Wednesday, October 20, 2010

One Rank One Pension

The more one thinks about the issue of "One Rank One Pension", the greater is the number of conflicting ideas that flood the mind. So much has been written about the issue and there's been so much media attention, not always well informed and rational, focussed on the subject. It is now the subject of litigation and is beginning to take on political overtones.

Essentially, how does one justify the OROP demand? To be absolutely objective and fair, one joined the armed forces fully equipped with the publicly held knowledge that there would be no such thing as "OROP" at the end of one's career. There was no coercion or compulsion at play in the process of making the career choice. It was also known the career would be 'truncated' as compared to the career of a civilian counterpart. So, if all other things had remained constant, probably the cry for a special dispensation regarding pensionary benefits would have sounded like a petulant whine unbecoming of armed forces veterans. However, other things have not remained constant.

One of the possible reasons for the dissatisfaction amongst veterans could be the gradual, though slow, upgradations of emoluments of serving personnel over the years that translate into pensionary benefits as well. The personnel who retired before the upgradations took place have lost out, in comparison, in terms of pensionary benefits. This is inspite of the various formulaic tinkerings with pre/post pay commission pensionary benefits.

Even to obtain some form of equalisation in pre/post pay commission pensionary benefits, veterans have had to protest loudly and make very vocal as well as visible representations. There seems to be a widely held belief amongst ex-servicemen that they'd be deprived of their due entitlements by the political and bureaucratic classes. The 'OROP' is a kind of security blanket that's now being sought as a form of guarantee that ex-servicemen would be assured of the absence of such attempts, perceived or otherwise, to deny them their fair entitlements.

On media forums it has been pointed out on several occasions that in all civilian organisations present day and past retirees do have differences in the amount of pensions paid for the same service and the same post. This invariably draws the response that the armed forces cannot be compared to other organisations, civil or private. That's also something that cannot be argued against.

If the oft repeated rationale of truncated careers is considered, several alternative remedies suggest themselves. To make it a level playing field for civilian retirees and armed forces veterans, why not peg the pensions of the latter at the level of the payscale at which they retire? They would continue to draw the same pay and allowances and would continue to get increments as they would have whilst they were in service. This would continue till they attained the age of superannuation fixed for their civilian counterparts. After attaining this age of super annuation, common to both civilians and those in the armed forces, a common fixation of pension could be arrived at.

All the present retirees would require to have their pensions adjusted retrospectively from the date of their retirement and be paid the difference between pensions actually drawn and pensions due as per the proposal suggested. There would be no rationale for an 'OROP' based on the 'truncated career' argument then. It'd be fair to both civilian retirees and veterans.

Now, to be fair to those who might be upset by the notion of the Government paying actual salary and allowances to veteran retirees, it could also be left to the Government to offer employment to the veterans in civilian posts/grades appropriate to the payscales at which they retire. {Edit}  : For defence veteran retirees offered such appointment, there'd be no pension till such time they retire from the second goverment career. {End of edit} For those retirees who choose not to accept such employment offered to them, the Govt could then fix their pensions as per present non "OROP" practice without giving them the benefit of the continuation of salary/allowances till the common age of super-annuation. The Govt. could also apply the same rationale for a "non-OROP" fixation of pension for armed forces personnel who opt for pre-mature retirement voluntarily.

However, one feels that expectations of some such miraculous development would amount to the proverbial existence in a fool's paradise. So, the OROP slogan is not likely to disappear anytime soon. In a few years from now, if the Govt. finds itself in the fortunate situation of being able to introduce the concept of individual contributions to pension funds for those in Government service, all this would seem so trivial. But for the individuals who are presently pensioners, the matter does appear in need of resolution on an urgent basis.

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