1 Mar :As per Supreme Court’s ruling, “Pension is ‘Delayed Wages’ for the Services rendered”. Hence, two persons who render same service, both quantum-wise and quality-wise should get same ‘Delayed wages’ (Pension). In the military ‘Quantum’ and ‘Quality’ of service are measured by length of service put in and ‘Rank’ held. Hence the concept of One Rank One Pension (OROP) as ‘Ranks’, the world over are only peculiar to Military alone and define the responsibilities held. With each ‘Pay Commission’, the pay of the serving Defence Personnel is revised upwards and accordingly those in the same rank who retired earlier get much less pension. Now, a Sepoy who retired on 31 December 1995 would get 82% less pension than a Sepoy who retired after 01 January ’06.
The principle of OROP was accepted by many Governments. Some Presidents, Prime Ministers and Defence Ministers announced the same even on the floor of the Parliament. To counter other Govt employees asking for the same, Mr VP Singh, the then Prime Minister (1990) is on record having remarked “Let them (the civilian employees) swap places with the Military”. Mrs Sonia Gandhi, the Congress President, in an Ex-Servicemen’s Rally at Chandigarh in November ’02 declared, “When we come to power, we will grant OROP”. The Standing Committee on Defence in its 20th Report (2003), specifically recommended implementation of OROP and went to the extent of recommending it to be made a ‘precedent’. The Congress party’s Manifesto for last Lok Sabha election, says, “Long pending issue of One Rank One Pension will once again be re-examined and a satisfactory solution arrived at expeditiously”. The issue of welfare of Ex-Servicemen was also included in the President’s address to the Parliament in 2004. OROP thus is the declared policy of the Government and not just of any one political party. It is pertinent to mention that all MPs, MLAs, judges, freedom fighters, direct entry IAS and IPS officers are already given One Rank One Pension. Why deny it to the Defence Forces, who served in harshest, most exacting conditions and contributed the most in safe guarding the country, as compared to any civilian?
Unfortunately, now the govt has rejected One Rank One Pension that it was not possible to implement this stated policy on financial and administrative grounds. What has changed after their promise of 2004 that granting of One Rank One Pension has suddenly become unfeasible NOW? This has forced the Ex-Servicemen to go on ‘Relay Hunger Strike’ with effect from 16 December ’08. They had a huge “Protest Rally’ at Jantar Mantar Road on 08 February. It is a matter of shame for India that about 300 of them who fought wars returned their most precious possession, their “Medals” to the President of India, who is their Supreme Commander, with a stipulation that they would gratefully accept their medals back when they were granted One Rank One Pension. Another lot of medals were returned on 21 February. This process of depositing the Medals will continue. The next installment of medals returning will be on 14 March. Thereafter they would be doing so every month till all the medals are returned.
The apprehension of other govt employees demanding OROP is unfounded, because, like soldiers, based upon their ‘Rank’, civilians DO NOT start retiring at the age of 35. (All civilians serve up to 58/ 60 years of age); they do NOT join the service with the condition that they would sacrifice their lives while performing duties; they have NOT been denied their fundamental rights by the Constitution of India and they Do NOT spend major portion of their young lives away from their families. That’s why when ‘One Time Increases’ was granted to the soldiers twice earlier, there was no reaction from the civilians.
If after surrendering their Medals, the Ex-Servicemen do not get JUSTICE, they would be forced to intensify their agitation by other means, which may have negative effect on the serving Soldiers with disastrous consequences. The Ex-Servicemen, have formed themselves into a “VOTE BANK” and in conjunction with serving Soldiers who have been given the right to vote at their place of posting, they would vote for only those who commit, in writing, that they will get principle of ‘One Rank One Pension’ implemented. Implementing O R O P will strengthen National Defence as it will raise the morale of the Serving Soldiers since they would know that they would be well cared for after retirement.