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The Indecent Exposure - Lessons from the OROP Imbroglio
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Brig Amar Cheema | Date:09 Sep , 2015 14 Comments

“Defeat is not the worst of failures. Not to have tried is the true failure” – George Edward Woodberry

Rejoice my friends – my countrymen, we have collectively achieved the impossible; something that other nations would have spent a fortune and invaluable time and effort to unearth what simmers below the surface.

Despite Mr. Modi’s success in unlocking the decades’ long logjam, the fact is that that by demanding ‘uniform pay for the same rank’ (other things being equal), the uniformed fraternity has been led up a garden path.

Despite Mr. Modi’s success in unlocking the decades’ long logjam, the fact is that that by demanding ‘uniform pay for the same rank’ (other things being equal), the uniformed fraternity has been led up a garden path. When they should have been demanding ‘parity’ with their civilian counterparts, including Non Functional Upgradation (NFU) – an (irrational) allowance promoting inefficiency but maintaining ‘pay parity,’ they have only been asking for equality amongst themselves – a colonel’s pay/pension against a latest retired colonel and so on. Issues of uniform grade pays etc., which are the barometer of inter-service seniority, have been conveniently left out of the narrative. Having said that, even after the momentous OROP decision, the government’s sincerity is questionable as red herrings like VRS and appointment of a Judicial Committee has muddied the waters. These need to be seen as clever ploys detracting from the main OROP issue: after all, how can pensions adjusted every five or even two years qualify as ‘One Rank–One Pay,’ this would translate as One Rank – Five/Two Pays. This that remains the nub of the question and goes against the grain of the well-meaning Koshyari Commission’s definition of OROP. Surely, in this age of smart computing, yearly increments can be done without human intervention – if we can’t manage even this level of computing, the Prime Minister’s plank of development through technology would sound hollow.

That having been said, the aim is not to discuss OROP perse, but to cull lessons and learn from this painful episode in our recent Indian history. No amount of Fact Finding Committees, Inquiries etc. could have exposed the black-hole of India’s (dysfunctional) civil-military relations; something that is serious and something for the government to address. If as a Nation, we choose to learn from this, we can evolve a better India, an India with (civilised) Civil-Military relations. However, if we refuse to learn, it would be fair to surmise that India needs no external enemies – she has enough internally. It may suffice to reiterate some fundamentals that have been lost sight of in this ‘high profile,’ emotional, but totally unnecessary campaign, there are some home truths that both sides must realise, and where possible, correct.

The military is advised to remain apolitical, something that is not only desirable in any democracy, but something that remains admirable even after decades of deteriorating civil-military relations in post independent India…

Military Leadership Traits versus Political-Civil Leadership

The military is advised to remain apolitical, something that is not only desirable in any democracy, but something that remains admirable even after decades of deteriorating civil-military relations in post independent India – this is a value that ‘cannot’ and ‘should not’ be allowed to be compromised.

The first thing a young boy/girl joining the military is told that he/she is a Gentleman/ Lady first before he/she is an officer – a rank. In fact, the rank suffixed to the name and service number on joining the academies is of a Gentleman/Lady Cadet. This practice continues and is ingrained in the military leadership.

Unlike this practice followed in military institutions, there is no such training that emphasises ‘Values’ and ‘Ethics’ in Civil Training Institutes like the IAS Academy, and the like. On the other hand, since the operating environment after their training is expected to be complex (read corrupt), the trainees, develop their own set of values and ethics – the result of their upbringing, experiences and knowledge, in order to ‘adjust’ and later ‘manage’ the real world. Those who don’t fit in become outcasts.

The third actor in the Civil-Military equation is the political leader, someone who parachutes directly into administration and gets placed at the highest level. He/she requires no training, qualifications or even codes and values – they come as they have been trained – most being street fighters and therefore savvy in wheeling-dealing –they are the true arbitrators and it is their absolute power wielded at the ground level that corrupts the maximum.

The fact that despite the emotive crusade staged at Jantar Mantar and other parts of the country, there has been no real support from the general public.

Be that as it may, is there a thing or two that can be learnt from the military system to improve on the quality of the civil and even political leadership? Can values and ethics somehow be incorporated into the civil administration and polity?

Indifferences of the General Public

The fact that despite the emotive crusade staged at Jantar Mantar and other parts of the country, there has been no real support from the general public. In fact, the people were bemused by seemingly well-off officer fraternity who are seen to be leading the agitation, pleading the case for a few hundred more. On the other hand, the uniformed lot, especially the officers, have not done any ground work towards building up their case in the general public and herein lies a lesson by itself.

