Friday, October 12, 2012

OROP: ESM waits for Justice while Government squanders money on subsidies

Extending the 'one rank one pension' rule to ex-servicemen was long overdue
ET Bureau Oct 8, 2012, 06.42AM IST
The government has done well to accede to the long standing demand of ex-servicemen for 'one rank, one pension (Orop)'. But the manner of putting this principle to practice has invited criticism from ex servicemen.
This defeats any political gain the ruling coalition expected from the decision. It is still possible to discuss this with ex-servicemen and remove the niggles that remain. This corrects a long-standing injustice to the armed forces vis-a-vis their civilian counterparts.
The government had conceded the Orop demand for civilians close to a decade ago on the grounds of equity. It is iniquitous to differentiate between pension entitlement of retirees of the same rank and years of service merely on the basis of when they retire.
Having accepted the merit of this in one case, there was no justification to deny it to ex-servicemen. Many would argue the nation owes more to those who guard its borders than to civilian pensioners. Governments resisted the Orop demand because of the additional stress it would impose on the exchequer.
Unlike civilians who retire at 60 and, given the average life span of 70-80 years, can be expected to draw pension for an average of 10-20 years, military personnel retire earlier. As a result, they can be expected to draw pensions for much longer. The reality, moreover, is that the rules of the game are drawn up by civilians and that meant ex-servicemen had to wait for justice to be done.
As a paper that has long argued for fiscal rectitude and expenditure control, it might seem at odds for us to defend a package that is expected to cost about Rs 2,300 crore annually in its present form, a little more when the package is properly fleshed out and is likely to increase in future.
Except that we have never stood for a blanket clamping down on expenditure as much as for rationalisation and wise prioritisation of public expenditure. Between subsidies on diesel and cooking gas of over Rs 1.5 lakh crore and other subsidies, the Rs 2,300-crore bill on account of higher pension to ex-servicemen, there is no doubt which is more deserving. In terms of hard numbers, the amount is almost insignificant. But as a long-overdue * gesture, its significance cannot be underestimated.
Extending the 'one rank one pension' rule to ex-servicemen was long overdue

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