In his recent address to a delegation of ex-military, Rahul Gandhi talked of a certain 'One Rank, One Pension' (OROP) scheme. The eventual announcement of its acceptance in today's interim budget was received with much enthusiasm by the service men who had been demanding this financial security for a very long time.
A Supreme Court ruling from 1983 stated, “Pension is not a bounty nor a matter of grace depending upon the sweet will of the employer. It is not an ex-gratia payment, but a payment for past services rendered.”
Keeping this in mind, it will help draw context in understanding the importance of the OROP.
So what does the OROP signify?
Basically, it demands for equal pensions for those of who've retired in a particular year, whilst holding the same position as those who've retired in another year. So for instance, a sepoy who retired in 1995 should be paid the same amount of pension as the one who retired later.
However, so far, that has not been the case. While every pay commission bumps the salaries of government servants, pensions of ex-servicemen remain unchanged
“Whenever successive pay commissions enhance the salaries and consequently the pensions, these are effected only prospectively. The gap between past pensioners and their younger equivalents keeps widening with every successive pay commission,” explains Lt Gen Raj Kadyan, chairman of Indian Ex Servicemen Movement.
“The disparity has become uncomfortably stark after the Sixth Pay Commission. For equal service, a Sepoy, who retired prior to 1996, gets 82% lower pension than a Sepoy who retires after 2006. Similarly, among officers, a pre 1996 Major gets 53% lower pension than his post 2006 counterpart,” he elaborates.
Civil v/s Defence
Also, as compared to the other civil employees, defence personnels do not get to serve as many years as required to procure optimum pension amount. This means, while a civil servant may put in as many as 33 years and secure a 50% pension, a defence personnel would probably be retired much before he completes that many years and so will not be eligible for the same amount of pension.
Considering the rising costs of living, such “standard amounts” of pension can prove to be a financial tragedy in the making.
So, it comes as no surprise Rahul Gandhi's push for implementing OROP would be backed with much vigour by the the defence community.