ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Two Classes of Pensioners

The government has done great disservice to the voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) pensioners (called PMR, or premature retirees, in the armed forces, they are those who have completed 20 years of service in the case of officers and 15 years in the case of jawans) by excluding them from the benefits of the one-rank-one-pension (OROP) rule. If the defence minister’s statement announcing the OROP is anything to go by, the government has created two classes of pensioners: one which is superannuated and the other which is not. It has belittled the services of the latter. As per estimates, PMR comprise as much as 40% of the retirees who the government has sought to exclude from the benefits of OROPs. The PMR are equally, if not more, deserving of OROP’s benefits simply because the service conditions of the armed forces made them seek premature retirement: the lack of promotion avenues vis-à-vis the harsh service conditions being the principal reason.

In our country where a secure government job is coveted, the fact that 40% sought premature retirement shows how compelled they were to leave service. There are no statistics but only a small percentage of these retirees would have done better in terms of earnings and standard of living compared to what they would have got had they continued in service. So they suffered a double whammy: loss of livelihood much earlier than those who superannuated, and lower pension at the time of voluntary retirement due to lower rank and shorter duration of service, and, now, to compound their problems, the proposal to block OROP. Having retired at a young age, they would require money much more than their superannuated counterparts as their children would still be in school or college. In the case of the premature retirees at the officer level, this lopsided application of OROP overlooks that though they retired after 20 years of service, they had put in four years of hard training at the National Defence Academy and the Indian Military Academy before joining the army. There would be an equally large number who would have joined the Sainik schools and the Rashtriya Indian Military College. In other words, an entire life spent in tough army conditions and yet being forced to seek voluntary retirement.

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