New low on OROP

Even if Prime Minister Narendra Modi announces the immediate implementation of the one rank-one pension policy from the ramparts of the Red Fort tomorrow during his 2nd Independence Day address, he would have lost the basic trust and confidence of stalwart militarymen retired from service and now reduced to dharna at Jantar Mantar and insisting the state deliver on its obligation to them, and to uniformed personnel generally. In a fundamental sort of way, maybe the Modi regime has also lost the confidence of the people that this govt is much different than the one it replaced in May 2014.

It has come as a surprise to many that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has such a tin ear for an issue that cries out for decisive intervention by PM. To every issue there are pros and cons. This is one issue where there are no cons, except the barefaced ones pulled by a succession of Indian governments who have fobbed off the military community with promises for so many decades it seems like a reflex action of politicians. It is not at all the additional Rs 10,000 crore OROP will cost the Exchequer. There’s money enough to cover this expenditure. The problem lies elsewhere.

What’s the “technical” aspects of this issue and their sorting out that defmin Parrikar and the finmin Jaitley have been saying the govt is preoccupied with and which they claim is delaying OROP? Truth be told, its locus genesis is in the differentiated pay scales the British Army imposed with the “Indianization” of the British Indian Army. The principle was established with the KCIOs (King’s Commissioned Indian Officers) who were Sandhurst-trained drawing a bigger pay-packet, with their salaries being indexed even after independence to the British sterling than,beginning in 1932, the IMA-raised officers. There’s also the unresolved matter from that time of the “colour service” — can a youngster who joins the army ranks at 18, retire after the original 7 years in the regiment with full pension? If not, then what can he expect?

In the Fifties, moreover, this matter of earned pensions also segued into the then underway process of deliberate downgrading of the military from the colonial-era “warrant of precedence”. This happened because of Jawaharlal Nehru’s express desire to rid the Indian Army of what he feared was the coup d état virus then eating into the entrails of the army’s partitioned part in Pakistan with General Ayub Khan steadily gaining domination of the Pakistani govt, culminating in the full-fledged martial law admin in 1958.

If Indian militarymen lost, some one had to gain, and it was the civil servants who did — even though Nehru trusted them even less and was contemptuous of the Indian members of the Indian Civil Service — the precursor to IAS. But, unlike Cariappa and that straitlaced uniformed gang who made virtue out of staying aloof, the ICS-wallahs, adept in the art of pleasing whatever masters strode on to the stage, actively stoked the paranoia of Nehru and his sidekick VK Krishna Menon who, by the late 1950s, was also the defmin. The ICS-IAS have ever since happily kept the balance skewed and the military a supplicant by ensuring successive Pay Commissions, while strengthening the superior status of their own lot, widened the disparities both within the military and between the armed forces and the civilian services by turning the differentiated legacy payscales into a “one rank, many pensions”-bhool-bhoolaiyya. Trust the babus to do that.

The political class is complicit in that it never paid attention to the OROP demand, expecting that the soldiers would by habit go home when asked to do so and, in any case, not create trouble. The wonder is that a Narendra Modi, a man of the people (something the Rahul-Sonia Gandhi combo can only dream of), has allowed the situation to get to such a pass that he countenanced a silent and disciplined 60-day agitation by ex-servicmen to be disrupted by the lumpen Delhi Police directly run by his own Home Ministry!!! This is the unkindest cut, I believe, the bemedalled veterans did not expect. It was a tawdry act of a government that seems to be slipping fast into confused inaction and ennui a’la Manmohan Singh’s little lamented dispensation. The Modi govt can only hope that the televised mayhem the police perpetrated on the military elders will not adversely or permanently affect the attitude of the serving armed forces personnel towards the government.

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
This entry was posted in Asian geopolitics, civil-military relations, Culture, domestic politics, Indian democracy, Indian ecobomic situation, Indian Politics, Pakistan, Pakistan military, society, South Asia. Bookmark the permalink.

37 Responses to New low on OROP

  1. archit says:

    I felt really bad that these old soldiers were bullied around…what message is being sent? why cant they pay them pensions?

  2. Sk says:

    Aah! At least one press man speaking as a true Indian who values the sacrifices of these veterans

  3. Bharat Haladi says:

    Think of the long term effects of these series of inaction and wrong actions. If more and more people decide to not join the armed forces because of this gross injustice being perpetuated, then in a few decades India may well have a severely deficient armed forces strength to protect itself. The ones “blocking” OROP are thinking of the here and now, and not of the future. And that does not bode well.

