended by Circular 547.
Extract of Circular 547
4. However, in case, the consolidated pension/family pension calculated as per
Para 4.1 of this Ministry’s letter No. 17(4)/2008(1)/D(Pen/Pol) dated 11.11.2008 is
higher than the pension/family pension calculated in the manner indicated above, the
same (higher consolidated pension/family pension) will be continued to be treated as
basic pension/family pension. However, where revised pension in terms of GOI, MOD
letter No. PC 10(1)/2009-D (Pen/Pol) dated 08.03.2010 and No.
1(13)/2012/D(Pen/Policy) dated 17.01.2013 is higher than the rates indicated in
annexure attached with this letter, the same will be continued to be treated as basic
pension/family pension from 1.07.2009 and 24.09.2012 respectively
I wish PCDA(Pensions) Allahabad has given tables for pension arrears for JCOs and OR instead of circular 547 which does not make a bank clerk to arrive at pension arrears. To arrive at arrears you need to know how much pension was paid and how much is to be acutally paid. The pensions of JCOs and OR was increased w.e.f. Jul 2009 and again from 24 Sep 2012. The pension as on Jan 2006 was fixed by Circular 430 which Circular 547 replaces. Which figures will be taken?
Will JCOs,OR and widows will ever get pension arrears in 2015?
regards,
Brig CS Vidyasagar (Retd)
9493191380

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Health Tip of the Day

, by indianmilitaryveterans

Indian Military Veterans

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1965 War Celebrations: Some Veterans Boycott President's Invite

, by indianmilitaryveterans

Indian Military Veterans


1965 War Celebrations: Some Veterans Boycott President's Invite
File Photo: President Pranab Mukherjee.
NEW DELHI:  There were mixed emotions of happiness, anger and anguish at Jantar Mantar as the veterans today celebrated the victory of the 1965 war, with many boycotting the President's invite to commemorate the historic event to protest the government's decision of "not implementing" the 'One Rank One Pension' scheme as per their demands.

Several war veterans were felicitated by giving a rose even as they flaunted their medals and flashed the invite of the President, which they had declined.

Like Col (retd) Raj Dhingra of the Rajput Regiment, many felt nostalgic as they shared the vivid memories of the battlefield.

"I am running 80 currently, but I still feel like going to the front again and battling with the enemy," Dhingra, who was injured due to a shell explosion in the 1965 war in the Poonch sector, said.

However, even as they continued their celebration, a section of war veterans were livid over OROP, which they feel the government is not implementing "as per its definition".

Flaunting a rose given to him during felicitation, Col Kirit Joshipura (retd), another war veteran and one of the protesting voices over the OROP issue at the Jantar Mantar, said, "The rose given to us by the government is full of thorns. How can we accept it?" he said.

Col Joshipura was referring to the impediments in the OROP announced by the government. Incidentally, Major Gen Satbir Singh, one of the key person in the OROP agitation who was involved in negotiations with the government claimed that he had not got any invitation, but refused to elaborate on the issue.

Another veteran of the 1965 and 1971 wars Wing Commander Vinod Nebb skipped the function organised by the President, who is also the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.

"We have boycotted the function in protest as the government is yet to agree upon the OROP as per its definition," said Mr Nebb, a Vir Chakra and BAR award recipient who had shot a Pakistani aircraft in the 1965 war.

President Pranab Mukherjee today hosted a high tea for 1965 war veterans in the Rashtrapati Bhavan complex as the country celebrated the golden jubilee of the war with Pakistan.

Amid protests by a section of ex-servicemen over the issue of OROP, some veterans attended the event along with their family members.

Source :Click here for details

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A Fellow IITian's Humble Request to Chetan Bhagat - By Mohit Sinha

, by indianmilitaryveterans

Being a fellow IITian of roughly the same timeframe  as you (B.Tech(EE), IIT-Kanpur,1992) and also a P.G., but in Physics (TIFR-Bombay, 2003) and not in Financial Management like you, I felt really happy and proud when years ago I came to learn  that “Three Idiots” by Aamir Khan & Co. was actually based on an IITian’s (your) novel “Five Point Someone” , which is when I went ahead and read it and realized that you had written straight from the heart; a plethora of feelings / sentiments shared by more than 90+ % IITians  (irrespective of being 5-pointers or 10-pointers or somewhere in between) of our days when there was no 3G/4G to seek instant emotional support from home while going through the grind. 


