OROP must for a young Indian Army

An unusual casualty of the One Rank One Pension (OROP) saga has been the Pre-Mature-Retirement (PMR) system, which exists in the armed forces. While, voluntary retirement requires paying a person a lump sum of money and asking him to go home before his time to retire, the PMR system refers to retirement after an individual has earned his pension. In the forces, soldiers can retire earliest after fifteen years and officers at twenty years of service respectively. Thus, all who retire are <g data-gr-id="139">pension</g> holders.  

 Why do the forces have a PMR system? The forces attract the youth of the country, and they are required in large numbers. A large standing army that is contrary to small selected civil services cadre is especially required for India and is mandatory, considering the numerous threats the nation faces. What are the physical and mental ingredients that go into maintaining this large young force, ready to pay the ultimate sacrifice? These are complex physical or administrative issue that PMR addresses while keeping in mind the “izzat” (honour) of the individual in a rank conscious army. 

These are people who take pride in themselves; have served their purpose in military terms and moved on in a very natural way so that the best and the ablest are available for national defence.  
The bedrock of military is discipline and pride.  The dictionary meaning of the word discipline is “follower or pupil of a leader”. An average leader thus needs the authority that is engrained in the system of ranks. These start for a jawan with one stripe and officers with pips on their shoulders. Thus, the rank structure is very important and, therefore, the agitation for one rank one pension. Besides this, there are other aspects of morale, pride, leadership, and a host of other issues.

Pride in the forces is maintained individually and collectively by a large number of methods. It is national pride, pride for the Constitution of India, pride for the national flag under which we serve, and arm, service and unit pride. Pride ensures a winning ethos. Collective pride and cohesion are maintained by grouping the men in units, squadrons, and ships, which build cohesion, a sense of oneness. Regiments like Sikh, Jat, Gorkha, maintain collective pride and it becomes easier to address issues of “esprit de corps” which thrive on proximity.  

Individual pride comes from a deep sense of commitment. Thus, it becomes difficult for a senior to serve under a junior. To obviate this, once a soldier has done his mandatory service of fifteen years for a jawan and twenty for an officer, PMR allows them to go home with dignity. What does it do administratively? It ensures that the best stay in the forces. Moreover, it helps to maintain a youthful army and ensures that an individual with pride is free to preserve his/her dignity after contributing in the service of the nation. It is a win-win situation for all. 

However, one must recall that even on occasions when the soldier leaves for greener pastures, the individual has to start all over again and is considered an outsider in the new establishment. The same logic is applicable for jawans. In fact, their life is very tough with long periods of separation. The acute shortage of family accommodation leads to domestic problems due to the breaking up of the joint family system. Therefore, after fifteen years, those who are not moving up in rank choose to go home.

What will happen if the OROP is not authorised for PMR? The situation would be very serious, as an individual would have to continue to stay and serve under his junior. This will create unnecessary fat in the army. The government order implies that it will continue to pay lifelong pension for those, who have continued to serve, swallowing their pride compared to those who got out with dignity.

The decision is an economic nightmare and an administrative headache. The first board of officers is held after fifteen years of service, and roughly 50 percent get approved. Thus, there is a regular backlog of officers who have been overlooked for promotion to the next rank. The disallowance of OROP to those wanting to go out on being overlooked will create an unhealthy situation. The PMR allows people with “izzat” to move on, making way for a younger, healthier and fitter army. The same is the case with jawans; they too are motivated to move on because the stripe on the sleeve makes him a guard commander. Otherwise, he has to serve under junior.  

There are other social issues that PMR addresses. Soldiers serve under trying conditions causing medical problems, acute domestic complications, and a whole host of other issues, as this is not a not a nine to five job. It is a national commitment. There comes a time in your life when your children start calling you uncle after a long separation, and this is no laughing matter.

A wrong impression is being created against those who have retired prematurely. Therefore, there is a need for many corrections in this regard. I am glad that the Prime Minister has clarified for the jawans, but the same large heart is needed in the case of the officers too.

(The author is a retired Brigadier. The views expressed are personal)

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