    • Col G S Batabyal says:

      Mr.Karnad ,
      May I compliment you for being such straight forward.Honestly,neither politicians nor babus understand the tradition and ethos of the armed forces.They think it is one of those 8 hour rotational duty jobs what CRPF /police etc.perform. In the fighting arms(I was an infantry officer), CO of a battalion is treated like demi God.And he leads by example: so are the other officers.Paltan’s izzat is supreme.I get absolutely irritated when media and many others club armed forces as security forces. For them any one donning uniform of any color is same.I am not denigrating police/armed police forces but the fact remains that they are definitely not defence forces.I have commanded a Gorkha Battalion.I retired ten years ago,but my Regiment , and my battalion are in regular touch with me and vice a versa is as much true.This bonding is beyond comprehension of many.And thus the ill treatment to veterans will have a telling effect on those who are serving.In addition to this traditional bond,most of us have our next generation donning military uniform too.
      Defence forces have never let down the country.Why then they are being let down by the country?
      With kind regards,
      Col G S Batabyal(Retd)

  4. Bright Hope says:

    Well said, Sir.
    Modi Govt seems to be losing the plot. I guess they are still groping ways and means to govern
    after making tall promises in 2014. They are high on rhetoric and low on delivery. I cant understand the ‘ arithmetic problem’ which the Govt cant surmount. We have the Best talent in the world. In any case NO rocket science is required to solve this issue. May be, the will is lacking. large packages of money need to be doled out prior to Bihar and TN elections. Armed Forces are hardly a vote bank and they can wait. MERA BHARAT MAHAAN.

  5. Guru says:

    The long term effects are horrifying. One shudders at the very thought!!!! I really wonder if the babus and the political establishment has really thought about the irreparable damage that they are doing to the last effective organ of the government??? If the military has to go the way of the cops and other uniformed security agencies of the state and central government, what ills can befall the nation? The only people happy at this juncture has to be our enemies!!!

  6. Siddappa says:

    Brace bullets from across the border
    Brace the cane from inside the border.
    What a wretched life awaits a soldier.
    & This is the change we voted for.

    Come to think of it, ex def sec is now CAG…. The one who will audit expenses..

    Are we going to stare at a day, when ala Greece, pensions will not be paid, just to ensure loans will be taken to fill petrol in government vehicles?!!!

  7. JP Singh says:

    After the 14 th incident the situation doesn’t seem to be too good. There are grumblings in the Rank and File of the Army. Todays soldiers are tomorrows Veterans and todays Young Officers are tomorrows Generals. So the Government leading Democracy by the leash over the precipice its just a matter of time. We just hope good sense prevails amongst the politicians and the IAS babudom. Don’t push the Army, for once the tanks start rolling you cant stop the third largest army of the world with the CRPF and the BSF etc. The Indian Army is the only steadfast institution in the country and the only force that can be relied upon in any situation. Its is the most apolitical organistaion. Even discussing politics is a taboo in the Army. So lets not upset this balance.

  8. Commodore Pradeep Khanna (Retd.) says:

    Well said Dr Karnad!

  9. Ravi says:

    Just like Kattappa back stabbed Bahubali and Killed him in the Blockbuster Bahubali,BJP led NDA Government is backstabbing and showing middle finger to its core and Committed Nationalist supporters (like the Ex-Servicemen,Middle Class,Common men and women who toiled for the victory of the BJP).
    Pakistan is also displaying its belligerence in attacking Indian Civilians as well as Armed Personnel,but our BJP leaders are bust in Saree Shawl Diplomacy.

    By appointing nincompoops and losers (who lost LS elections and that too in a so-called “wave” election by huge margins in constituencies represented by BJP in 2004 and 2009) as Cabinet Ministers(Finance/HRD).
    A student has failed will not be promoted to the next class,an aspirant who does not clear a competitive exam will not get a job,but the BJP Govt has rewarded people who are neither from the grassroots nor can win even municipal elections to head crucial ministries. 16 out of 64 Ministers are from Rajya Sabha, who dare not contest elections. We can expect only backstabbing, betrayal from such BJP led NDA Govt, which is nothing but a UPA-3 Govt. But worse is better than “The Worst”.So BJP is the least best option available as on date.

  10. Deepak Sinha says:

    Well said Dr Karnad, couldn’t agree more. Modi need no longer worry about the military vote, he has lost that for the foreseeable future.

  11. Col (Dr.) Suresh Kumar says:

    Modi govt has sent another massage to all serving soldiers. ” YOU WILL ALSO BE VETERANS AFTER SERVING FEW YEARS AND WILL BE A DANGER TO THE SECURITY OF INDIA” You may like it or not the present govt is no better than the previous one. But serving forces should:

    1. Keep doing their duty as per constitution of India.
    2. Not give unnecessary access to Media and politician and babus.

