OROP issue resurfaces: Ex-servicemen to join farmers in Delhi rally, demand end to 'degradation' of defence forces

A joint ‘andolan’ for jawans and kisans planned for Thursday and Friday in New Delhi will be the precursor to the major nationwide call to arms over OROP and other related issues on 2 December at Jhunjhunu in Rajasthan. The aim of the rally is to underscore unity and solidarity to the cause of members of the defence family, according to Major General Satbir Singh, chairman of the Indian Ex-Servicemen’s Movement (ESM).

The main issues will centre on actual OROP implementation, the promise of a second career till the age of 60 years, an end to what is seen as the “degradation and downgrading” of defence forces and a call for establishing an ESM Commission, to be headed and manned by ESM personnel.

Linking up with the farm lobby is seen as a strategic step towards a partnership closer to the elections when the two lobbies can merge into a singular entity and place pressure on the BJP in the hustings. Issues for the farmers include waiver of loans, subsidy for crops and a mandatory procurement of crops by government, and an acceptance of the MSP-C2+50 percent equation for assessing the minimum price of crops, with C2 being the sum of paid out costs, imputed value of family labour, interest on the value of owned capital assets, rent paid for leased-in land and the rental value of owned land.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

That, in any case, is the core of the current intent, buoyed as the ESM is by the Supreme Court decision to not throw out the case on OROP as requested by the government earlier this month. It is slated for a final hearing in February, that much closer to election day.

The march on Thursday will converge from four points close to the capital namely Ghaziabad, Sonipat, Bahadurgarh, Gurgaon and make for the Ramlila Grounds. On Friday, the march will begin from the Ramlila Grounds and snake its way to India Gate, where the rally will be held.

The social media platforms are being heavily put into action and the message to ex-servicemen and their families is explicit: “All ESM, our members of the defence families and our supporters are requested to attend the joint actions by Jawans and Kisans on 29 and 30 Nov 2018 in large numbers to showcase solidarity with the cause of soldiers. ESM who can't attend both days are requested that they must attend on 30 Nov 2018. ESM are requested to wear caps and ribbons. If possible wear your mufti and sweater. Administrative arrangements as hitherto are being made. No one from NCR should stay back at home except persons on bed rest. Request maximum attendance from all states."

A retired colonel who is part of the ESM spearhead said that although there is a perception that OROP has been activated fairly, the former armed forces personnel and even those in service believe many issues stay unresolved. “We know that there is little interest in the media or the country in helping us but that will not stop us.”

The re-invigorated movement might well begin to send out anti-Modi signals across the country, seeing as how it has a much stronger network now than in 2014, an influence the BJP may not be taking as seriously as it should.

The politics of it and the threat to go all out nearer to the elections aside, in the end, it is all about the money.

Out of the Rs 8,298.65 crore calculated and checked by Manohar Parikkar (when he was defence minister) required to fulfill OROP fully, Rs 5,500 crore was sanctioned, leaving a paltry amount of Rs 2,800 crore. According to an ESM assessment, nowhere near the Rs 22,000 crore reportedly spent on the civil 'servants' for their NFFU or Non-Functional Financial Upgradation.

The contention is that four serious remaining anomalies still remain.

The Koshiary Committee of the Rajya Sabha had defined OROP as automatic increase in pension of ESM equal to the pension of those of the same rank and service retiring currently, so that no junior gets more pension than his senior whether retired before him. This was iterated by a BJP minister in the Lok Sabha. The government changed it later, so the very soul of OROP has been lost.

1. Instead of basing pension on the maximum of the scale, they have taken it on the average of the scale, which is lower.

2. Equalisation is to be done after every five years instead of automatically annually. This means that those retiring for the next five years will get successively more pension. Due to increase in DA every year (or six months), those retiring every year later will get that much more pension, till it is equalised after five years. So, juniors will get more pension than their seniors.

3. Base year is taken as 1 July, 2013 instead of 1 July, 2014, which means one increment — and corresponding pension — less. This has a cascading effect and resulted in the 7th Pay Commission pensions of ESM being lowered.

4. It was implemented on 1 July, 2014 instead of 1 April, 2014, on the specious plea that on 1 April, the UPA government was in power.

The grim humour doing the rounds centres on the fifth anamoly: an IAS officer posted to Guwahati (a state capital) gets Rs 56,000 per month hardship allowance — because, ha ha, “no one wants to go there!" An “all-India service”, is it not?! But a Brigadier in Siachen gets a hardship allowance of Rs 35,000 — maybe because they thought he’s very keen to go there!

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Updated Date: Nov 28, 2018 22:14:18 IST

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