Let’s try to explain what the officer lot is fighting for. The military leader is taught early in life that his mission is to strive for the welfare of his men before seeking his own comfort. This is enshrined in the Chetwoode Motto of placing the ‘Nation’ and ‘Your Men’ first. Therefore, the present crusade is not for the officers – it’s primarily for seeking justice the men – men who join in the prime of their youth (pre twenties) and are forced to retire at an average age of 35 or so. To illustrate the case: a sepoy who retired before 1996 gets 82 percent less pension than a sepoy who retired after 2006. Is this justice?[i] That’s what the OROP is about.

OROP is a corrective measure to compensate for the disadvantage of retiring earlier – nothing more, nothing else.

It is a fight for these lakhs of men who have offered their services when the nation wanted them to fight or stand vigil in unhospitable weather and terrain conditions. It is these men who between 35 to 37 years of life find themselves with no technical or social skill for a second innings for life out of uniform. Most land up as Security guards outside plush homes or malls, some plying rickshaws – the fight is for them. At the same time, it’s pertinent to interject that their counter-parts in the armed police forces serve till the age of sixty and now through the good offices of the court, are entitled to NFU. Thus, there is no real comparison. OROP is a corrective measure to compensate for the disadvantage of retiring earlier – nothing more, nothing else.

The officer lot seeks dignity, more than money, though it cannot be denied that also counts as they too are compulsorily retired much before their civil counter-parts. The average officer simply asks why he/she should be denied something like the NFU of his civil counter-parts, as when he joined, he/she was placed senior in protocol and hence started with a higher grade pay than them. He also questions the injustice of granting OROP through the backdoor through the craftily worded ‘Apex Scale’ to his Generals/Admirals and Marshalls. In the run-up of the OROP campaign, they stand exposed of accepting ‘official’ gratification for keeping the lid on similar demands from their juniors.

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14 thoughts on “The Indecent Exposure – Lessons from the OROP Imbroglio

  1. whilst thousands of officers and ranks have sat at jantar mantar what gain and what was lost . The widows , the aged ranks , officers and others deserve the OROP, the politicians and devious babus have b etrayed the parliament and both houses where orop was passed and accepted . many thousands like me who remain aloof and watched from sidelines felt the pain of seeing the armed forces pride go down the drain with each passing day as veterans , widows , famlies and exservicemen sat on the dharna . A invisible arrow pierced the hearts of all serving and retired . whilst the deserving old folks will gain a few thousand rupees to make old age a bit less difficult the armed forces lost 350 years of elan , pride , and respect of serving and retd including the civilans watching from side lines . THE NETA BABU BUSINESSMENN combine hate the armed forces and time the armed forces align their policies and tradein with the nations thieves .The serving senior ranks and chiefs were made to look like unichs in uniform cheating the retd whilst the OROP was being announced . The serving solder sailor airmen jawan and highly intelligent officers were convinced these stars and stripes cannot look after their interests . The nation has lost the x factor which wins wars .

  2. Satbir and gang should tell the truth about VRS. Satbir now I tell you what you should say. You went to the MoD and met an official with your delegation. Everything was discussed and it was decided that the Defence Minister alongwith three Chiefs will roll out the OROP. You said that you wanted a graceful exit from Jantar-Mantar and your agitation must be seen as successful. Accordingly, it was decided to add an innocuous term VRS. You said that after the press conference you will raise objection on the issue and by night you would ask for another meeting, and then claim victory for the OROP. That is why after the press conference you all started feedings sweets to each other at Jantar-Mantar.

    When some people contacted you on VRS, you chillingly said: “Oh! Don’t worry it’s a minor problem and will be sorted out by tonight”. But the political class turned out smarter. Mr Modi next day took a Metro ride and had arranged for some senior faujis in medals and caps. In a public rally from the dais he spent good two minutes to dispel the doubts about VRS. He went to the extent of saying that if anybody deserves OROP the most it is the people who have gone on PMR (Pre-Mature Retirement), as they help the armed forces to remain young. When he announced this, I rang up your people and they were so incensed that why Modi did not follow the script and let Satbir announce it.

    So now you are riding another campaign of falsehood because your game is up. Satbir, 46% of the people, i.e. beneficiaries of OROP are PMRs. So how does the figure then come to 8,000 to 10,000 crores. Without the PMR, it should be 4,000 to 5,000 crores. So stop fooling the people at the behest of AAP and the ISI. Narcotics money cannot keep your afloat forever.

