ESP (Ex-Service Personnel including Women Officers) Caught between Commitments & Government
(that moves as fast as its predecessor?)
From the height (2914’ AMSL) and distant (1745 kms) vantage point in relation to Jantar Mantar , South & North Blocks, and subjectivity, the ESP appear to be tormented in worse ways than can be imagined. I received alarmed emails (and a sms from +919779820270) forwarding some information from a star in the pantheon of retired officers with awesome designations and requested for my comments. (Any one knows who this Punjabi speaking person of +919779820270 is? He refused to give me his name and hung up.)
Let me share what I know of each of the aspects of the attributed and reported alarms, sms and utterances.
A Tragedy in the Making
The writer Bharata Muni, in his work on dramatic theory A Treatise on Theatre (Sanskrit: Nātyaśāstra, नाट्य शास्त्र, c. 200 BCE – 200 CE), identified several rasas (such as pity, anger, disgust and terror) in the emotional responses of audiences for the Sanskrit drama of ancient India. (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/?title=Tragedy.
Let us have an objective look at an on-going tragedy that would soon be worse than anything that Bharat Muni, Shakespeare or Munshi Premchand wrote.
Commitments by the Prime Minister including removing Policy Paralysis
A retired Lt Gen (used to title himself Lt Gen Emeritus, a term missing from the glossary of the Service terms) has stated on different occasions that “we have full faith in the Prime Minister” etc. It is not the PM anyone does not have faith in but his commitment is in question.
Nobody doubts the Prime Minister for we read that the gentleman, who the PM specially selected and appointed the Defence Minister, states he has sent the OROP file to the MoF some weeks ago. But the deafening silence of the PM other than in those momentous (for ESP) speeches from as diverse platforms as the ESM rally at Rewari (to the deck of INS Vikramditya and to the hypoxic altitudes of Siachen and in that monologue on ‘Man ki baat’ indicate apathy bordering on contempt on speedily fulfilling repeated commitments from the highest Executive office on implementing One Rank One Pension (OROP).
Adding to that silence are the attributed, and alarming, reports that the Finance Minister or his Ministry is inflicting the same excruciating fate on the Defence Minister’s file recommending OROP as the MoD’s civilian bureaucracy does on ESM through a spate of delays, denials and subterfuges. Ostensibly, because Rs 8298 crores is a large amount of money (that the National Exchequer can spare, more about that later in this post).
Complexity & Demands
The Prime Minister has recently added a caveat to his “commitment” on OROP – it is more complex than he thought it was may be a year ago (or earlier).
On the issue of complexity, in the months of berating the UPA for non-performance, policy paralysis, and much else vile that “Indians were not proud of being Indians” didn’t all those famed (or fabled?) information technology wonks/geeks run a Excel sheet and advise him that he was getting into deeper quick sand on his “OROP deke hi rahenge” narratives?
Was the PM not made aware that there exist employees in the Central Government, the Central Police organisations who grandly call themselves Para Military (definition of, relating to, being, or characteristic of a force formed on a military pattern especially as a potential auxiliary military force) would demand OROP but decline to obey the Government’s approval of the recommendations for lateral absorption of Armed Forces personnel in their organisations?
Surely then PM candidate & now incumbent PM was made aware by Shri Arun Jaitley of the contents of the debates in Parliament, including the sole question Shri Jaitley raised in the Rajya Sabha on non-implementation of OROP in August 2010. As records show, the Koshiyari Committee was still considering OROP in 2011 and made its recommendations in December 2011, including that OROP issue was considered earlier and if ESM were not entitled to OROP then a decision would have been taken by the past Governments and declined to be considered quoting the principle of “res judicata” (a matter that has been adjudicated by a competent court and therefore may not be pursued further by the same parties) if it came up again after 2011.
The PMO (and more importantly, the Finance Minister) must be aware of this, and if it is not then it is time that PMO and MoF obtained the file(s) and put to rest the issue whether the alleged claims of the CPOs (calling themselves Para Military forces) is justified. Anyway, for the busy PMO some ready ‘at hand’ information.
Why Would the BSF and CPOs demand OROP
It is reported that much reviled bureaucracy (more reviled than the 10 year UPA rule!) has raised the bogey of BSF and others also demanding OROP. Let us, objectively, with assistance from the BSF website, examine the BSF’s role vis-à-vis Armed Forces, because it is the closest in its duties to the Armed Forces.