However, I refuse to believe your claim of “being from the head” about your TOI article:http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/The-underage-optimist/its-time-to-analyze-orop-with-our-head-not-our-heart/  

I humbly implore you not to devalue your own analytical and deep-thinking credentials along with that of our tribe, who have created it globally over half a century by the dint of their sheer merit and hard work. My objection is not as much to the opinion/stand taken by you, as to the lack of depth of analysis as well as the frugality in the breadth of the aspects which you have covered to put forth your viewpoint, giving an impression of you being in a tearing hurry to publish, which leaves room for people drawing unnecessary conclusions about your motivation with some even going to extent of tarnishing our reputation in general. Here’s how I feel something from the head of an IITian should look like (my response to you in the following paragraphs).

As you were a finance guy before picking up the pen, let's look at it first from a purely ROI, then enterprise and finally the socio-economic angle. We start with the Flat or Bungalow you may be living in and look at the price you pay for the flat itself vis-a-vis the price for all the belongings inside (which would be totally defenceless along with your family members, from thieves, robbers and marauders without the security the  four walls and roof of your flat/bungalow provide!). You might argue that the cost of bricks and mortar along with the payment to the construction staff is a minuscule fraction of the cost of land in an up-market locality, which actually raises the cost of your flat/bungalow. However, that's where the key lies, i.e. if we want to be counted among the premium members of the real-estate of the comity of nations, we need to spend accordingly on the ”walls & roof” of our strategic defence , especially considering the kind of hostile neighborhood we live in. Abject Failure to do so in the immediate post-independence era, resulted in our humiliating defeat at the hands of the Chinese in 1962, a defeat which is a blot in the history of modern India and still stares us in the face via the various international maps of India, lest we choose to forget it at our own peril.

As citizens of India we are a large family and our nation India is our home with all our historical, social and economic/industrial/financial assets being like one’s belongings on a mega-scale, when viewed from a global perspective. Even if you argue that a nation is more like an enterprise where only productive activity is to be rewarded, military pensions/benefits are like an insurance policy with pension-benefits whose premiums are paid in kind and not cash, a “kind” for which there is simply no cash equivalent because the “kind” in concern is the very life of the fauji! Before writing what you wrote, did you for one moment consider, what is the price you put on your own life? You can argue that, in which case let’s reserve the best rewards and compensations we can offer to the best of our capability as a nation for those of our honourable soldiers who are martyred or maimed, but the problem then is that before one goes into battle and until the action is long over, that list is not known. So the strategy followed globally by armies of respected democracies on the global stage (read USA, UK, France, Australia etc.) is to have the best possible same financial package for all soldiers to keep  all of them equally motivated before going into action and reward special bravery via presidential scrolls of honour and military medals /crosses on the glorious setting of National celebrations like the Republic Day, rewards which are again invaluable like the supreme sacrifices they are given for.

Taking the Nation as an enterprise analogy further, you need to hire the best and get the best out of them by providing them the best and the latest infrastructure to stay at least abreast, if not ahead of your competition, the goal always being to have a plan and strategy to race ahead of the competition and work towards achieving the same. To hire and retain the best, you need to offer the best pay & emoluments package you can with a promise for better rewards, bonuses & honours based on a combination of individual performance and organizational (read national) growth vis-a-vis your competitions’, which in this case happens to be the nations you aspire to be counted among. 

No wonder that we are 20% short on officers in our armed forces on an average, and more so on fighter pilots and squadrons because we are no longer able to attract the talent which can make the cut, and hiring substandard talent is worse than having vacant posts in this business, like other fields which require specialized skills and aptitude besides extreme motivation. Our veterans, who are jawans in a large majority are on “Dharna” for OROP (a name given to a pre-existing payment structure in approximation pre-1973 when Indira Gandhi withdrew it arbitrarily!!), because they are made to retire by 35 years of age to maintain a young and mean fighting machine, while most officers are effectively made to retire by the time they are aged 40+ to 50+ owing to highly angular pyramid management structure at the top.

