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7 myth busters on ‘One Rank One Pension’ and other military veteran issues
An environment of positivity needs to be inculcated towards our men and women in uniform. All stakeholders must shun rigidity, sit together and work towards smooth and early implementation by ironing out the creases without any delay
 
The very recent assurance on "One Rank One Pension", or OROP as it is colloquially known, by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar should calm some nerves. The Minister, by now known for his sensitive and humane approach, reassured military veterans that he staunchly stood behind the promise made by the Government on the subject time and again, including by the Prime Minister. A case is hence definitely made out not to read too much into the negativity floating around in the environment on the subject.
 
Why OROP for soldiers some may ask! Common sense is all that is required to fathom that the current cost of living equally applies to a military veteran who retired say 15 years back vis-a-vis the one who retires today in the same rank. When both go out to the grocer, they pay the same price for atta that they buy, they pay the same for the vegetables, which feed their families, they are also expected to maintain a similar level of daily life, so why the sharp difference in their pensions?
 
Precisely, this is the reason why the concept OROP, came into inception. At a rudimentary level, it simply means similar pension for similar rank for an equal length of service. It is not only desirable, but also highly logical. Agreeable suggestion is that ideally it must be applied to all services under the government, military or otherwise. However, we do not live in an ideal world and till that final objective is achieved for all other classes of employees, military veterans do have a case for favourable consideration as explained in the succeeding lines.
 
As would be expected in any democracy, departments concerned or dealing with the Armed Forces of most nations strongly stand behind their men and women in uniform and plead for the best of benefits from their respective governments. However, in our country, the Ministry of Defence (MoD), until recently, was legendary in always taking an adversarial stand against the profession of arms. 
 
And not straying from this dubious legacy, it were elements of the same Ministry that always opposed the grant of OROP to military veterans repeatedly citing financial, administrative and legal impediments for resisting the concept, and in the bargain, attempting not only to mislead and misguide the highest of political executive, but even Parliamentary Committees. 
 
While financial constraints are well understood and appreciated, there is never too high a price to pay for those who protect us at the peril of their lives. Under the garb of administrative constraints, it was pointed out by the Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare (DESW) of the MoD to a Parliamentary Committee in 2011 (Koshyari Committee) that OROP was not feasible to implement since documents of military personnel are weeded out after 25 years- an incorrect averment, to say the least. In reality, it is the documents of non-pensioners that are weeded out in 25 years as per Regulation 595 of the Regulations for the Army. 
 
Moreover, the Pension Payment Orders (PPOs) of pensioners, which contain all relevant details such as the rank last held and the length of service are retained during the lifetime of each pensioner and then during the lifetime of the family pensioner in case of demise of the former. These details, which are the only two basic requirements for OROP, are also available in a document called "Long Roll", which is maintained in perpetuity in terms of Regulation 592 of the Regulations for the Army. 
 
Of course, a complaint to the then Defence Minister related to false statements by representatives of the MoD to the Parliamentary Committee and also to Constitutional Courts did not elicit any action whatsoever, as expected. Even the legal constraints pointed out by the DESW repeatedly hold no ground since the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Maj Gen SPS Vains, being the latest on the subject, fully endorses the concept of OROP.
 
Another strange bogey historically put across by the establishment has been the imaginary fear that "other employees" would also start demanding OROP. This argument too is faulty at multiple levels. 
 
Firstly, it is a fact that no civilian pensioners' body has ever opposed additional pension benefits to military veterans and mostly civilian peers have supported the cause, tacitly and even overtly. 
 
Secondly, unique service conditions such as living away from the family in a strictly regimented, at times hazardous and highly stressful environment, maintaining two households on being posted away from family, being under a disciplinary code 24 hours a day, 365 days a year et al make an additional dispensation such as OROP all the more justified. 
 
Thirdly, depending upon rank, soldiers start retiring at the age of 34, which is not the case in any other service including comrades of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) who also no doubt face tough service conditions. 
 
Fourthly, civil employees are blessed with a much higher lifetime earning as compared to military employees and they also are fortunate to see multiple salary revisions through subsequent pay commissions. 
 
Fifthly, a much higher system of calculating pensions remained applicable to the defence services till the third pay commission when it was abruptly discontinued and military pensioners were suddenly (broadly) equated with civilian pensioners in many aspects. 
 
Sixthly, the fear of 'similar demands' also now does not hold much water since other employees (post-2004) are on a New (Contributory) Pension Scheme which is much different than the traditional pension system of the Government. 
 