    No gratitude is owed people like General V K Singh who became minister, or the current COAS, Gen. Suhag who has not emphasized the OROP issue but is busy securing his future as Governor. It is NATIONAL SHAME FOR BJP AND INDIAN GOVT RUN BY MODI JI.

  12. Shurveer Deora says:

    Well written sir. Appreciate your concern.

  13. Pratap says:

    Is there any merit in the arguement that the OROP with a base year as 2014 involves huge financial expenditure?

    • himlynx says:

      No, there is no merit. OROP means rank based pension. It does not mean more pension. Any additional expenditure is only for the transition period. Otherwise, there is zero effect on the government’s pension bill.

  14. sunil nanda says:

    Thanks for writing in Bharat, do a sequel soon. ..Commodore Sunil Nanda (Veteran)

  15. Raghu Das says:

    Well Said! Only wish more people from the civil side too expressed their opinion in strong terms. Silence, is in a way, complicity to whats going on, or DON’T THEY CARE???

  16. s mehrotra says:

    The President of India has given a cue… the Parliament is in Area of Combat. The Service Chiefs must obey their Supreme Commander and simulate a war zone in and around Parliament to effectively explain the meaning of what The President has emphasized. Since our esteemed Parliamentarians are exceptional people this can be done when a specially convened Parliament sits to examine the GST Bill. The spin off can be that the bill will sail through and the wind will go out of the sails of our Honourable MPs and the President ‘s point be driven home.

  17. Rituraj Rao says:

    Well Bharat,
    The defense pension this year was Rs. 54,500 crore and with OROP, it will touch Rs. 75,000 – 80,000 crore. Given the fact that the salary component of Defence Budget is about 92,000 crores, the biggest issue is whether India can afford to pay OROP ? With Seventh Pay Commission in pipeline, this amount will increase even further. The day is not far when India’s defense budget will only consist of salaries, pensions and maintenance components. No further modernization and no more qualitative improvement of defense weapons and equipment would be possible.

    I rather see it as the right moment to look into the overall manpower structure of Indian Army and future force requirements. Some amount of demobilization, lateral transfers and better approach in light of best global practices won’t hurt. The fact is – Indian Army is the only army in the world which is expanding, whereas globally, armies are decreasing their manpower and loading on hi-tech equipment and weapons. Time for a reality check !!!

    • Sanjay says:

      Dear Rituraj Rao,
      I must certainly say that you are a very wise man…perfect with statistical data culled from various open source medium and whose authenticity can be challenged. Well we certainly have a country Switzerland which has no “army”…because they don’t need one..all the black money of various “righteous and patriotic people” is kept safe there for them and their generations to live off the land. I safely presume by using the term “Indian Army” you are collectively referring to the serving and the veterans of the Indian Armed Forces. Unfortunately in those countries we don’t have terrorism / militancy, but probably in the air conditioned all weather confines of your plush offices and luxury dwelling units, you are probably oblivious to the extreme living conditions, separation and the constant threat to the lives of such lesser mortals, who unfortunately are disciplined, don’t form unions while in service, are not considered a viable vote bank since deployed at far flung areas much away from their constituency. May I request you to live the life of a personnel in defence service and then go for such “research based” write-up which is a total insult such brave men.

    • himlynx says:

      Rituraj, out of the Rs 54,500 crores defense pension bill, as much as Rs 32,000 crores goes to Defence civilians. Secondly, OROP means equal pension, not more pension. After a transition period, the net impact is zero.

      • Rituraj Rao says:

        Thanks so much for your feedback. Can you please elaborate on this civilian portion of defense pensions ? How will the net impact become zero after initial transition ?

        Part of the problem is that only little technical information is available on the OROP issue. So all sorts of numbers are being offered. Correct information may clarify many of these misconceptions and increase support for the issue.

  18. Capt says:

    Dear Rituraj Rao…. in which country do u live in… hv u ever tried to find out what all equipments and weapons does Indian Army use. A defense deal takes atleast 10 – 15 yrs to get through if there are no hurdles at all. aur agar sarkar badal jaaye toh… kismet bhi badal jaati hai in netaon ki… u r talking about hi – tech equipment…. Things hv definitely changed a lot… but it will always “man behind machine”. Jawano ka zazba hi iss desh ko zinda rakhega… yeh 30 saal purane hathiyar aur technology nahi. Unke zazbe se khelne ka bhool mat karo.