This sorry state of affairs has come upon us, NOT because our honorable soldiers seek pay-pension parity in USD terms with their US/UK counterparts, but just because they seek to restore parity (lost systematically since independence & esp. In 1973) in terms of honour, structure and ratios w.r.t. various parameters like Status & Position, facilities, emoluments-pension packages vis-a-vis the nations we aspire to be among,  and desire to remake them as they used to be before  Nehru and Indira systematically dismantled them in active connivance with the bureaucracy and politically appointed  pliant military top brass, due to their paranoia of sorts with the armed forces and Bose/INA post independence (Please read my post: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/civil-military-imbalance-root-cause-analysis-mohit-sinha  ), which is not only de-motivating our serving personnel but also deterring talent from even considering armed forces as a career option..., and we aspire to compete with the best and be a player on the global stage!!

Stretching this enterprise analogy even further, on the Global stage agreements are done in the form of treaties, best done by negotiating from a position of strength  (as applicable in any sphere) via diplomacy which is meaningful only when backed with raw military strength  & deterrence closely intertwined with the nation’s  geopolitical and economic /business strategy and objectives. We don’t have to go far and look at our northern neighbour China to see how they have upgraded the Karakoram Highway, built a tunnel to shorten the distance to Pakistan right in the middle of Gilgit which lies in erstwhile unified Kashmir which we claim as our own, and are building a highway right through Baluchistan to access the Arabian Sea ports in Pakistan also built and upgraded by them; none of which they could have done without having the military strength to back their activities. Similarly they have built enormous Railway and allied infrastructure in Tibet and are working towards reviving the old silk-route. 
Similarly the US & UK primarily along with the NATO bloc control the world’s oil and their military strategy is indistinguishably intertwined with their economic/business strategy (US has made profits from every external war they have fought except Vietnam, through defence-sales/supplies, reconstruction, controlling Oil/Gas and other natural resources etc.), with Russia now and USSR earlier acting no different when it came to their geopolitical and economic interests.

In stark contrast, our pilgrims to Kailash-Maan Sarovar have to pay hefty amounts of Hard Currency and obtain a Visa from China and we can’t build a pipeline for Iranian/Central Asian Oil and Gas because Pakistan falls bang in between and the Northern territory part of erstwhile United Kashmir is not in our control to engineer a work around. All this is courtesy the sterling performance of  the “peace-loving & development-oriented” Nehru-Krishna Menon  duo and their “esteemed self-proclaimed know-all babus”, who even fooled an iron lady like Indira into equating civilian and military pensions in 1973, despite the military delivering such a momentous victory like 1971, and who have since independence progressively become the “Bhagya-Vidhaatas” of our Defence Forces in the MoD without having ever spent a moment on the front (leave alone action)!

Tell me which Hi-Tech industry/company cutting across spaces, segments and verticals (e.g.  IT- Hw/Sw, Semiconductors / Chip-Design, Oil & Gas, Airlines... etc.),  will have guys without bottom-upwards hands-on operational experience, deployed in key senior positions for Ops, R&D, Technical, Modernization, strategy etc.  Even in your own erstwhile space of Finance, guys become Fund Managers with hundreds of millions of dollars of funds under them only after they have spent a minimum of 12-15 years starting bottom-upwards from  Junior Analyst positions and earned their promotions at every level from day-one.    

Let me tell you that it this bossing around by Babus in MoD who know Zilch about stuff on the ground and still never miss an opportunity of throwing their weight around, which is at the root of all this disenchantment, while OROP is just one manifestation which resonates across officers and Jawans with specific reference to the 1973 injustice meted out by Indira Gandhi and the then bureaucracy primarily. You should look at how the MoD is manned with senior defence personnel in key ops/modernization/strategy positions in any country of any strategic significance.  

With our MoD structure post independence, it is simply impossible to survive as a nation in the kind of neighbourhood we have, leave alone finding our place in the comity of nations.

Lastly we come to the socio-economic angle, to prove why 1973 civil-military pension equalization was a horrendous blunder, especially after the momentous victory in 1971. 