Seventhly, contrary to popular perception, and interestingly, the average life expectancy of military personnel and veterans is much lower than other civilian employees, especially at the lower ranks.
 
With a proactive Prime Minister, a sensitive Defence Minister and other former soldiers on Ministerial berths, the new Government has definitely given hope to defence pensioners in the well-known demands of the military community in issues such as OROP as well as other insidious matters such as the way disabled soldiers and military widows are treated by the system. 
 
The new government, which now seems to be getting a grip of things, however must ensure that the political will in this regard is imposed and enforced with an iron fist from the top downwards towards the bottom and not the other way round. 
 
The last few years have been witness to a deleterious culture whereby junior Section Officer and Under Secretary level officers were ruling the roost by initiating misleading noting sheets, which were approved till the very top without question. 
 
The one-way imposition of appalling, illegal, illogical and negative policies hence emanated from below with the top brass merely affixing initials. The attitude must shift from 'how a thing cannot be done' to finding ways to move towards a constructive and positive foundation.
 
The Defence Accounts Department must also not be allowed to influence policy or present exaggerated figures by juggling with numbers as was seen in the last few years. The office of the Controller General of Defence Accounts (CGDA) is only responsible for accounts and auditing and must not be seen as the policy-maker as has been the case in the last few years wherein the MoD has been asking the former to draft policies and government letters related to pay, allowances and pensions of defence services.
 
Per chance, co-extensive with the proactive top brass in the government, the higher echelons of the military have also seen some changes including the newly appointed Adjutant General of the Army, who is expected to make a change with his sensitive and pragmatic approach. 
 
It is a perfect opportunity for the defence services to work in tandem with the government to ameliorate the problems being faced by the veteran community. The fillip to the Veterans' Cell in the Army HQ, which is rendering excellent service, is a step in the right direction. It would in fact augur well for the system, if just like the DESW, the military too cleans up its act especially in its Personnel Services directorate and Record Offices, the elements of which are also ensconced in cobwebs of negativity and rigidity and who do not let the seniors in the chain of command look at issues with an optimistic vision.
 
File notings are framed in such a manner so as to ensure the elicitation of a negative decision. This attitude must change, so must the structure of initiating multiple litigation by the establishment against old veterans, disabled soldiers and military widows. Military veteran organisations too must not take extreme positions or bicker amongst themselves. In fact, the veteran community expects veteran organisations to play a beneficial role and facilitate a well-oiled overall veteran welfare machinery, bereft of politics.
 
The time is right, the leadership is optimal; however, it needs to be instilled and drilled into the authorities dealing with the welfare of soldiers that an environment of positivity needs to be inculcated towards our men and women in uniform. All stakeholders must shun rigidity, sit together and work towards smooth and early implementation by efficiently ironing out the creases without any delay. Friction and antagonism is not in national interest.
 
It is our obligation that we must rise to the occasion, aid and assist the current leadership in ensuring a better deal to our protectors. Issues concerning our veterans and also our serving soldiers have to be dealt with a caring, sympathetic, compassionate and sensitive approach and not in the environ of pessimism or  with the spirit of hyper-technicality and hyper-legalese. It is time for all of us to salute our men and women in uniform who protect our freedom in this proud democracy, not with lip-service but with steps that facilitate them in day to day life.
 
(Major Navdeep Singh is a practicing Advocate in the Punjab & Haryana High Court and the Armed Forces Tribunal. He was also the founding President of the Armed Forces Tribunal Bar Association. He is a Member of the International Society for Military Law and the Law of War at Brussels)
 
 

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COMMENTS

NJayakumar

2 years ago

Requirement of OROP was most important for ranks (other than commissioned ranks) and their family pensioners as these soldiers are to retire at the age of 32-33 on wards, to keep the profile of the forces young and fighting fit physically. This supposedly strong argument is neglected by the authorities. he pay structures of the lower ranks is degraded, pay commission after pay commission to treat a person with diploma in Engg joining the IAF is kept as worker even after 15-17 years of service. Compare this with the promotion prospects of the similar categories joining scientific organisations like DAE/DOE/DOS etc. Men are not represented properly in pay commissions.