  19. archit says:

    arent we growing at 7.8%? The defence budget will also grow proportionally as a share of the growing pie. There’s money for Scams to the tune of lakhs of crores, where is the shortfall? Its in the will. It is in understanding what the forces stand for.

    • Shaurya says:

      @archit as a % of GDP the share of the defense pie has been on a downward slide for 20 years. From an effective spend perspective, it is at 1.7% of GDP. So, defense spending growth has NOT been commensurate with GDP growth.

  20. Rituraj Rao says:

    OK. Let me clarify first. My intent here for giving all this data is not to insult the Zazba and morale of an Indian soldier. Let’s be clear on the boundaries of this discourse. The Indian soldier is the best in his profession, no doubt. He has to live up to the history of excellence earned by his predecessors in two World Wars and many other wars later. So, please don’t take my arguments as questions against his welfare, salary or working conditions or anything even remotely connected.

    My problems are policy and higher defense management related and for that, let’s take a look at 2015-16 budget figures:

    Indian GDP – Rs. 1,41,08,945 Crore
    Indian Government Expenditure – Rs. 17,47,777 Crore
    Defence Budget – Rs. 2,46,727 Crore + Rs 54,500 Crore (Pension) = Rs. 3,01,227 Crore

    Even a cursory calculation shows that Indian Defence budget is 2.13% of its GDP which is a respected amount. It is also about 17% of the total govt expenditure which again shows that the nation is serious about its military. Any nation that spends more than 2-2.5% of its GDP on defence would turn out like Pakistan or any other banana republic. Even China, the second largest defense spending country keeps it tightly under 2% of its GDP.

    The problem is that even after this much of annual expenditure, there is not enough money left for major acquisitions so services resort to budget fights quite often. Indian Air Force’s insistence on Rafale aircraft or Indian Navy’s quest for LHDs, nuclear submarines and larger carriers cannot proceed faster because of money scarcity. Moreover, one of the main reasons for this scarcity is the humongous size of the Indian Army. Among all these budget fights, can the nation reduce the pinch of OROP ? Wouldn’t it be better to look at demobilization, lateral transfers and other methods to reduce personnel cost and increase its technological edge?

    How is it possible that when the nature of war has changed fundamentally, India still has the Air Force with 1,27,000 personnel, Navy with only 58,350 personnel but Army has massive 11,30,000 personnel ?? So, is Army planning to make human chains on Himalayas against enemies ? Will that succeed ? What happened to joint war planning? Service equality ? Effective budgeting ? Is there any lessons learned by global downsizing ? Indian Army is still expanding while 9 of its 14 corps remain deployed on a wasted/spent adversary and a minion named Pakistan (Def Budget USD 7.7 Billion)!!!! Time to think !!!

    • himlynx says:

      Rituraj, you have several valid points. Defence expenditure can be reduced if we improve relations with our neighbors. It is a failure of our diplomacy to have two unfriendly neighbors. Better to bring about a least a modus vivendi with at least one of them.

      Secondly, the army is heavily committed to internal security duties. This can be reduced if there is better governance.

      However, our discussion is on OROP which is nothing but a demand for rank based pension. Other than a short transitional period, the financial impact of this is zero. Veterans are asking for equal pension, not for more pension.

  21. Ravi says:

    Our Country has a history of betraying unknown / unsung heroes who toil to uphold the Sovereignty and integrity of our Country – (inspite of being governed once for 6 years by a Govt led by so called Nationalistic BJP)
    The Defense personnel are being betrayed.

    See this old link,how the IB Sub Inspectors are treated ,they neither have good pay nor good promotional prospects and they are not eligible for persons (I mean to say those who had joined after 01.01.2004):
    Same is the case with paramilitary personnel,the paramilitary forces are severely facing the problems of attrition (kindly see this link:,
    But the BJP led Govt is least bothered about these things as it appears.

    Foot Note: Chanakya’s warning to Chandragupta Maurya “The day the soldier has to demand his dues will be a sad day for Magadha for then, on that day, you will have lost all moral sanction to be King!”

    Will Shri Narendra Modiji (who toiled hard to reach this position,a committed RSS Swayamsewak,
    A fierce Nationalist,A Pragmatic Politician) heed to the caution given by Chanakya to Chandragupta Maurya,Time alone will tell,God alone knows.

