The Parliamentary (Rajya Sabha) Committee on Petitions submitted its report today.
For those who want to peruse the full report may click here to download the entire copy.
As a keen observer of developments in the field, my observations are as under :
A. The Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare (DESW) of the MoD, with Ms Neelam Nath at the (then) ceremonial helm, and with two Under Secretaries actually and practically running the entire show, has been less than truthful with the committee with its inputs. The first proof of the same being the figure of Rs 3000 crore per year for OROP projected by the said department which tacitly has been contradicted by the Department of Expenditure which in turn has pegged the annual expenditure for the first year at Rs 1300 crore.
B. The DESW had put forth the reasons of financial, administrative and legal impediments in implementing OROP. While projecting administrative difficulties, it was pointed out that the information regarding pensioners was not available since military documents are weeded out after 25 years. This, my friends, is a bundle of lies. Firstly, the 25 years limit applies to non-pensioners and not to pensioners. Secondly, naturally OROP is to apply to pensioners only and if a person is a pensioner, he or she would obviously be in receipt of pension based on a PPO which would contain all requisite information such as the length of service and rank which is all that is required.
C. Even the legal difficulties expressed by DESW have no legs to stand upon. The DESW commented that the Supreme Court had upheld the implementation of cut-off dates in pensionary matters in various cases. However, what DESW did not mention is the fact that there are many more decisions in which cut-off dates have been deprecated, including very recent ones.
D. The representatives of the Army, Navy and Air Force supported the cause of OROP. A mere reading of the report also seemingly indicates that while the representatives of the Services were very much present in the initial meetings and very fairly assisted the Committee, they were probably not present during the final meeting of deliberation when the Secretaries were again heard on 14 Nov 2011. Perhaps chary of the proper and fair assistance provided to the Committee by the Services, the military reps were not brought in by the DESW on the penultimate date. This is the impression that I get, perhaps the Services HQ would be able to elaborate if my guess is correct.
E. The findings of the Committee were appreciable and pro-veteran. The Committee has observed that the demands of veterans were included in Election Manifestoes of various parties but not given effect. The Committee has also observed that OROP was existing in a way till 1973 when it was withdrawn in an ex-parte manner by the 3rd CPC which linked the pensionary system of the armed forces with that of civilian employees. The committee also observed that there was no comparison with civilian employees and defence services faced much harsher conditions coupled with an early retirement age. The committee also observed that given the economy of the country, Rs 1300 crore per year was not a heavy figure.
F. However, most importantly, the following observations of the committee summed up the essence of the entire exercise :-
“…They (defence services) serve the nation with utmost devotion and selflessness but their demands are consistently being ignored, not by the heads of the Armed Forces, but by bureaucrats. It’s a typical example of bureaucratic apathy. To continue this apathy, the Ministries apprised the Committee that if OROP were to be implemented, similar demands may be raised from civilian employees. This argument the committee finds is a baseless apprehension...The defence personnel in the PBOR category retire when they are around 35-40 years of age. Even the officers retire when they are around 55 years of age. That is the time when they have family and social responsibilities to discharge for which they need sound financial support. This is certainly not the case with civilian work force where the age of retirement is 60 uniformly…The committee is not convinced with the hurdles projected by the DESW in implementing OROP for defence personnel…”