Krishna Murthy

2 years ago

A very well written piece. But then, the effect this will have on the powers that be, is open to anybody's guess. I understand the late Admiral R.Pereira , the CNS in the early 80s if my memory serves me right, is the person to be credited for the free rations to the defence forces!! GOD bless his soul!! Similarly, we need one chief of any of the three services to have a man to man chat with the PM/RM and FM and get this OROP implemented. I feel that would be a much more dignified and "service like" behaviour than the Fasts and Demonstrations and Marches. No offence meant at all but just thinking aloud. If any of my brothers who took part in these fasts and marches is hurt, my million apologies!!I humbly doff my cap with the deepest respect to them!! Jai Hind and Jai Jawan!!

coljpn

2 years ago

Well written, wish it is sent to the PM, FM n RM.

kujad Jani

2 years ago

An extremely well researched, thoughtful and a balanced article bringing out the facts and present Politico-Military psyche of the country.

Major Navdeep Singh has deftly presented the ground reality of Indian Political, Bureaucratic and Defense world.

It is time that the Government takes a matured view of Defense problems - be they operational, Personnel or retirement.

Cdr. K.P. Jani, I.N. (retd)

Sanjeev B

2 years ago

One less controversial way to do this would be to increase the pay during service, but hold a greater percentage of the pay towards an armed forces provident fund. This PF can be availed of after retirement age. As it will be a much larger percentage (probably 16+16 percent) compared to the civilian provident fund (8+8 percent), it will take care of inflation in a better way.

This will make it easier to roll out the higher funds in hand to retired personnel, without opening our government to demands for similar treatment for all government employees.

THANGAVELU

2 years ago

It is becoming that all citizens including stars praise the service personnel on R'Day & I'Day. But somehow, Civilian officers in the Ministry of Defence have their own wisdom to deny this legitimate demands of OROP. It appears that they think service personnel are only to sacrifice on call of duty, irrespective of political decision. Even an ordinary, uneducated person will understand the difficulties faced by the service personnel. Why these IAS and other Civilian officer in the MOD continues to write notes negatively, pointing out illogical comparisons. Any of their wards are in service, to understand the ordeals of hard living conditions. It is high time they realise that they doing an unpatriotic noting,to deny basic legitimate dues. Let's hope better sense prevails. Otherwise joining service will no longer be pride.

Ved

2 years ago

A very well articulated, optimistic write up in favour of the hapless veterans , who have been suffering silently for the past number of years.
Will this letter reach any of the authorities expected to mitigate the sufferings by implementing OROP at the earliest, as assured by the RM.?
WISHING YOU ALL THE BEST IN ALL YOUR ENDEAVOURS.
With warm Regards.
Wg Cdr V P Sachar

SEBI asks HBN Dairies not to collect money from investors
SEBI has asked HBN Dairies & Allied to submit proof including trail of funds, bank statements to support its contention that it has refunded the monies to its investors. SEBI would also initiate attachment and recovery proceedings under the SEBI Act and rules and regulations
 
Market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has barred HBN Dairies & Allied Limited and its current and former directors not to collect money from investors using its various schemes. In addition, SEBI said it would also initiate attachment and recovery proceedings under the SEBI Act and rules and regulations.
 
The directors named by SEBI are Harmender Singh Sran, Satnam Singh Randhava, Amandeep Singh Sran, Gajraj Singh Chauhan, Manjeet Kaur Sran, Jasbeer Kaur, Rakesh Kumar Tomar, Sukhdev Singh Dhillon and Sukhjeet Kaur. The company has been also asked to provide proof including trail of funds, bank statements to support its contention that it has refunded the monies to its investors.
 
SEBI had received a reference from Reserve Bank of India (RBI) along with a complaint against HBN Dairies & Allied. HBN is a company with its registered office at IIIrd Floor, Vardhman Chamber, Sonia Complex, Vikas Puri, New Delhi - 110 018). The complaint alleged that HBN is illegally mobilising funds from the public. SEBI started an investigation and wrote to HBN for detailed information. HBN instead of replying to the SEBI letter, filed an application for registration as CIS (Collective Investment Scheme) on 30 June 2010. With the application, HBN also submitted the copies of certificate of incorporation, notice to its shareholders, minutes of the Extra-ordinary General Meeting, Trust Deed and 'Rule Book'. SEBI in its letter dated 23 July 2010, sought certain documents/ details from HBN, as the information submitted was incomplete. HBN failed to provide the information within the time specified.
 
While HBN claims that it is a genuine cattle business, it has some liquidity problems which it explains as “Due to the stress to repay the investors, HBN is faced with compelling circumstances to sell the properties hurriedly giving rise to a situation to sell the properties at a price much below the expected market price. HBN had also entered into 'transaction service agreement' with JLL to sell the properties located at Bhatinda.”
 