A cursory reading of the Border Security Forces’ website (http://bsf.nic.in/en/introduction.html) brings out (italics used by the author) the following: -
Till 1965 India’s borders with Pakistan were manned by the State Armed Police Battalion. Pakistan attacked Sardar Post, Chhar Bet and Beria Bet on 9 April, 1965 in Kutch. This exposed the inadequacy of the State Armed Police to cope with armed aggression due to which the Government of India felt the need for a specialized centrally controlled Border Security Force, which would be armed and trained to man the International Border with Pakistan. As a result of the recommendations of the Committee of Secretaries, the Border Security Force came into existence on 01 Dec 1965…..
TASKS OF THE BSF:
The tasks of the BSF are divided as follows:
1. Peace time:
o Promote a sense of security among the people living in the border areas.
o Prevent trans-border crimes, unauthorized entry into or exit from the territory of India.
o Prevent smuggling and any other illegal activity.
In the last few years the BSF has, in addition to their duties, been deployed for counter insurgency and internal security duties.
2. War Time:
o Holding ground in less threatened sectors so long as the main attack does not develop in a particular sector and it is felt that the local situation is within the capability of BSF to deal with. The BSF units can continue to remain deployed in particular sector even in a war situation to release the Army for offensive tasks. In the even of a major attack developing, which is not within the capacity of the BSF to deal with, the Army can be expected either to reinforce the BSF with Artillery or other support, or relieve the BSF from its role in the particular sector.
o Protection of vital installations particular air-fields against enemy commandoes/para troopers or raids. The role can be entrusted to the BSF Units which are placed under the Army's operational Control.
o Providing extension to the flanks of main defence line by the holding of strong points in conjunction with other units.
o Limited Aggressive action against para military or irregular forces of the enemy within the overall plan of the Armed Forces.
o Performing special tasks connected with intelligence including raids. These are tasks which might be entrusted to BSF Units by the Army in a war situation according to local necessity. It would, however, be expected that the state of training and equipment of the particular BSF Units would be kept in view in assessing their adequacy for the tasks.
o Acting as guides in an area of responsibility where routes are known. This is a task which the BSF should be able to perform.
o Maintenance of law and order in enemy territory administrated under the control of Army. Normally, ordinary civil police force would be utilised for this task but the BSF could be used to supplement the civil police or to act in lieu thereof in a situation where civil police is not readily available.
o Provision of escorts.
o Guarding of prisoners of war cages
o Assistance in control of refugees. It is the intention to utilise civil police force and armed Home Guards etc. for these tasks but again depending upon local exigencies, the BSF might be entrusted with these tasks.
o Anti - infiltration duties in specified area. This is an important responsibility which will have to be performed by security forces. The exact responsibility of the BSF in this matter is still under consideration and separate instructions are expected to be issued (emphasis supplied).
New Pension Scheme
New Pension Scheme was introduced by the previous BJP led NDA Govt and announced in the Budget 2003-4. It was notified vide MoF, Deptt of Economic Affairs OM No. 5/7/2003 PR dated 22nd December 2003, and states, inter alia……
“3. The Government approved on 23rd August 2003 the proposal to implement the budget announcement of 2003-04 relating to introducing a new restructured defined contribution pension system for new entrants to Central Government service, except to Armed Forces, in the first stage, replacing the existing system of defined benefit pension system. (emphasis supplied).
4. The Government approved the basic features of the new pension system; and setting up of an interim pension fund regulatory and development authority (PFRDA).
The main features of the new pension system are given below:
• The system would be mandatory for new recruits to the central Government service except the armed forces……”
Obviously, the BJP led NDA Govt considered the Armed Forces to be different from all other Central Government employees, including the BSF and other Central Police Organisations. An RTI application has been filed with the Deptt of Economic Affairs to ascertain information on the decision of the then BJP led NDA Government to keep the armed forces out of the ambit of the NPS. An update would be provided as and when information is provided.
Segregating/Splitting the Implementation of OROP
Reports by way of emails/sms spread information that such & such a dignitary of an ESP organisation met such & such Central Minister/Minister of State and “suggested if there is a funds crunch, implement the OROP for JCOs & ORs in the first phase and for Officers in the next phase.” Good humanitarian gesture (the term is the seasonal flavour) but ignores certain facts.
Firstly, JCOs and ORs (and their widows) comprise 85% of ESP. Consequently, 85% of Rs 8300 crore is Rs 7055 crore. Therefore the effect of OROP on officers would be Rs 1245 crore. So which would impact the so-called “funds strapped” Govt?