First of all it was like penalizing instead of rewarding when someone delivers beyond expectations of the call of duty, which has been the biggest de-motivating factor in itself. 

Leaving this emotional let-down factor aside, let’s get down to the realpolitik. 

A jawan retiring at 35 years of age in the prime of his life with kids to bring up and a host of other responsibilities, can’t be compared to someone who is 60 years of age whose kids have grown up to possibly take care of him and whose pension anyways would also be rationalized to his last drawn salary, which itself would have been as per the latest Pay commission he would have seen during service. 

Besides , a  jawan is an “attack to kill machine” with a “one bullet one target motto” and his only employment option after  retiring at the young age of 35 (still old enough for the army to retire him to maintain its killing/winning edge in combat), is being a security guard with a private security company which dishes out peanuts (salaries of less that INR 10K p.m.), besides being singularly insulting, as the job-profile requires him to salute any Tom, Dick and Harry. 

I recall this guard we hired from a private security company when I set up our company in Bangalore, whom we called “Khan Saab” as he turned out to be an ex-serviceman and I felt very embarrassed when he saluted me on his first day on duty. I saluted him back and requested him never to do it again as his salutes were reserved for the nation and our flag. His eyes went moist, and he continued to stand-up every time I came to and left office, and every time I used to stop and greet him. 

However, the majority in our society respects money and position in this day and age of blatant consumerism and these guys have to face frequent mis-demeanours and the occasional humiliation at the hands of virtual nobodies, with the peanuts they get in return rubbing salt in the wounds.  Ours being a growing economy with a continued high rate of inflation, pensions frozen in time become pittance in no time, especially for jawans.

When we consider the officers’ plight, majority of whom are effectively made to retire in the age-band of 40-54 years, it is not always easy to find a job at the senior/middle management level as is the case for any of us  in that age-group, irrespective of our civil-military background. 

If setting up own business is considered an option, being a finance guy you must be well-aware that 1 in 10 is the global benchmark of VCs for the average-chance of a venture giving any kind of positive ROI. 

Besides these factors, rank and file are at the foundation of the chain of command in the armed forces and  ingrained in the officers and jawans from  their teenage, which simply can’t be forgotten overnight or even in a lifetime after retirement. 

It in this light that we should view the kind of humiliation a Colonel who retired 12-15 years before a major who then draws more pension than him would experience. Thus the name “OROP-One Rank One Pension” duly approved by parliament and ordered by the SC and should be implemented in letter and spirit. 

Going for modernization and reducing hiring in lieu thereof  in a phased manner is the way forward to reduce burden on exchequer and not denying our brave men their due.

The ideal approach at the very outset of nation-building would have been to retrain, re-orient and re-deploy the retired jawans and officers in paramilitary forces especially BSF, CRPF etc., so that they too could work till the age of 45-55 years for jawans and 60 years for the officers. Those from the armed forces who would choose to go that way would be given a choice between the military/ paramilitary pensions post their respective retirements.  

This most logical step which would have minimized expenditure and maximized efficiency, was again not taken by our political masters who created BSF & other paramilitary forces with parallel hiring ensuring they had no loyalty to the army to surreptiously create a counterbalance , just because they lived in an irrational fear psychosis of the armed forces for the first 3 decades post independence, a fear which was exploited at every step by bureaucracy to attain and maintain their overarching supremacy in the MoD and over the armed forces in general (Rank asymmetry to the extent of Brigadier equivalent to Joint Secretary being just the starting point!!). 

Thus we have jawans in both army and paramilitary forces, both disenchanted as limited resources have to be distributed among nearly double the numbers and the state also feels unnecessary burden. This could still be corrected in a phased manner henceforth to reduce the burden on exchequer.

To conclude my arguments I come back to the basic premise that it is not the average income/facilities/standard of living/pride & honour, but the standard deviation about the mean, i.e. the degree of skew in the distribution of these parameters which leads to socio-economic disenchantment and unrest. 