“Subsequent to the publishing of advertisement, public notice in search of prospective buyers, a panic has been spread amongst the investors of HBN,” was the explanation from HBN management for its woes.  Over time, HBN found it difficult to attract new investors.
 
While HBN is found to operate a CIS without prior permission from SEBI, the company has a further explanation that the amounts taken from its customers are not solely utilised for the purpose of purchase and rearing of cattle and maintenance of dairy farms, but a part of this amount is also used for investment in acquisition of fixed assets and investment of properties through its subsidiary and associate companies. The same has not been referred in any of the documents viz., application, certificate, agreement, and receipt, points out SEBI in its Order.
 
The SEBI order is clear in its indictment of HBN by saying, “Section 12(1B) of the SEBI Act mandates that no person, shall sponsor or cause to be sponsored or carry on or caused to be carried on any CIS unless it obtains a certificate of registration from SEBI in accordance with the CIS Regulations. HBN has clearly failed to do so. Regulation 3 of the CIS Regulations provides that no person other than a Collective Investment Management Company which has obtained a certificate under the said regulations shall carry on or sponsor or launch a 'collective investment scheme'. A person can launch or sponsor or cause to sponsor a collective investment scheme only if it is registered with SEBI as a Collective Investment Management Company. 
 
Therefore, the launching/ floating/ sponsoring/ causing to sponsor any 'collective investment scheme' by any 'person' without obtaining the certificate of registration in terms of the provisions of the CIS Regulations is in contravention of Section 12(1B) of the SEBI Act and Regulation 3 of the CIS Regulations. I note that HBN has launched CIS without obtaining certificate of registration from SEBI, it has contravened the provisions of Section 12(1B) of the SEBI Act and Regulation 3 of the CIS Regulations.” Hence, HBN shall not collect any more money.
 
Coming to the refund of money already collected, “I note that HBN, in its letter dated 8 August 2013, had forwarded a repayment proposal/ schedule and a list of its properties. The said proposal/ schedule was examined by SEBI and a detailed procedure for making repayments was forwarded to HBN, in its letter dated 6 January 2014, for necessary compliance,” observes the SEBI Order.
 
Finding that there were many small investors, SEBI in its Order has highlighted the nature of complaints it received with respect to refunds: “I note that in the recent past SEBI has received more than 1,200 complaints. These complaints alleged are as under:
- HBN is not paying the matured amount. In certain cases, HBN has not repaid even after 18-24 months of the maturity date.
- Phone calls have been received by SEBI, alleging therein that the branch office of HBN has informed them that the payment of matured amount shall be made by SEBI.
- HBN has issued post-dated cheques to its investors. Certain investor complaints have also alleged that the cheques received from HBN are getting bounced.
- That the agents of HBN are asking for fresh deposits and are threatening investors of not getting their money back unless money is deposited in new scheme.
These complaints are serious in nature and have been forwarded to HBN for early resolution.”
 
There were also allegations that HBN may not be in a position to refund and fulfil its obligations. The most serious one was: “The Chartered Accountant appointed by the Delhi High Court, in his report dated 16 September 2014 had highlighted diversion of funds by HBN to its sister concern. The report also states that the net worth of HBN is in negative by Rs75.35 crore due to losses of Rs85.45 crore.”
 
Based on these difficulties in refund, SEBI has asked HBN for bank statements. SEBI has also made it clear that “HBN and its directors namely Harmender Singh Sran, Amandeep Singh Sran, Manjeet Kaur Sran and Jasbeer Kaur shall not alienate or dispose off or sell any of the assets of HBN Dairies & Allied Limited except for the purpose of making refunds to its investors.” HBN is also directed to provide a full inventory of all its assets and properties and details of all their bank accounts, demat accounts and holdings of shares/securities, if held in physical form.
 
In the event of breach of its Order, SEBI would make a reference to the State Government/ Local Police to register a civil/ criminal case against HBN Dairies & Allied, its promoters, directors and its managers/ persons in-charge of the business and its schemes, for offences of fraud, cheating, criminal breach of trust and misappropriation of public funds, concludes the SEBI Order. SEBI shall also initiate attachment and recovery proceedings under the SEBI Act and rules and regulations.

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COMMENTS

Rajaselaran

2 years ago

Rajasekaran
TIruvannamalai
Tamilnadu
[email protected]
Hello

I am one of the investor and my policy matured on end of This year June-2015 from HBN Dairy India Limited

I have not yet received my maturity amount ( more than 4 months) and not getting any valid response from the local HBN office.

