Friday, 5 August 2016

Bureaucrats mishandled OROP issue



 (This and a few other articles on the subject were written more than a year ago. A veteran who had consumed poison yesterday died in hospital this morning. Obviously, the issue has not yet been resolved to the satisfaction of those who risk their life to protect us from enemies. It belies all claims to make India strong. There is urgent need to analyse the causes of dissatisfaction and solve the remaining problems without delay. Financial constraint cannot be an excuse. November 2, 2016)




According to MP and key mediator Rajeev Chandrasekhar a solution would have arrived sooner on the issue of  One Rank One Pension scheme if it was not 'mishandled at the level of the bureaucracy’.

This is exactly what I have tried to say in a couple of articles available on naraindevendra.blogspot.com:

(1)       One rank, one pension  - Part I, A simple problem deliberately created and confounded. 17/8/2015. Link: https://plus.google.com/101076663698644182885/posts/QFqx7iGkoCT

(2)       One rank, one pension – Part II, Prime Minister must act like a leader. 18/8/2015. Link: https://plus.google.com/101076663698644182885/posts/8QLDhNcYhNk

(3)   Ex-servicemen should ask the government to produce all records concerning one rank one pay. 20/8/2015. Link: https://plus.google.com/101076663698644182885/posts/ToJL342b5oL

(4)    One rank one pension, Prime Minister should act like a leader. 24/8/2015. Link: https://plus.google.com/101076663698644182885/posts/7FcQfbmsZCK
Those who have not worked in a state or central government in this country can not know how the Indian bureaucracy functions. As I mentioned in the second article dated 18/8/2015, to understand the style of functioning, one should know three centres of power: ministers, top bureaucrats and lower-level bureaucrats.

The primary aim of each one is to protect self-interest. Ministers and top bureaucrats work in close coordination to help each other. Proposals to benefit them are processed very quickly because noting and comments at almost every stage are favourable. If someone proves an obstacle and the obstacle cannot be overcome easily., sooner or later he or she is sent out on some pretext or the other.

 In the second article I explained how senior bureaucrats have given ‘OROP’ to themselves. I also mentioned that how senior level posts are created in the Indian Foreign Service, in violation of all written rules of the government, just to ensure time bound promotion.

Let me present the two scenarios about the way the government functions.

One is when interest of senior-most bureaucracy is involved. There was a time when officers of the rank of joint secretary and above were not entitled to dearness allowance despite considerable erosion in their salary due to inflation. Sometime in 1982, a joint secretary in the Department of Expenditure was asked to prepare a note for ad hoc grant of dearness allowance. The officer prepared one page note in which he pointed out that ‘denial of dearness allowance to senior officers has significantly eroded their salary and they are facing serious financial hardship. Something must be done urgently. Even eminent citizens like JRD Tata have advised the government to give relief to senior officers….’. The same day the proposal was cleared by Secretary Expenditure, Finance Secretary and Finance Minister. Soon thereafter and order was issued. There was absolutely no hurdle, bureaucratic or political. When I read that note, unofficially of course, I was surprised to read the name of JRD Tata. Could be, he had voiced concern. His name was mentioned only to add an excuse. The government could have decided without dragging his name.

The scenario is entirely different when neither ministers nor senior bureaucrats are interested. In such a situation proposals are first examined at the lowest level. When not under any instruction from above, the lower bureaucracy gets opportunity to show its knowledge and clout. It gives them great pleasure to show their power. Whatever is written at that level is approved without any question by seniors, even by Minister.  

When the demand for ‘OROP’ was raised initially, neither ministers nor senior bureaucrats had any interest in the matter. This was supposed to be a demand of those who did not matter to them. The proposal was examined at the lowest level in bureaucracy. They must have raised all sorts of objections which must have been approved by seniors.  

When a simple disease is neglected for a long time, it causes more diseases making treatment more difficult. This is what has happened in the case of ‘OROP’. With the increase in the number of veterans of armed forces, the absolute number of those aggrieved went on increasing. Since not just jawans and non-commissioned officers but officers below the rank of Chief and Vice Chief are also affected, the problem became more and more serious. The veterans started raising the pitch and adding new demands.
Unable to realise the growing seriousness of the problem, political leaders continued to leave the matter to bureaucrats and senior bureaucrats continued to approve what their juniors proposed.

Politicians realised the seriousness only when the last general election was announced. Since then several promises and deadlines have been given without any concrete result. With every passing day, demands like annual revision of salary and the date of retrospective effect are adding to the financial burden making an agreed solution look more difficult.

With increasing sympathy and support of retired chiefs and also perhaps behind-the-scene  support of serving Chiefs and senior officers, the veterans have become more adamant. Had the government accepted the demand even in 2011 when an all-party Parliamentary Committee, known as Koshiyari Committee, unanimously recommended implementation of OROP in the defence forces across the board at the earliest, the problem could have been solved before new demands were added. Another mistake committed by the government was not implementing the suggestion of the Fifth and Sixth Pay Commission as well as the Koshiyari Committee for lateral transfer of servicemen, after a certain length of service, to the paramilitary forces to minimise the financial burden.

Today or tomorrow, the government will have to solve the problem. It cannot be allowed to linger on. Solution is not difficult if there is political will. Financial burden cannot be an excuse when the stakes are very high.

The veterans can make the task of the government easy if they do not make annual revision a prestige issue. Six monthly DA increase takes care of inflation. Complete revision is and can be done only after certain lapse of time which is presently 10 years. Any demand to be acceptable should be reasonable.

Devendra Narain
September 4, 2015