A prime example of such a skew (besides the aforementioned aspects) is the NFU (Non Functional Upgrade) which is a contradiction of sorts from a management viewpoint (why upgrade if non functional??), has been bestowed upon all other central services including themselves (where service is assured to continue to 60 years of age) by the IAS lobby while the armed forces have been left in the lurch due to its pyramid structure and the unreasonable rank-asymmetry. 

To top it all Netas get full pension benefits for serving just 2 years as MP/MLA etc., while they don't even deserve their salary for the kind of ruckus they create in the parliament/assembly. 

Add to that the brazen and rampant corruption Netas & Babus indulge in making their inflated salaries, pensions and NFUs look like kids' pocket money!! 

Looking at the liberalization of our economy we should also allow and encourage setting up of Private Defence Equipment Manufacturers and Private Defence Contractors who can sell their specialized goods, skills & services globally to Oil/Construction etc. companies and Governments alike in hostile operating environments as allowed for in US etc., which will be the ideal post-retirement avenues for our retiring services personnel.

Being from the financial industry and having made a significant amount of bucks out there, you should be the last guy writing what you wrote on OROP, considering that that guys from the financial community get obscenely paid to create all the booms and then the inevitable busts while playing around with others’ money (never their own!!)  and fleecing the hardworking class and retail investors in the process, via speculation and fitting data to pre-conceived financial models instead of doing vice-versa (which itself is nigh impossible given the non-linear nature of the models and thus the emergence of behavioral finance post 2008), along with highly immoral kinds of toxic investment packages, backroom dealings, insider-trading... the list goes on and you name it. 

Then your community has the temerity to ask for more handsome salaries  even from Taxpayer Money based bailout packages running into Hundreds of Billions of Dollars to clean up the mess of which it was the creator in the first place. 

Thus the “Main Street Vs Wall Street” debate and demonstrations on the brink of turning violent when the whole world felt cheated leave alone our armed forces, which have every right & reason to feel cheated, given the current predicament they have been forced into both financially and otherwise, more so when people having a finance background with investment banks cry foul over an additional INR 12000 Crores p.a. for the armed forces veterans, in an economy with GDP of lakhs and lakhs and lakhs of crores and annual growth rate between 7-9%, a growth-rate which will ensure that the additional pension load along with its desired revisions will always be roughly the same ratio of the GDP by the time we have modernized our armed forces and cut back on manpower, by which time our growth-rate may also start to taper. 

Being a fellow IITian in the same age-group, I hope I can safely joke without offending you: “If it’s not from the heart as claimed and not from the head as just proven, then we all know where from it is...  :-) ”

I urge you to write an article again after thorough study and analysis, irrespective of the stand you take, so that you do justice to your intellect and honesty besides restoring the credibility and  image of your tribe of IITians.

(source- Likden a/c)

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Support from an unexpected quarter - after the barbs from Chetan Bhagat and MJ Akbar - An Ambassador's Plea to the Govt on OROP

, by indianmilitaryveterans

Indian Military Veterans


20 September 2015

Dear Prime Minister of India, 

All the governments of world have accepted their veterans a "Class of Probity" but it is totally reverse in India.
 
I am regularly watching and reading about long ongoing agitation of Indian veterans demanding One Rank-One Pension (OROP) for the last three months.

Shockingly, the government of India never planned to keep its promises till to date. 
I urge the government of India and its parliamentarians to have a look with opened eyes on the lines....Engraved on the walls of Indian Military Academy, Dehra Dun :

"The safety, honour & welfare of your country come first, always and every time. 

The honour, welfare and comfort of the men you command come next. 
Your own ease, comfort and safety come last, always and every time." 

Quite a contrast with the ways of the world outside! 

For a life of extraordinary hardship, in Battle and in peace, all 25 million veterans of India deserve one rank one pension. 

There's honour in service of these men but no honour in the broken promises made to them.

I being an Ambassador at Large of International Human Rights Commission for India & SAARC would like to request you to accept all the genuine demand of your veterans and remember that you can never pay back a soldier enough.
 
Better give it gracefully! 

Don't try bargaining with veterans...They are upright and honest people of great India; They talk straight and prefer same thing in return. 

