In what should have been a straight-forward matter of implementation, unexplained delays, accompanied by publicly displayed recriminations and complaints, do sometimes give a rather unsettling impression of wheels within wheels, often seeming to spin in opposing directions.
As to why a clearly defined manner of rationalizing pensions has had to go through the cycle of evasions, accusations, public protests and foot-dragging can never be fully clear to most stake holders. The problem has been aggravated for affected veterans by the marked reluctance, on part of the authorities and the representative bodies engaged in steering the matter to some form of conclusion, to share the nature of their deliberations or details of the modalities of implementing OROP.
Of direct concern to stake holders was the precise manner in which OROP pensions needed to be calculated, the actual data on which these calculations were to be based and the manner of validation that needed to be put in place to ensure freedom of the final award from errors and mis-calculations.
Even now, in-spite of a rather vocal movement over the implementation of OROP, there is precious little clarity on how the definition of OROP has to be adhered to. With that in mind, it is a bit of relief that the "tables" for OROP have now at last appeared. A word of appreciation for the government sraff who must have worked hard to ensure implementation would not exactly be out of place. Most importantly, with the tables having been circulated, those affected have something in black and white to base their queries upon.
There is no place like the beginning. At the risk of repetition, it may be useful to choose to be guided by the official pronouncement on how OROP was to be implemented. To summarize the manner of fixing pensions under OROP, and these are authentic quotes from Govt Of India, MOD, DESW Letter No. 12(1)/2014/D(Pen/Pol)-Part II dated 07 November 2015:
* "Pension of past pensioners would be re-fixed on the basis of pension of retirees of calendar year 2013 and the benefit will be effective with effect from 01 July 2014."
* "Pension will be re-fixed for all pensioners on the basis of the average of minimum and maximum pension of personnel retired in 2013 in the same rank and with the same length of service."
We can now approach the implementation details and tables that have been issued vide GOI MOD DESW letter number 12 (1)/2014/D(Pen/Pol) - Part II dated 03 February 2016.
Firstly, this letter refers to the previous letter dated 07 November 2015 and makes it clear that the tables attached are based on the principles enunciated in the earlier letter.
So, one should safely assume that all figures quoted in the tables are based on averages of minimum and maximum pensions of personnel, with the same service, who retired in calendar year 2013. All that is required to validate the tables, and to assure oneself that these conform to the principles stated in the letter dated 07 November 2015, are access to basic information as to what service number, name, rank with x years of service who retired in calendar year 2013 had the minimum pension amounting to how much and, also, what service number, name, same rank, also with x years of service also retired on 2013 with the maximum pension amounting to how much.
Simple! One only has to take these minimum and maximum pensions, add them and divide them by 2 and then check that that the OROP pension for x years of QS for that rank is the same as the average. We can then be sure that at least the tables say what the original "principle enunciating" letter of 07 Nov 2015 had, well, enunciated.
Now, and this is very important, every one may not agree with contents of that letter. It may be argued:
The revision of OROP pensions should not be quinquennial, as the letter says, but be annual or at the very least biennial.
Some sections may feel the OROP pension should not have been the mean of maximum and minimum of pension in calendar year 2013 for same rank and same service, as the letter has laid down, but should have been equal to the maximum.
People could disagree with the principle stated in the letter that the calendar year 2013 would be considered for taking into account the maximum and minimum pensions of pensioners who retired in that year, stating the financial year 2013-14 should have been considered.
Associations and groups could even argue that the date of implementation be 01 April 2014 as was the original intention stated by the Govt of the day and not 01 July 2014 as has now been implemented . After all, parties in power change but the Govt is Govt. What the Govt has stated once should not be undone merely because another political party has come to power.
Could veterans not argue and protest on those lines? Of course they could and they have to the point of, if I may put it, contracting laryngitis.
