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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

    5 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

    5 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

    5 years ago

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

    kujad Jani

    6 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

    6 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

    6 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

    6 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

    Wake Up Now Put to Sleep: Closes down US Affiliate Operations
    Company says former CEO is to blame for its failure
     
    Wake Up Now, a Utah-based multi-level marketing company (MLM) which in May issued a press release that it had 100,000 “customers” and was expanding, has folded all its network marketing operations in the U.S. and has blamed its entire failure on its former CEO Kirby Cochran, filing suit for more than $10 million in damages against him and family members he hired to work at the business. 
     
    The suit alleges that Cochran — who has a history of leading companies into bankruptcy and has faced racketeering charges — milked Wake Up Now out of its cash with “rampant and reckless spending,” arranged for cushy jobs for family members including his wife, son and brother, and sucked 100 percent of the profits out of the business through a consulting agreement with a company secretly set up with the help of one of his business students while he was an instructor at the University of Utah that he later assigned to his brother.
     
    (See TINA.org’s initial warning about the company here.)
     
    Kirby Cochran profited, the lawsuit asserts, without actually investing any real money of his own into the company. And if that isn’t enough, it also alleges he made creepy comments to attractive women and bullied employees, even berating one about the preparation of his daily smoothie.
     
    But perhaps the most notable detail that comes out of the lawsuit against Cochran is a small footnote on page 16 that notes “Most IBOs are Wake Up Now customers as well.” And that, a red flag for a possible pyramid scheme, may say it all about why this MLM was troubled from the start. But more on that later in this post. Now back to why it halted operations.
     
    “Lavish expenditures” and “side-deals”
    The lawsuit alleges that Cochran, who was fired in October, not only sucked money from the company in a variety of ways, but also mismanaged it by launching an inadequate software platform that couldn’t confirm whether a product had been paid for or delivered or allow affiliates (known at Wake Up Now as Independent Business Owners) to view their commissions.
     
    All this led to affiliates and customers having to wait for hours for help from customer service representative. Fed up, many charged back their purchases and filed complaints with the FTC and BBB, according to the lawsuit. (See the breakdown of consumer complaints against WUN, many of which said that the company repeatedly charged their credit cards and that the company was a pyramid scheme that made false earnings and product claims.)
     
    In short, the lawsuit alleges Cochran essentially led to the downfall of Wake Up Now:
    Kirby Cochran’s gross mismanagement, side-deals with family members to pay out all of WUN’s profits, lavish expenditures, failed business initiatives, and the botched HUB launch placed WUN in a position where it needed millions of dollars to survive.
     
    After Cochran was fired, the suit alleges that he then tried to recruit WUN employees along with family members who had worked at WUN, including his wife who was legal counsel, to help him start a new company, Global Connection Network, that would compete with WUN, and engaged in disparaging and defamatory comments, poisoning people against WUN.
     
    Business cannot recover
    In a Facebook note posted Monday, Phil Polich, Cochran’s replacement as CEO of WUN, wrote:
    “…we continued to discover that Kirby Cochran’s deceptive actions had put the company in a position from which it could not recover. In the end, his decisions for a privileged few outweighed the incredible heart and dedication of the many. With that said, effective immediately, WakeUpNow will cease all network marketing operations in the United States.”
     
    Who really was ever going to profit? 
     
    But we at TINA.org are left wondering why the company hired a CEO that was entangled in lawsuits and had a well-known history of questionable business failings and bankruptcies in the first place. And how prosperous a company could be that sold a bunch of stuff you could get for free on the Internet and which admits that the majority of its customers were its own affiliates — about 99 percent of which never made much money from their WUN efforts.
     
    TINA.org reached out to Cochran, and Wake Up Now, which is still selling products, for comment but has not heard back. We have also asked the University of Utah if Cochran is still a business instructor in its finance department but we have not heard back.
     
