One Rank One Pension, 7th Pay Commission and Status of Indian Armed Forces
The world of the ex-servicemen is agog after the government sanctioned One Rank One Pension and the 7th Pay commission submitted its report. The OROP demand harks back to 1973, when Indira Gandhi for reasons best known to her took the decision to reduce the pensions of the Servicemen from 70% of pay last drawn to 50 %, while upgrading the pension of civilians from 33% to 50% of last pay drawn. That was the time when Field Marshal Manackshaw had just won the Bangladesh war and had handed command to general Bewoor. It is inconceivable that Manackshaw never knew of the goings on in the MOD, but it appears he decided to ignore all this as he was in the dog house himself and was keen to rehabilitate himself in the eyes of the government. The COAS general Bewoor accepted the cuts like a pet cat.
For the next 40 years this demand of OROP was allowed to simmer and umpteen Chiefs came and went away. They did nothing. In addition successive pay commissions continuously downgraded the ranks and privileges of the services Vis a Vis their civil counterparts. Yet all this was allowed to pass without a whimper by the general staff. This dereliction of duty towards their men by general officers who commanded the largest body of organized force in the country can never be forgiven. In fact the roots of this goes back to the apathy of Nehru and approach of General Cariappa who accepted the downgradations
Towards the turn of the century the movement gathered steam and a forceful representation was made to the political bosses for sanction of OROP by ex-servicemen. Right from 2004 and even earlier when Vajpayee was the PM, the political parties promised OROP as part of their election manifesto. But when in power, both the Congress and the Vajpayee government just gave lip service and did nothing. They were aided by a supine general staff who just sat and twiddled their thumbs. A force full COAS could have any time pressurized the government, but they did nothing. All sat in their chairs and went away; I hope into the dustbin of history.
Promises and Failure
With the 2014 election around the corner the BJP desperate for a foot hold promised to sanction OROP. During this time an agitation by ex-servicemen led by General Satbir Singh finally gathered steam. This must have shamed the sitting chiefs who then began to make some noises for sanction of OROP. Modi and the BJP boxed themselves into a corner by repeated statements by the PM that he would ensure that OROP would be sanctioned. With the pressure of ex-servicemen led by Satbir Singh with a relay hunger strike, the government sanctioned a watered down scheme of OROP. They ignored the Koshyari commission definition of OROP which had been accepted by 2 parliaments. The BJP wanted a pat on its back. There is no doubt that the BJP did sanction the demand for OROP, but failure to bring back the Izzat of the armed forces was another matter. In addition for reason of political expediency the BJP failed to honor the solemn promise to ex-servicemen and also negated significant aspects of the Koshyari panel.
7th Pay Commission
Now the 7th pay commission is out with its recommendations and they have been generally detrimental to the armed forces. The ex-service men are up in arms and the Chiefs have written a ' strong' letter. Generally the ex-servicemen are blaming the watered down recommendations of the pay commission on the IAS lobby. In a way this is correct, but to cry 'wolf' after 40 years leads nowhere. The IAS lobby has got its way, because they represented their case better to the government who considered the forces as an unnecessary appendage right from the time of Nehru.
Ranks and the Armed Forces
The question arises as to who is responsible for this state of affairs. I am afraid it’s a self-afflicted injury and the blame lies at the door of the senior officer corps of the armed force who wanted to keep a plethora of ranks and yet ask for parity. It’s the armed forces themselves who created a select hierarchy, because of obsession with rank structure. Many officers of a corps and the flying branch could not see promotion and higher ranks for others. With this state of affairs, to blame everything on the IAS lobby holds no water.
The armed forces themselves were restrictive in promotion; did the government stop up gradation of ranks? If the forces had projected that ALL officers to retire as Major General in 26 years would the governments have turned it down? Did the armed forces senior brass ever project this to the government? Never, because they had themselves created a rank hierarchy and restrictive promotion. Now to say the IAS officers are getting a better deal has no meaning. I am afraid the forces have no case. It is better they take up with the government a case for all officers to retire as Major Generals, but the way the ranks are entrenched it will not happen. Even the Jawans need a better deal, but who will fight for them? This is the best time as India for the first time has a Defense Minister who has the interests of the service in mind. He is Mohan Parrickar. . But Parricker has gone and is replaced by a lady. She doesn't know anything about the military.