But accepting all the shortcomings or lacunae in the Nov 7 letter, we do, I think, have an entitlement in trusting that, if not true OROP, then at the very least the contents of the 07 Nov 2015 letter would be implemented in letter and spirit and that the implementation instructions and tables issued would do exactly that. We would be entitled to transparency and clarity in the implementation which would have total conformance with what the letter dated 07 Nov 2015 says. We would have the handy means of checking conformance of tallying the averages against figures in the implementation tables as described.
But coming to the actual tables, one is presented with a slightly puzzling situation. There is, of course, no means of verifying the figures presented in the tables. There is no amplifying statement accompanying the table for clarity saying, "Minimum/Maximum pensions for Rank x, Service y years in calendar year 2013 are Amt A/Amt B", or words to that effect. Not that there is any doubt in anyone's mind that the official figures would reflect anything but the actual pensions diligently collated by the agencies assigned the task.
But any stake-holder first looking at the tables could justifiably experience some degree of confusion with the manner in which figures have been reproduced in the table. Let us take Table 1 to start with. It starts with a qualifying service of 0.5 years. The table lists the pension of Lt Col/Lt Col(TS) as well as as pension of Col(TS) as 17233/- for a QS of 0.5 years. Now, no matter how close to the stereotypical description of "military intelligence" an individual be, it should be easy enough to realize that no one is a Lt Col or Lt Col(TS) or Col(TS) at QS of 6 months. Also, if one's memory serves one right, no one gets a pension after a qualifying service of 0.5 years.
Clearly, no one could have retired in calendar year 2013 in the rank of Lt Col(TS), Lt Col or Col(TS) with a qualifying service of 0.5 years. Definitely not with a pension! So how did they get the minimum and maximum pensions for Officers retiring in 2013 with Lt Col(TS), Lt Col, Col(TS) ranks and having a QS of 6 months?
When the letter dated 07 Nov 2015 very clearly stated, and I repeat, "Pension will be re-fixed for all pensioners on the basis of the average of minimum and maximum pension of personnel retired in 2013 in the same rank and with the same length of service", did it leave any room for doubt as to how the OROP pension was to be calculated/fixed/ displayed in the tables? When the letter dated 03 Feb 2016 clearly mentions that the tables are for implementing the letter dated 07 Nov 2015, there is even less room for doubt that the letter dated 07 Nov 2015 is a commandment of sorts.
How do we then explain the pensions for Lt Col (TS), Lt Col, Col (TS) ranks at a qualifying service of 0.5 years as mentioned in the table when, obviously, there was no pension, minimum, maximum, or average in calendar year 2013 for a QS of 0.5 years? That figure has not been calculated as per the rule stated in the letter dated 07 Nov 2015. Some other method has been used to establish that figure. Why has the process or method of calculation not been clearly spelt out?
Where is the guarantee the entire table is not based on some manner of calculation other than just getting the "the average of minimum and maximum pension of personnel retired in 2013 in the same rank and with the same length of service"?
Was the calculation based on the pay-bands for different ranks and not on the "the average of minimum and maximum pension of personnel retired in 2013 in the same rank and with the same length of service"? Was it some increment based calculation as in the case of the 7 CPC matrix? Was it some other thumb rule devised by the specialists in accountancy that some veterans are in such awe of, perhaps with good reason?
To further illustrate the ambiguities one can associate with the tables, how is it that the afore-mentioned table mentions the OROP pension of a Lt Col/Lt Col(TS) at QS of 32 years as 34765/- ? Where was this figure obtained from? Did officers with Lt Col/Lt Col(TS) with a QS of 32 years actually retire in "calendar year 2013" based on whose minimum and maximum pensions this OROP pension was calculated? Can the reason for a Lt Col/Lt Col(TS) with 32 years of service, retiring in that rank in "calendar year 2013" be shared with all the older Lt Col retirees whose pensions are to be fixed based on that figure?
Such doubts, in the absence of clarifications, attach to all the tables. It can only enhance trust and understanding if the authorities and those in the forefront of obtaining a just OROP share these basic details with all stake holders.