  3. Excellent article. But most of the heat and dust raised remains confined within the fauji fraternity.

    Biggest gain has been whether in uniform or out of it everyone has got educated about the issues involved which earlier it was not part of the conciousness.

    Pain has been the inability to draw in support or concern and sensitise the society.

  4. A very well written article which brings out the relationship between men in uniform and civilians.Besides what has been enumerated in the article I feel major chunk of the fault lies with the “MEN WHEN IN UNIFORM”. After hanging the spurs all 1 * to 4* have been talking about Difficulties in performing Duty ,Honour, Respect, Perks,Facilities ,Deficiencies,Widows,Sacrifices,Protecting the Nation,Natural Calamities etc the list goes on , but when they could DO something they all had modified the Nursery Rhyme–Ba Ba black sheep, have you any wool? Yes Sir Yes Sir Three bags full !! Two for you and one for me, NONE for the guy who cries down the Lane.So why cry Now?The time is NOW. Before more damage is done to this ELITE organisation the people who have say should unite and force these Bureaucrats and Politicians who can not even differentiate between the front and rear of a Tank to change the TERMS and CONDITIONS of people serving in Defence Services and incorporate them in SEVENTH PAY COMMISSION so that the next lot does not suffer.
    Well these are my personal views .Though I am not as learned as the author but I tried to pen down what I felt while staying with the civilian counterparts for past FIVE years after I hung my Spurs !!

  5. The article puts forth frank views in most comprehensive and succinct manner. A big kudos to the author who has articulated views of thousand through these columns.
    The stellar role of the Ex Servicemen and the villainous part played by the Babus in the back ground with political leaders in this episode of OROP is a watershed event. It is etched of in the history of the Indian Army. Two very important markers are evident (I) very craftily , the babus have manipulated the results against the Indian Armed forces in this incident. (ii) driven a wedge between the civil and military relationship – divide and rule on the counter which existing albeit expressed discreetly. This came out to the fore due to case of manipulating rank pay in 6CPC AND subsequent implementation regarding as on and wef.

    The impact will be far reaching. The man in the front will NOT be fighting like the way before . This is a very breathing and thinking world today . The indian fighting machine -the Jawan will also note 80% fighting spirit left in him . This political leaders will not understand who are clever with the use of words and resources at their disposal. So political leadership had to take cognisance or the nation is DOOMED.
    The chasm created can not be gapped. And it is sad that it has been writ by the govt which claimed to be more patriotic than others. Political leadership also needs to cautious that after this , they have dried up their reserve of strength in the making of India. Economy can be sustained only when there is peace.

    • Sad state of affairs Rajeshwar. Unfortunately, the values and priorities of politicians and babus is totally different from ours. We talk of honour and dignity-they seek oppurtunities to cut us to size. We believe in secularity and nation building-they believe in divide and rule. We believe in putting the bation and our men first-they believe in putting themselves first. We, my friend are living in make belief world-they believe un in the real-exploitable world. Why blame them alone-even our seniors who grew up with the same values have forsaken them. Rejoice my friend-we have fallen in the hole dug in front of us with our eyes fully open. Take Care

  6. The OROP saga has exposed the guile of the bureaucracy. Bureaucrats have proved and exposed to be self serving and prevaricators par excellence. They tend to create a system that serves their ilk well. The politicians know it but turn a Nelson’s eye to use them to aggrandize themselves. Mutual convenience with connivance. I don’t wish to attribute these adjectives to all. But I appeal to all the right thinking bureaucrats to do a bit of introspection. You are bestowed with the wherewithal to deliver and correct the system.

    Once, I had to write to the Director of the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie with a plea to nurture bureaucrats with spine and character. He was very concerned.

    I wish the article put the entire episode in perspective. Brig Amar Cheema would do great service, if an article on OROP is published with all the details, now and today. The public at large and the press in particular get to understand the deep rooted anomalies fostered by the bureaucrats – service parity issues, Koshiyari Committee findings and how they arrogated all the benefits to themselves at the cost of the principle of administration in all fairness.

    • Rao Sir. The malaise is too deep rooted. Sample this. All civil counterparts ensure that they retire with Apex Scale by invoking NFU. As someone of a batch reaches the top most scale-the benefit is passed on to the entire batch. This Apex scale is inured against changes-hence is OROP through the backdoor at the highest level. Our top brass is also in league. Beyond me but it would be informative to learn pension scales of say 2014 civ batch and say 2004 batch. Regards

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