So, for a change in the portfolios of armed forces personnel with the civilian counterparts on 'as is at it' basis for couple of years

And let civilian brethren enjoy all the amenities, facilities including bullets on the chest during enemy aggression, natural calamities, internal disturbances and all other nuisances the nation has to face for its safety , honor, dignity and unity etc and let them do it without urging for OROP for themselves at any stage to keep your nation fighting fit and well dignified in world arena.


Dr. Prithvi Singh Ravish
Ambassador at Large for India & SAARC
International Human Rights Commission

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How an essentially senior citizens movement helped make OROP a reality

, by indianmilitaryveterans

Indian Military Veterans


How an essentially senior citizens movement helped make OROP a reality
The One Rank, One Pension scheme announced by the government may not reflect all of the veterans’ demands, however, over four decades after the issue surfaced, the Indian government will finally begin to address it. To view it as a fulfilment of the Bharatiya Janta Party’s campaign promise alone will be erroneous. After all, Indian elections produce many such promises, but only a few are fulfilled. India’s first veterans movement has to be credited with an equal if not greater role in the implementation of the scheme.

The veterans’ movement ran an effective agitation against the government. To protest their neglect by the politicians and bureaucracy, veterans signed letters in their blood, returned their gallantry and service medals, and participated in sit-ins. This was a national agitation with protests spread across different states and since June 15, it organized a relay hunger strike in the heart of New Delhi. Alarmed by the effect the agitation could have on the morale of the armed forces, in an unprecedented step, 10 former service chiefs wrote to the President and Prime Minister of India requesting them to expedite the implementation of OROP.

A deeply felt grievance does not necessarily guarantee its articulation through a protest. We often conflate the presence of the two. Unless they are mobilised effectively, grievances rarely turn into successful protest movements. For every andolan or movement we observe, there are many more that either do not take off or fizzle out swiftly. In fact, India’s first veterans’ movement is also its first old people’s movement.

Few would have expected a protest movement made up of senior citizens to have mobilised effectively and lasted this long, let alone find its political voice. And yet, it did. Importantly, the standoff between the veterans and the state has had serious political consequences.

Political Opportunity

The OROP issue and the movement centred on it are not new, however, the 2014 parliamentary elections presented an opportunity for the movement to assert its presence. Similar actions are characteristic of protest movements, which rely on electoral opportunity to attain their intended goals. In the run up to the elections, the veterans and their family members, a 10 million-strong constituency, were acknowledged as a vote bloc for the first time in a national election.
Narendra Modi, who had just been chosen as the BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate, began his campaign in September 2013 by addressing a rally of veterans with a recently retired army chief by his side. He promised speedy implementation of the OROP. The veterans in turn pledged their support to the BJP. Rattled by this development, the then incumbent United Progressive Alliance led by the Congress Party, having previously neglected the matter, also quickly agreed to implement the scheme.

Organisational Advantage

Mobilisation becomes much easier when rather than bringing together individuals, organisers can instead bring together already organised people to build a movement. In this regard, the OROP movement enjoyed a substantial inherent advantage. Most veterans belong to the army, which makes up 1.15 million of the 1.35 million strong Indian armed forces. The Indian army still follows a regimental system in which strong bonds are fostered among men belonging to a regiment and these ties persist after retirement. Most participants in this movement have been mobilised through these networks.

A movement also benefits from a clear unifying goal. The Indian military can often appear as a divided family because of inter-service rivalries and differences. But OROP has been a unifying cause for the veterans irrespective of their rank and their regimental and service identities. The latest agitation brought a large number of veterans’ organisations under one umbrella. This unity, however, was not a product of common economic interests alone. There was another binding force at work.

A Matter of Honour

During interviews with the movement participants and in listening to speakers at the OROP rally, I found that on the pension issue the veterans felt dishonoured. And these are men who think very differently about the preservation of honour than the average citizen. The Indian armed forces still evoke the idea of izzat while training their personnel and calling upon them to make the ultimate sacrifice. Among the veterans there was a shared belief that the bureaucracy and the political class had disrespected their service to the nation. They viewed the struggle for OROP as a battle to reclaim their pride and honour, and this belief sustained high levels of motivation among the participants.

