OROP band-aid for gaping wounds: Has the govt given a lot without giving anything?

By Bikram Vohra

The historic press conference by Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had no grandeur.

More like the texture of a wet noodle.

It was tantamount to placing a band-aid on a gaping wound. Why were no questions allowed? Isn’t the defence minister capable of fielding them?

What exactly is the meaning of ‘accepting the concept’ as opposed to implementing it. The retrospective date of July 1, 2014 has meaning if only the government clarifies when the first  of the cheques will come into the account? At the end of it, I had no idea when it was all going to happen. Did anyone? It was a splendid exercise in political doublespeak. Read the latest development here.

 OROP band-aid for gaping wounds: Has the govt given a lot without giving anything?

Manohar Parrikar. IBNLive

Is nothing going to happen till the single judge makes his assessment after six months? And why does the resistance to having a five panel bench with three services represented, make pure sense?

The war widows clause of getting paid in one go is laudable, but populist. There has been no war for 44 years and those who die in skirmishes and conflicts are not such a large number, so don’t bleed their martyrdom to make it look like great largesse. This caring should have been from 1962, if not during the battles of Partition. It does not matter if it is 600 or 6 lakh such women, when will you give it?

At the outset, the government played with fire on the case of disallowing those who sought premature retirement from the benefits of OROP. The fact is that if they have worked for 20 years as officers, and 15 years as soldiers, the subject should be closed. Nobody can disallow them, they have earned it. Either Parliament should change the years of service, because as things stand the government is on very shaky ground.

Indeed, the issue of five-year reviews as opposed to two years has become secondary to this aspect and the word ‘premature’ brings with it a certain cowardly negative connotation, like the individual ran away. This is dramatically untrue. After 20 years, an officer has earned his pension right and has to be accommodated by the OROP.

Many years ago, I had written an article calling for it to be changed to ‘early retirement’ as against ‘premature.’

If there is a certain acceptance of the five-year review in public, the removal of officers, who leave the forces after their lower limit of service, from the list will cause huge heartburn and it is against the legal ambit. An average soldier is 30-odd years old when he hangs up his uniform. Where does he go?

Without the introduction of this ‘premature’ retirement clause, which came out of the blue, it seemed like the veterans had very little to complain about, and that they would have lost ground (see my earlier report). But has the government given a lot without giving anything? Has it covered itself with glory but left the servicemen, former and current, reasonably bewildered with the figure and the doublespeak.

Indeed, the ball has been kicked deep into Jantar Mantar and Major-General Satbir Singh and his team have a prickly pear to grasp that goes behind Parriker’s patronising praise.

I think the five points that deserve answers are vital to ending what could become a stiffer impasse:

Will the government withdraw the order to leave premature retirees in the cold?

What is the hesitancy to having a wider panel than only a judge ignorant of military priorities?

When will the money start flowing?

Has the government accepted the OROP in toto or merely the concept? Why use the word ‘concept?’

What exactly is the reason to differentiate between the armed forces and the IAS who get their annual pension review?

At this moment it is much of a muchness, and unless there is a time given for when the turnstiles begin to click, the rest is all chatter, smoke and mirrors.

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Updated Date: Sep 05, 2015 16:32:57 IST