    For more about multi-level marketing and pyramid schemes, click here
     
     
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    COMMENTS

    Heather Bosquez

    6 years ago

    Being a former affiliate, yes the online system was awful, but the tangible products were in fact of good quality. I myself used my best judgement and therefore did not invest at all after Oct. '14. There were MANY amazing people involved and it truly is saddening to know that Mr. Cochran had an evil streak in all this after what he had said at corporate conference this last fall.

    How about revisiting the idea of Gold Bank?
    A change in approach to gold management can rewrite the India Growth Story to the country’s advantage
     
    A brief media report posted by AFP in Monday’s newspaper gives some interesting features of the Turkish initiatives in gold management. It attracted my attention because a few years back, I broached the idea of gold deposits accounts in banks, an apex institution to manage export and import of gold and related issues. At that time, a top executive in Reserve Bank of India (RBI) queried, “Do we have a business model?” and I glossed over my ignorance by talking more about the possible activities that could be assigned to the apex gold institution.
     
    Though Turkey’s development indicators are much higher in comparison to India (per capita income $14,812 compared to India’s $3,843, Human Development Index Rank: Turkey 90, India 134, Literacy: 94% against India’s 74%, People below poverty line: Only 17% against India’s 30% and so on), there are some common grounds for considering Turkey’s gold management initiative in the Indian context. Such as:
    I. Gold is priced heavily in Turkey, not just for ornamentation or investment by banks but as a secure way for private individuals to hold their savings. 
     
    II. Many people in Turkey keep gold as security for a ‘rainy day’ rather than products offered by banks. 
     
    III. According to estimates, Turks hold some 3,500 tonnes of gold. Turkey has a population of over eight crore against India’s 125 crore. An old estimate from the World Gold Council puts India’s surface gold stock at 24,000 tonnes. Perhaps, if gold concealed in stock with private individuals or organisations are realistically accounted this estimate may get doubled, making the per capita gold holdings of the two countries comparable.
     
    Banking in gold
    Kuveyt Turk Bank was the first to open gold accounts to its clients in 2007. The AFP report quotes the marketing manager of the bank sharing his first day experience thus: “We bought one kilo of gold, and the demand on the first day was three kilos. It was a very good decision, so we decided to move ahead.” 
     
    In 2015, the bank manages two lakh gold accounts with products allowing sales by cheque, bank transfer or mobile phone. The experiment has been successful with ATMs dispensing gold pieces weighing 1.0 or 1.5 grams and total gold reserves with Turkish banks going up to 250 tonnes now from two tonnes earlier. 
     
    Indian context
    Gold management in India needs a makeover. Once the government musters the political will to recognise gold as a national resource, the whole scenario of India Growth Story will change for the better. The advantages are:
    1) When some banks start opening gold accounts, they will also be able to maintain more liquid assets under Section 24 of the Banking Regulation Act, 1949(the section requires banks to maintain a certain percentage of their liabilities in cash, gold or unencumbered approved securities) in gold.
     
    2) Individuals and institutions will be encouraged to keep their gold stock with banks thereby reducing misuse(Now for the rich, gold is a medium to show off their wealth- Not only in the form of jewellery, but by erecting statues and flag masts in solid gold-less said about the malpractices practiced in such transactions, the better!)
     
    3) Need to import gold will get considerably be reduced resulting in saving precious foreign exchange.
     
    Budget 2015-16 is an appropriate medium for Modi government to think loudly on the above lines.
     
    (MG Warrier is former general manager, RBI, Mumbai and author of the 2014 book “Banking, Reforms & Corruption: Development Issues in 21st Century India”.)
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    COMMENTS

