OROP · pension

Attending A Hearing By Hon’ble Judicial Committee On OROP

WP_20160817_001a256xI spent a bit of time on the 16th August trying to ascertain from the telephone exchange at HQ WC the precise protocol to be followed for attending the OROP anomalies hearing announced in the press and on the DESW web-site. Staff at the exchange were the very spirit of considerate helpfulness as they tried to track down personnel responsible for coordinating the event. However, after repeated attempts to contact the Officers in-charge of the process, who were busy elsewhere, they suggested to me I could consider proceeding to the auditorium at WC on the 17th and sign in for attending the event.

The next day, at the main gate of the HQs, I was advised I would need to collect a token to proceed to the venue. Staff in-charge of the tokens wanted to know whether I was “registered” for attending the hearing. They had a list of associations and individuals who had apparently been “registered” for the event. That was the first reference that I had come across for something called “registration”. The notice on DESW web-site, news in the press and even my efforts on the telephone the previous day had yielded no reference to any such thing. But the WC personnel at the gate, with their customary efficiency, thoroughness and courtesy, directed me to the auditorium after issuing me with a token for proceeding to the place.

Officers at the auditorium, diligently performing their fairly complex duties of screening attendees, too brought up the issue of registration. One official view expressed was that those associations that were “registered” could attend the forenoon session while others and “individuals” (like myself) could return for the afternoon session. A group of veterans that had travelled from a distant rural spot in a neighboring state were reluctant to accept this logic as they too had not been informed of the requirement of prior “registration”. They were heard asserting they were a “National Body” and needed to be heard.

In a private remark to myself, I decided that as I too wasn’t exactly an “Anti-national Body”, I could consider persisting in my attempts to attend. After all, if not “Registered”, I was also not “Un-registered”, was I? But, luckily, I did not have to share that line of logic with the Officer managing the show. I was very courteously offered a cup of coffee in the lobby of the auditorium and fairly quickly allotted a token for attending the hearing on instructions of a smart Officer of Captain rank.

The hearing was conducted in a thoroughly efficient fashion as associations and individuals, including a wheelchair borne veteran, presented their points. The Hon’ble Chairman gave everyone a patient hearing with an occasional gentle reminder that the hearing was connected with anomalies on OROP and other un-related issues were not within purview of the Hon’ble Committee. Decorum was maintained and the proceedings were orderly and dignified as each association/individual proceeded to the stage to present their points.

The only jarring notes at a personal level were when several sets of attendees tried to make cases of being “superior” to other sub-sets of veterans and expressing indignation at being equated with them or not having sufficiently higher margins over them. It struck me that it is precisely for this precise mindset that personnel in the armed forces often get excluded from things like NFU. Here was a hearing on OROP that is meant to elevate older pensioners to the level of current pensioners yet the focus of some of the veterans was on OUOO (One Up On Others).

There was a reference to an amendment that was made to the rank equivalence table in Circular 555 when it was originally published. An opinion was expressed by a set of veterans that sounded as if correcting that table had been part of some sort of conspiracy to deny some ranks proper equivalence. Granted, the authorities could have issued a corrigendum rather than just switching the table online. But the rank equivalence table is one of the things about OROP implementation that I personally find reasonably accurate. But taking a cue from the event, I’ve started scoring out incorrect data without erasing it and inserting correct data in tables on my own humble blog lest amendments and corrections become an inspiration for conspiracy theories.

I took barely five minutes in presenting my own point about the anomaly of my OROP pension based on the consideration that no one had retired with my rank and qualifying service combination in OROP base year 2013 and how Officers nowadays naturally progress to the next higher time-bound rank (with higher OROP) much before attaining QS equal to mine. I also submitted to the Hon’ble Chairman my prior written representation of April 2016 on the same matter that had been sent to DESW but had not been included in the list of anomalies referred to the Hon’ble Committee by MOD. The nature of this anomaly is reflected in this blog post.

The most helpful interjections and clarifications by the senior Army Officer co-ordinating the representations were extremely, I would even say vitally important in facilitating the whole process. The senior Officer quickly explained to Hon’ble Chairman  the finer details of points being made by veterans and provided brief and clear background information on the subject at hand.

Before I left the venue after presenting my point, I heard no representation on OROP for Maj with more than 20 years of service being made at par with OROP of Lt Col with equal service. I can’t say if it was taken up after I left. Also, I was left with the distinct impression that pre December 2004 Lt Col pensioners with more than 26 years of service, both Select and TS, while seeking OROP pension parity with Col(TS) pensioners with equal QS could seriously consider keeping their relatively straight forward time-bound rank issue distinct and separate from the one about all “Select” Lt Col pensioners getting “Select” Col pension. The latter appears to have a totally different rationale , not always clearly understood, and the two may not mix well for an effective clubbed representation.

{Edit}: I have tried to bring out the different aspects of this issue in a subsequent blog-post .


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