Finding Allies

To succeed, protest movements not only have to mobilise the aggrieved, but also have to win the support of bystanders or sections that are not party to the dispute. The OROP movement was locked in a dispute with the Indian state. It is noteworthy that financial benefits of OROP will be restricted to veterans and their families alone. And yet, the public mood remained sympathetic towards the agitation. This is not surprising.

We know from a number of public opinion surveys that in India, the military, as a premier symbol of nationalism remains the most respected institution and is ranked above political parties, the bureaucracy, the police, and even the judiciary. Further, the OROP movement maintained a positive image. It has not blocked roads, damaged public property, or called for strikes, which are commonly used tactics among protest movements.

Indeed, the media also provided favourable coverage. The protesting veterans had access to newspapers and television channels to explain their position. Besides their military identity, the age of the protesters also added to the emotional appeal of the protest to the larger public. In the agitation events I attended, I found that the average age of the OROP protest participant was above 65 years. Elderly parents and wives of martyred soldiers as well as war heroes spoke at the protest rallies, and their distress helped shape public opinion.

The veterans were also savvy about producing the right optics. They used anniversaries strategically to argue for their demands. They boycotted felicitation ceremonies and the golden jubilee events of the 1965 India-Pakistan war. They also increased protest activities around Kargil Victory Day and Independence Day.

Political Consequences

A veterans’ movement is not unique to India; in other longstanding democracies like the United States, veterans have protested state neglect. But such a protest is not without political consequences. For a party that brandishes its nationalist credentials and makes a claim to the electoral support of veterans, the OROP standoff became a source of serious embarrassment.

Angered by the way the government treated them, the veterans movement threatened to campaign against the BJP in the upcoming Bihar state assembly election. Further, since most veterans (retired personnel below the rank of the officers) reside in rural India, the movement reached out to farmers' organisations to jointly protest the government's already troubled land acquisition legislation. If acted upon, these would have been dangerous escalatory steps which would have further politicised veterans.

The OROP struggle and its unilateral implementation by the government are already symptomatic of a deeply troubled civil-military relationship. As noed above, for veterans, the OROP dispute was not just over fair compensation, but was rather an expression of a much deeper resentment against a bureaucracy that is perceived as antagonistic to the military and a political class that is perceived as neglectful of the military’s concerns. A very substantial number of the serving military personnel are tied to the veterans through family or regimental bonds. A prolonged OROP standoff has in all likelihood raised doubts in their minds about the government’s attitude towards the armed forces.

Amit Ahuja is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
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One Rank One Pension: Ex-Servicemen Allege Bank Accounts Blocked

, by indianmilitaryveterans

Indian Military Veterans
One Rank One Pension: Ex-Servicemen Allege Bank Accounts Blocked
Ex-servicemen during their protest for One Rank One Pension (OROP) scheme, at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. (Press Trust of India photo)
NEW DELHI:  Ex-servicemen protesting against the government-approved One Rank One Pension (OROP) alleged today that their bank accounts have been blocked, but said the move will not succeed in suppressing their agitation due to resource crunch.

"Bureaucrats had probably assured politicians not to take this agitation seriously as it will wear out like any other agitation in a few days. They even managed to get our bank accounts blocked through their emissary and were confident that the agitation will be forced to be stopped with funds drying up," Group Captain VK Gandhi (retd) said in an open letter to the ex-servicemen.
"How can resource crunch stop this agitation of our status and our rights," he asked, adding that their morale was "high" and "determined" to achieve the OROP.

He said the OROP, as offered by the government, was "not acceptable" as there were "severe shortcomings" in the offer.

The relay hunger strike by the protesters entered the 98th day today.

Group Captain Gandhi also thanked the ex-servicemen for turning up in large numbers for the agitation and contributing funds to run the protest.

He said it was important to plan activities across the "length and breadth" of the country to convey a message to the government that their morale was high and "no pressure can shake" them from achieving the OROP.

While veterans want rationalisation of pensions every year, the government has provided for review every five years. They also want the one-man judicial commission to be replaced with a five-member committee with their representation.

Another issue is fixation of pension as per the highest pension for the rank, against the government's announcement of it being average of highest and lowest pensions, with protection to those with higher pension.
Story First Published: September 21, 2015 22:13 IST

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