Sunday, March 22, 2015

RE-VISITING THE CONCEPT OF “VARIABLE RETIREMENT RANK”

One of the peculiarities of following topics online and occasionally engaging in exchange of views, on subjects that concern sizeable sections of veterans, is that sometimes it is hard to track previous discussions involving concepts or ideas that one had put forth oneself or been fortunate enough to have received by way of an input from other stake holders. Nevertheless, regardless of whether or not a track-back is possible, an idea lives, if not forever, then certainly for a very long time till proven to be absolutely without merit.

One such idea is that of a “Variable Retirement rank” or “Veteran Rank” as against that of the present fixed “Retirement Rank”.

Most of the thrust in the campaign for OROP has been based on taking the “Retirement Rank” as a gold-standard benchmark for ensuring pension parity of current and past retirees. I have repeatedly tried to highlight the “variability” of “Rank” as against the solid, ground-level parameter of length of service. Please consider following the link at the bottom of the blog post.

Certainly, it is nobody’s case that for true and fair parity in OROP, with the length of service being equal, pensions should be equal, regardless of rank at the time of retirement. It would certainly be less than a serious contention to try and propose the notion the pension of Maj Gen should equal that of a Lt Col if they have the same number of years of service at retirement.

However, as has also been repeatedly pointed out on this blog, when ranks are defined based purely on years of service, then there is an urgent need to maintain pension parity between older and current retirees with the same years of service even if they retired in different time-bound ranks, as the years of service required to attain ranks can change from time to time. This gives rise to the basis for treating time-bound ranks as “variables” and not “constants”.

To be sure, and this too is a repetition of what I’ve stated previously, ranks based on selection too are variable as are the QRs for attaining them. However, there appears no clear-cut logic with which to establish a relationship between ranks attained through the selection process in the past and those attained, also by selection, in the present scheme of things. Of course, based on statistical models that took into account all the variables of selection in different eras, some viable algorithm could be generated, by a think-tank consisting of Operations Research eggheads, for deciding whether a Lt Col retiree from the 70s would be equal to a current retiree in the rank of Brigadier in terms of selection-basis parameters.

But when it comes to time-bound ranks, the issue is straight forward. Without getting into considerations based on Quantum Mechanics or the speed of rotation of Earth, it won’t amount to a risk of inviting too much of ridicule in putting forth the point of view that 21 years in 1976 equal 21 years in 2015.

If the time-bound retirement rank of, let us take the case of Officers as an example, an officer retiring in 2015 with 21 years of service is Lt Col, then the retirement rank of a Major, who retired in 1977, also with 21 years of service, is equivalent to the current retirement rank of Lt Col in terms of service rendered. Provided, of course, they belong to the same cadre and the types of their commissions are identical.

There have been attempts in the recent past to establish parity of pensions based on such considerations. Even a copy of the services DGL on OROP, that had been doing the rounds on the web, had suggestions for equating pensions for older time-bound ranks with those of current ones. None of these attempts have come to fruition so far. Even with OROP, a Maj may not get the same pension as a present Lt Col with equal service even if the former had put in 20 years of service. The same applies to a Maj or Lt Col retiree who had put in more than 26 years of service and who ought to get the pension of a current Officer retiring in the time-bound rank of Col.

OROP insists on variability of pension of older retirees to match pensions of current retirees based only on “Retirement Rank” which is ‘fixed’ for any specific individual. The fundamental thing to consider is, if the concept of fixing a pension based on certain criteria such as pay drawn at retirement, is to undergo a paradigm shift by making it keep pace with the pension of current retirees, then there is nothing outlandish in suggesting that the fixed “retirement rank” too needs to be converted into a parameter that would take into account the variability of all the factors that determine a current time-bound rank.

We could simply state that the retirement rank of any individual past retiree be made equal to the retirement rank that is currently attainable on time-bound basis with the same years of service put in by him. This new retirement rank could be promulgated through corrigenda to PPO’s and pensions re-fixed, under OROP, based on the revised retirement rank.

It can also be suggested the concept of "veteran rank" be seriously considered. Even if the “retirement rank” stays constant, the current “veteran rank” could change and be promulgated through PPO corrigenda based on any reductions introduced in service required to attain time bound ranks.

Such a mechanism would not be a “notional promotion” but a means to deliver bare-minimal standards of parity, based only on time-bound ranks, but within the ambit of OROP. Use of a veteran rank would also provide justifiable social parity with current retirees. Some civilian benefits earmarked for armed forces, in terms of allotment of land, membership of clubs etc is based on the nomenclature of the veteran’s retirement rank. A Lt Col retiree with 28 years of service may be currently ineligible to apply for a benefit available to a current retiree with the time-bound rank of Col with just 26 years of service.

This would also take care of most retrospective issues in respect of pension. When it is decided to upgrade a veteran rank, it would be required to specify the date of up-gradation. A Maj or Lt Col with 26 years of service would have his veteran rank upgraded to Col with effect from 16 December 2004 on which date the time bound rank of Col at 26 years of service came into being. Pensions would be upgraded to that of the up-graded veteran rank synchronously i.e. a Maj or Lt Col would be eligible for pension applicable to time bound rank of Col wef 16 Dec 2004 if the Maj or Lt Col had completed 26 years of service at retirement.

In such a case, the pensions of upgraded veteran rank of Col from retirement date to date of implementation of OROP would be governed by the existing minimum pension of rank in pay band for Col with equal service, and from date of OROP implementation, pensions would be equal to pensions under OROP as applicable to Col with equal service.

If at a later date someone decides to reduce the service required to attain the time bound rank of Col to 23 years, the veteran ranks, and hence pension, of Maj and Lt Col with 23 years of service would stand up-graded to that of Col with effect from that date.


It must be highlighted here, once again, such a mechanism would not deal with any discrimination caused in the past in respect of pay, allowances and seniority of Officers while they were in service, such as in the case of arbitrary selection of date of implementation of AVS-I. That, as I have stated previously, is quite a distinct area that needs a careful and measured legal evaluation.

For more reading on the matter, this link may be of use.

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