Kindly suggest me how to proceed to get my money back. by way our E mail

Gopal

2 years ago

Hello,

I am one of the investor and my policy matured on end of last year Dec 2014.

I have not yet received my maturity amount ( more than 8 months) and not getting any valid response from the local HBN office.

Kindly suggest me how to proceed to get my money back.

When will the National Fertiliser Policy be announced?
Both the farmers and the manufacturers of fertilisers are eagerly looking forward to a positive and practical provision in the ensuing budget
 
The domestic fertiliser industry has continued to suffer due to low or restricted availability of gas, the production of which has not increased in recent months with the chances of its increase continuing to be dim. In fact, the three urea makers in the South, which had used naphtha as feeder stock, shut down in October last year, when the union government stopped its subsidy, and restarted their plant on the assurance that subsidy will continue for the next three months!
 
This is an act of folly by the government. The reason they stopped the subsidy was that these units had not laid the pipelines to connect them with gas, without admitting that there is no gas in the first place to supply! Instead of doling out subsidy in this manner, first step should be to reassure these three units continue to get the subsidy until they are able to provide the required quantum of gas. The only stipulation that the government may impose, is a timeframe within which these units ought to be able to have their pipelines ready for the gas connection. At the same time, the government must also assure them the time within which this gas supply would be made possible!
 
In the meantime, as we come closer to the Budget announcement, both the farmers and the manufacturers of fertilisers are eagerly looking forward to a positive and practical provision in the ensuing budget, exactly 10 days from now!
 
Will this be part of the key economic reforms that the Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley has promised in his maiden budget, almost one year ago? This remains to be seen.
 
It may be remembered that the basic policy of National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government has been to keep itself pro-farmer and this has been reiterated by one and all, including, Ananth Kumar, the Union Minister for Fertilisers. He has been assuring a National Fertiliser Policy, but so far, nothing has been announced, though, we now have a lurking suspicion that this may about, after the Budget presentation.
 
There has been speculation that as a sequel to the Budget, certain major changes in the current fertiliser policy, like the phased withdrawal of maximum retail price (MRP) for urea or even an incremental increase in its price may be brought about.
 
It may be remembered that for almost  eight years, between 2008 and 2010 the urea price was constant at Rs4,830 per tonne and this was increased to Rs5,310 in the later part of 2010 and revised to Rs5,360 in 2012. Because of its subsidised price, urea is the cheapest fertiliser in the market.  Because of this, farmers tend to use this excessively, as per some soil experts, who claim that this has caused erosion and soil fatigue.
 
Soil experts, it is reported, feel that in the interest of soil protection, farmers need to apply the essential and balanced use of NPK - nitrogen, phosphate and potash nutrients to retail its natural qualities.
 
The most commonly used fertiliser continues to be urea which alone has the statutory price control and the MRP is fixed by the government. This is based on the ‘actual’ cost of production of each producer and the subsidy, being the difference in cost of production and the MRP is paid by the government. The Fertiliser Ministry, in consultation, with the individual manufacturer determines the production cost for each plant.
 
But the general feeling of the industry has been that it is time that the government seriously considers the decontrol of the urea price, though the Centre wants an administered price control is essential, because it wants to be ‘farmer friendly!’.
 
Another issue that has been brought to the notice of the government, by soil experts, is the indiscriminate and reckless use of urea, being the cheapest source of fertiliser available. Educating the farmer has become imperative and one way of controlling this excessive usage is to either decontrol the price completely or introduce some sort of slab rated increase in price.
 
If an increase in the MRP is considered not feasible, why not bring about a formula by which, the manufacturer is able to sell the excess produced in his plant, over the installed production capacity, at a free market determined price? In other words, if a plant has an installed capacity of say 1.3 million tonnes, which is considered a viable unit, any excess production over 1.3 million tonnes be free of MRP! For this quantity, government need not give any subsidy!
 
Since MRP has not had any change since 2012, a marginal upward revision could be effected to ascertain the market reaction. In any case, the subsidy element should be directly credited to the bank account of farmers, who by now, thanks to Aadhaar Card, may have opened bank accounts!  Let the revised formula work at least for one year and can be reviewed before the next Budget.  At the same time, through the medium of TV channels, the correct use NPK should be publicised and stocks of NPK fertilisers should be available in all village panchayats and similar bodies.
 
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce. He was also associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)

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