    MG Warrier

    5 years ago

    The media report about government having mobilised 900 kg of gold under gold monetisation scheme, by mid-January 2016 is encouraging. The quick response from GOI and RBI to stakeholders’ sentiments make the chances of survival and success of the three gold schemes under implementation (Sovereign Gold Deposit Scheme, Gold Monetisation Scheme and Gold Coin Scheme) brighter. After decades of hesitant approach to gold management, India is now exhibiting the country’s determination to exploit the past savings idling in the lockers of families, institutions and religious centres, and bring them to the mainstream economy, to which gesture, people are responding positively.
    The initiative taken by GOI to exploit the potential of domestic gold stock to country’s advantage, if pursued with will and determination, will have a great impact on the growth story of India. When credibility in the government’s ability to manage country’s resources without leakages is restored, temples and other institutions with whom large stock of the yellow metal lie idle will plough it back to mainstream economy. That is their interest also.
    Centre is yet to institutionalise a system to manage country’s gold stock. Let us wait for the Budget 2016-17, for a formal announcement on this. RBI should quickly revisit the 1990’s proposal to establish a Gold Bank which can, as an apex body, coordinate the demand and supply sides of gold management professionally.
    M G Warrier, Mumbai

    Mahesh S Bhatt

    6 years ago

    Sir do you think an average Indian is so gullible.

    Why forget recent NSEL scam worth Rs 5600 crores Gold went missing from ledger.

    Simple every system has lacunae today's banking system is dangerously out of syn.Politicians manipulate.

    We have RBI & Rajan's team saving the day by great policies.Otherwise India lead to anarchy in state.

    So donot enforce same systemic ideas but let parallel systems prevail for back ups.

    Man's Mind gets entrapped in systemic comfort zone & fails himself.So let other ideas remain as they are.

    Gold has always been man's friend in crisis be it natural/man-made. Mahesh

    SuchindranathAiyerS

    6 years ago

    This is a very tall order. Can an Indian trust his gold to a body that India's Government can always plunder? See what they did to the temples. The main reason why Gold is a preferred form of investment is because Indians have good reason not to trust Government. Government and Constitution remain unrepentantly totalitarian since 1949 and stand ready to expropriate from Indians all that any Government lout or thug desires from inflation to pay for profligacy and make up for extortion to notifying and denotifying land, to buying ONGC equity with Unit Trust money, to making retrospective laws and sending pillars of such banditry to relax in the Rashtra Potty Bhavan. Temple wealth was accumulated for the benefit of the congregations that accumulated them there. Yet Government has nationalized the wealth and spends temple income on Haj Pilgrimage subsidies.organizes jewellery thefts and has distributed the land and assets of the Veda Pathashalas to Non Hindus such as Dalits, Christians and Moslems:

    REPLY

    MG Warrier

    In Reply to SuchindranathAiyerS 6 years ago

    Let the debate begin. I have my views especially on the trust issue raised here.Let clarity emerge. Aiyer is not yet clear whether Non Hindus include Hindus.Wewill discuss.

    SuchindranathAiyerS

    6 years ago

    This is a very tall order. Can an Indian trust his gold to a body that India's Government can always plunder? See what they did to the temples. The main reason why Gold is a preferred form of investment is because Indians have good reason not to trust Government. Government and Constitution remain unrepentantly totalitarian since 1949 and stand ready to expropriate from Indians all that any Government lout or thug desires from inflation to pay for profligacy and make up for extortion to notifying and denotifying land, to buying ONGC equity with Unit Trust money, to making retrospective laws and sending pillars of such banditry to relax in the Rashtra Potty Bhavan. Temple wealth was accumulated for the benefit of the congregations that accumulated them there. Yet Government has nationalized the wealth and spends temple income on Haj Pilgrimage subsidies.organizes jewellery thefts and has distributed the land and assets of the Veda Pathashalas to Non Hindus such as Dalits, Christians and Hindus.

    Narendra Doshi

    6 years ago

    Dear Mr.Warrier,
    Very impressive & achievable. Hope you from the Baking sector, would have been successful in putting to proper authorities for serious consideration.

    REPLY

    MG Warrier

    In Reply to Narendra Doshi 6 years ago

    Dear Narendra Doshiji
    Thanks. The ideas here are not new. Individually, many are convinced and economists like S S Tarapore have written in the media. More public debate may convince political leadership about the advantages of working on some of the suggestions. My own perception is that present dispensation in Delhi(Central Government) and Mumbai(RBI) are not averse to taking fresh initiatives, if they will be conducive to India’s national interest and economic growth. Hope, this explains the context of this article.

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