    • Pavan says:

      Chanakya’s statement is on working soldier’s not veterans. Everyone knows that the capital budget of Indian armed forces is lesser than the salaries and pensions they pay to both soldiers and the officials (clerks, doctors, cooks etc ). This has to change. I would prefer our soldiers being paid little less with excellent state-of-the-art equipment than them just getting paid higher because of the risk of using poor equipment. If the veterans who are protesting admit that they did not get land under defence quota, engineering/medical seat under defence quota, purchased items in military canteen, did not get civilian government job after retirement, then I will say give them OROP. In India majority of the defence personnel who are true patriots will not protest because they served the nation not milked their sacrifice in this way.

  22. praveen says:

    Every fiasco where ultimately the def services had to be deployed has been created by poor diplomacy . poor bureaucracy and politics .. please analyse the reasons for the 48 , 62 and 65 wars. It was the ineptness of the politicians, diplomats, and bureaucrats. The defence services are not even kitted out for the jobs they are supposed to do because of budget cuts, etc. The situation is so serious that a chief had to publicly, and in disgust say that the army would fight with what they have! Hence, so many casualties, shortage of arty guns, inferior rifles,clothing, planes, and of officers. Luckily, due to poverty, there is no dearth of jawans. Further, the army is employed for all tasks other than training for war — insurgency and terrorism. But these are not what the army is suposed to fight. The military is for meant for external contingencies, not to fight its own people !! Whether it is for disaster relief or internal disturbances, the army is the first to be called out. The consequence of these factors is that we cannot fight a prolonged war as the purchase of equipment is controlled by CAG, fin min, babbooos of various stripes, who know nothing. It is believed that all soldiers are crooks and will not spend wisely. And, ultimately a poorly equipped army is deployed for tasks and problems created by the very same babooos or financial wizards, and soldiers die! My advice to young men and women –don’t join the armed forces, rather study and become bureaucrats … or clerks. No point endangering your life for an ungrateful people. In any case, politicians proclaim that people join the military only to avail of canteen facilities and cheap liquor.

    • AKSHEY KAPILA says:

      Dear all, Mr. N Modi has an aim of making all institutions in INDIA to raise their world ranking, be it industry,trade, shipping on the high seas etc yet he / his government chooses to degrade THE ONLY INSTITUTION in India , THE INDIAN ARMY , ONE OF THE BEST IN THE WORLD . What a pity. He has lowered his, his govts. & India’s image in the eyes of all nations of the globe over & above the population of India & the Indian diaspora. A post by a OROP stalwart says that only Rs4,000 crore are required & that the authority responsible is bloating the sum just to make sure it keeps getting delayed. Brigadier A.KAPILA [Veteran]

  23. himlynx says:

    Rituraj, there are many civilians in the Defence establishment. They all get promotions till age 60 when they retire. Their pension is based on last pay drawn. Yes, they draw Rs 32000 crores pension vs Rs 20000 crores drawn by the soldiers.

    OROP merely means rank based pension. That system existed till 1973 and is the norm throughout the world. India is the only country which pays differential pension to veterans of the same rank and service.

    The problem has arisen because the government is generous to serving personnel and not so generous to veterans. Treat everybody fairly and equally and there will be no problem. Adjust the pensions within the overall budget. So the net impact is zero.

    Yes, the problem is that OROP is a simple issue made complicated. The bureaucracy thrives on making simple things complicated.

    Rituraj Rao says:
    August 18, 2015 at 3:04 pm
    Thanks so much for your feedback. Can you please elaborate on this civilian portion of defense pensions ? How will the net impact become zero after initial transition ?

    Part of the problem is that only little technical information is available on the OROP issue. So all sorts of numbers are being offered. Correct information may clarify many of these misconceptions and increase support for the issue.

  24. archit says:

    so whats the proportional pensionary load of the other govt officials who retire at 60? all others other than these soldier? it HAS to be much much higher since these guys retire at 60 with much higher pay packets and the soldiers – not many reach high ranks and retire very young. – whats the spend on the other pensions ? any number crunching and comparitive analyses? i think even the police, CRPF, railways every one retires at 60.

  25. Ravindranath Ganju.r says:

    Even the army on duty are likely to lose trust in this Govt. May be a time will come when the entire region will be called as *PAKISTAN ” instead of “INDIÀ”, and everything will be lost. Nobody expected or wanted Modi to shut his mind to the great dangers we could face due to this attitude. God save us!

  26. Keron says:

    The Modi regime has inflicted extensive damage on the Services’ izzat..Is there any “mard” in the BJP or NDA who can drill some sense in the Govt to restore the Services’ “izzat” so that the nation’s integrity & sovereignty is not threatened. Wake up Sir, do not destroy in 15 months, an Institution that has earned such ” Izzat” built over over 2 centuries!!

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