Secondly, ORs, JCOs, and Officers are an integral and unified part of the Armed Forces because it is the most important and essential part of fighting wars. Will this Govt, on the ‘humanitarian’ recommendations of some self-appointed ESP, tear asunder that fabric apart for a few thousand crore rupees?
Thirdly, from the time of Independence, when has the Govt phased implementation of any financially connected recommendations? Pay Commissions or even the Modified enhanced pensions for retired officers, which includes Women (Circular No. 500) and Improved Pensions for retired JCOs/ORs (Circular No. 501) were implemented from the same date i.e. 17th January 2013.
Lastly, consider the morale factor. Today, the non–implementation of OROP has drawn retired ORs/JCOs and Officers into the streets. The Govt would be ill-advised if it decided to separate the implementation dates and is rebuffed by ORs and JCOs refusing OROP till Officers are also paid.
This author was an eye witness to what happened in the Air Force when 5th CPC was prevailed up on to recommend higher Flying Pay for fighter pilots & lower Flying Pay for Transport Aircraft and Helicopter pilots and Navigators and a marginal increase in the Technical Pay for Engineers. It took the restoration of parity in Flying Pay, higher Technical pay, the calmness of the CAS-designate and a couple of AOsC-in-C, and the discipline of the Service to bring down the discontent. That was with a few thousand officers. Imagine the problem with millions of ESP not subject to the Army, Navy or Air Force Acts & Rules thereunder.
And the Mythical – Read it on the Govt’s website - Financial Crunch
As for financial crunch, didn’t the Finance Minister state in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha that a sum of Rs 62, 398 crore was foregone by the National Exchequer towards incentives and tax exemptions for corporates? Please see Statement of Revenue Foregone in the left side panel on website indiabudget.nic.in for corroboration.
And read this from scroll.in/article/711183/why-the-indian-government-is-forgoing-revenues-of-95-billion
While the central government is expected to earn a tax revenue of Rs 919,842 crore ($148 billion) for the financial year 2015-16, it is expected to forgo revenue of Rs 589,285.2 crore ($95 billion) in 2014-15 due to exemptions granted to companies and individual taxpayers.
This forgone revenue, or tax benefits, is twice the defence budget allocation of Rs 247,000 crore in 2014-15.
This forgone revenue, or tax benefits, is twice the defence budget allocation of Rs 247,000 crore in 2014-15.
Tax-revenue forgone is a contentious issue – an “incentive” or a “sop”, depending on ideological position – and becoming more so at a time when the National Democratic Alliance government plans cutbacks to India’s subsidy bill of Rs 2,27,287 crore ($36 billion).
While India’s subsidy bill is likely to fall almost 10%, the tax-revenue forgone is expected to increase by 7% from 2013-14.
Those on the left hold “sops” – such as accelerated depreciation, deduction of export profits of units located in special economic zones (SEZs), area-based exemptions and waivers on import duties – as evidence of government largesse to business at the expense of the poorest. Those on the right argue that tax-revenue forgone is an important business “incentive” to help the economy grow, without which the needs of the poor cannot be addressed.
So Are We looking at a Policy Paralysis by Other Names
Central Ministers and spokespersons and no less than the Prime Minister told us (at an expense of a few hundred crore rupees) how the achhe din of scam-free, quick decision making Govt is here and the burre din are only for the burre. Though the sheen has somewhat diminished by the recent exposes, the lesser written about it the better, but will the BJP/NDA Govt decide to call a spade a spade instead of shovel, trowel or whatever?
And the role diverse retired Army Officers led ESP organisations
I wish there was something I could collect from the internet to make sense (first, to myself) but I have failed.
The only glimmer of some positive work so far appears to be from the RDOA, which is fighting it out in the Hon’ble Supreme Court, and winning to a fair extent as it has in the Rank Pay case and the Minimum Guaranteed Pension case etc.
Moral of this Post: When we were kids we read lots of fables from the Panchtantra, Aesop etc. Each of these fables had a moral at the end. May be the moral of this post should be – be better informed and you will not be alarmed by the speculations that are the bane of our inboxes and incoming sms like the one I mentioned.
Let us wait for the 8th of July 2015 and see what the Hon’ble Supreme Court rules in CA No. 2966 of 2011 in Contempt Petition No. 64 of 2009 in CA No. 5566 of 2008.