One Rank, One Pension – Yet to see the Light of the Day?

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The promises today have to be made by the old and the new Gods. The manifesto of BJP in the Lok Sabha Elections of 2014 concretely stated that the age old promises made by the government would be implemented by it, but not to the amazement of Indian Ex-Servicemen Association (ISEM), the much debated One Rank, One Pension Scheme that has still not came into the force. It must be noted that the problem with the implementation of this scheme has been with the extra-load on the exchequer.

The simple demand of the ex-servicemen of the Army has been that employees retiring from the same rank and with the same period of service in the armed force should receive same pension. What happens, in reality, is that a serviceman retiring in 2000, receives a much heavy pension than that from the one retiring in 1990. This disparity between the pensions’ is the cause of the demand raised by them. The retirement age of servicemen is 37 which is also compulsory in nature. According to a plethora of surveys, the age period of 40-60 years is most crucial, as the expenses increase on the family. A government employee, starting at the same age as that of the servicemen, would have greater perks at the time of his retirement, which is 60 years, than the latter. The nature of work of a general government employee and an army personnel differs by a great extent of hardship and dedication.

The history of the One Rank One Pension debate dates back to the era of Indira Gandhi, when, by the virtue of the Third Central Pay Commission’s order, OROP scheme was ended. Then, during the 2003 General Elections, it again re-appeared in the Congress’ manifesto and remained an unfulfilled promise of the Government till the present Narendra Modi’s Government came into force. It is believed by the ISEM that this demand of theirs was on the priority list of the new government but it didn’t come out to be so. Prime Minister’s Mann ki Baat address in early June gave some satisfaction to the protestors when it said that it would be implemented soon. However, due to absence of evident steps thereafter by the Government, the Associations decided to hold an agitation rally on Jantar Mantar, after the talks with the policy makers, and this protest was subsequently followed in other cities across the nation.

However, the arguments given by the bureaucrats on behalf of the Government cannot be put behind the veil, that there has been an increase of burden on the exchequer. With the high growth rate noted in the GDP for the past years, the pension of the servicemen retiring later tends to be on the higher side of the scale. In simple words, the increase in consumer basket, which plays a role in determining the pension, impacts the calculation of the same and thus, creates the disparity. The Central Pay Commission was also established for 10 years in a run and then it determined the pay for the employees of Government clubbing them, which resulted in a heavy difference. There was also no representation of the demanding class in the Commission and, thus, this also resulted in the delay of the implementation of the scheme since a long time. It must also be noted that the pension gets doubled in the case when there is a difference of approximately around 3 decades.

Because of the petition received by the Rajya Sabha on the issue of One Rank One Pension, a Parliamentary Committee was formed, called the Koshyari Committee. The Committee in its final report after finding the merit in claim of Indian Armed Force personnel, criticised the Third Central Pay Commission, when the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Defence Minister Jagjiwan Ram implemented the decision of the Commission. The Committee stated that after 26 years of successful implementation of the OROP scheme, its disengagement was arbitrary and strongly recommended to the House that a separate commission should be formed for the successful implementation and working of the scheme. Since then, neither the UPA government nor the new NDA government have taken any strong steps for implementation of the same. There have been repeated statements by the several lot of Ministers that the government has been working on the issues involved in this case and the same is ought to be implemented soon but till date, nothing material has come out so as to please and fill relief in the souls of these servicemen.

The Ex-servicemen do consider the efforts made by this present government but what needs to be highlighted is that they do not seem to be satisifed with it. It is necessary to mention that the implementation of this Scheme also requires an additional amount of Rs. 43,000 crores to be spent on the defence pension which, in the eyes of many, is also not a small number with respect to the spending on the pension. Lately, claim has also been made by the Central Reserve Police Force’s (CRPF) retired personnel for their inclusion in the scheme. But the fact is that their compulsory retirement age, however is not less than that of Army personnel. Thus, a lot more needs to be done in this regard and a touch of efficiency and dedication is the need of the hour.

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