Sunday, 6 November 2016

Differences on perfect definition of OROP : Defence ministry has remained a labyrinth - not easy to tame: Major Navdeep Singh

Differences on perfect definition of OROP :  Defence ministry has remained a labyrinth - not easy to tame: Major Navdeep Singh

With political parties trading charges on the suicide of ex-soldier Ram Kishan Grewal on OROP, emotions are running high on both sides. Major Navdeep Singh, advocate in Punjab and Haryana high court, who was a member of the defence minister’s committee of experts to review service and pension matters which submitted its report in 2015, talked to Nalin Mehta about the OROP controversy and why the ministry of defence needs urgent reforms:

What is the current problem with OROP implementation which could have led to this suicide?

There are conflicting reports about the sad demise of the veteran. Some seem to suggest that he was perturbed about non-release of the approved pension under the OROP scheme by his bank. If that is the case, then it is really unfortunate since that would mean that an amount legally approved by the government was not disbursed to him.

Overall the ministry of defence claims to have disbursed Rs 5,507 crore in two instalments for OROP. Apart from other issues, the problem also seems to be in the distribution mechanism down the chain, particularly at the level of bank branches. This needs to be fixed.

Government is implementing OROP but what about the larger veteran demand that what they have got is one rank many pensions, not one rank one pension?

Various sides have differed upon the perfect definition of OROP. Many veteran organisations have interpretational differences with OROP as notified, including the periodicity of revision. Then there were serious anomalies in OROP tables which were being looked into by a judicial committee. The committee has submitted its report. I think all sides should hold their horses till this is processed. In case, there still are problems, tackle them through remedies provided under law rather than politicise a sensitive subject. A democracy provides full opportunity to exercise legal rights in case of dissatisfaction. I personally do not agree to an approach of excessive emotional rhetoric which has the propensity of stoking discontent.

What about disability pensions and the controversy on downgrading of status? How does that square with the pedestal armed forces are being put on?

The disability pension controversy was shockingly unfortunate and its origin was the twisted data and a sadistic interpretation provided to the 7th Pay Commission on disabled soldiers. In case disabilities in the defence services are increasing due to a higher stress and strain of military life, the answer is to take steps to check the deteriorating health profile and increase the payouts to compensate loss of health, not to slash disability pensions! Ditto for status issues since such moves are unilaterally imposed and result in deleterious effect on morale.

Chest thumping and governmental downgrading can’t go hand in hand. Does government’s left hand not know what it is doing?

Irrespective of the party in power, the ministry of defence has remained a labyrinth which is not easy to tame. There are structural problems wherein the defence services or even other stakeholders are not a part of the decision-making process and a one-sided view is provided to the higher layers. There is no opportunity granted to rebut or check the veracity of what is put up to decision-making authorities. It is not that one hand does not know what the other is doing, actually one hand does not let the other know what it is doing.

What kind of reforms do we need to fix the problems in MoD?

Two very simple suggestions without tinkering with the basic structure. First, the decision-making should be collegiate: probably by a ‘Defence Board’ chaired by the defence minister with a total of three-five members, with inputs of neutral personalities and experts wherever required. When files move up, these should be referred to all stakeholders for their comments so that nobody is able to hoodwink the decision-makers by mischief. Second, there is no institutional mechanism currently for the political executive to know the pulse of the problems of serving defence personnel and veterans, like there is for civil employees and pensioners. This assumes even higher importance since defence personnel (rightly) cannot form associations. Hence, a participative system akin to the Joint Consultative Machinery (JCM) for civil employees should be constituted to resolve grievances.

Similarly, the government had admirably constituted a standing committee for veterans in October 2014 which was to meet after every three months, but the lower bureaucracy has ensured that not even one meeting has taken place till date. The current defence minister appears to be keen to take the bull by the horns, but all personalities should support him in a politically neutral manner rather than pinpricking him all the time.

Read at: Times of India Blog

These employees will get 100% hike even without Pay Commission

These employees will get 100% hike even without Pay Commission

New Delhi: It is ironical that while central government employees are protesting the meager pay hike received under 7th Pay Commission, the Members of Parliament are likely to get a 100 percent hike in salary soon.

As per reports, the PMO has agreed to the hike in the salary of the Members f Parliament. The Joint Committee on Salaries and Allowances of Members of Parliament headed by BJP MP Yogi Adityanath had recommended hike in basic compensation of MPs from Rs 1,90,000 per month to Rs 2,80,000 per month (salary along with constituency and office staff allowances).

The government had last revised the MPs’ salary in 2010. PMO has also agreed to the hike in its own allowances.

The salary of the President of India is also expected to go up from the existing Rs 1.5 lakh per month to Rs 5 lakh. State governor’s salary is seen rising to Rs 2.5 lakh per month from the current Rs 1.10 lakh per month.

The government is likely to bring separate bills in the winter session of Parliament, starting November 16 for the salary hikes for President, Governors and MPs. The salary raise of the vice-president, who is also chairman of the Rajya Sabha, will also be sough during the session.

Some more allowances hike likely are as follows:
  • MP's constituency allowance-It will rise to Rs 90,000 per month from existing Rs 45,000 every month
  • The secretarial assistance and office allowance- It is seen going up Rs 90,000 from Rs 45,000.
  • Annual furniture allowance for MPs’ official residence- It rises to Rs 1,50,000 a year.
  • Free broadband for residential space worth Rs 1,700 per month.
  • The monthly pensions for former MPs rises from Rs 20,000 to Rs 35,000 per month.
  • Those MPs who served for more than five years would get an additional amount in pension - the number of years multiplied by Rs 2,000.
  • Free government accommodation, air travel and train travel facilities,three landline telephone connections,two mobile phones, a loan of Rs 4 lakh to buy a vehicle are other perks given to the Parliamentarians.

Read at: Kashmir Monitor

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