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 Maneckshaw had just won the Bangladesh war and had handed command to general Bewoor. It is inconceivable that Maneckshaw never knew of the goings-on in the MOD( Ministry of Defence), 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( Chief of Army Staff) 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. The roots of this go back to the apathy of Nehru and the approach of General KC Cariappa who accepted the whittling down of the perks and privileges.
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 failed to exert itself. A force full COAS could have any time pressurized the government, but there is no record of any representation to the government in power. All sat in their chairs and went away..
Promises and Failure
With the 2014 election around the corner, the BJP desperate for a foothold promised to sanction OROP. We must remember that in the 1984 election, the BJP had just 2 seats in parliament. In 2014 an agitation by ex-servicemen led by General Satbir Singh finally gathered steam. Modi sensing the mood and looking for a way to win the election in a historic speech to ex-servicemen promised to sanction OROP as defined by parliament.
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 and 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 a one time increase of pensions, 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
The 7th pay commission recommendations were also published. They have been generally detrimental to the armed forces. The ex-servicemen were agitated and sensing the mood the Chiefs wrote a ' strong' letter. But they did not follow up the letter and let matters drift.
Ranks and the Armed Forces
The question arises as to who is responsible for this state of affairs. It looks like 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.
The armed forces themselves were restrictive in the promotion and selection of officers. To say the IAS officers are getting a better deal and promotion has no meaning. 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 had a Defense Minister in Mohan Parricker who was qualified and had the interests of the services in mind. But he has gone and is replaced by a lady. She doesn't know anything about the military.
The situation as it stands is alarming. The ex-servicemen under General Satbir Singh are still agitating at Jantar Mantar in Delhi. This agitation is on for almost 5 years and both the Chiefs and the Government of Modi have not a word to say about it. One is reminded of the writings of Chanakya, the chief advisor of Emperor Chandragupta. He wrote, "When the soldier knocks at the door of the government for his rights the government loses the right to rule and its days are numbered."
Such a state of affairs would be unheard of in the USA or China. Yet the ex-servicemen are still agitating and the Modi government is just ignoring their demands. They forget that ex-servicemen have an umbilical cord to the serving soldier and it affects morale. One will have to wait and see if the government realizes that the armed forces are the security of India, otherwise the bell tolls for Modi and India. One hopes Chanakya is not proved correct.