Richa Singh is from the batch of 2008-2013. She has been closely associated with the struggle for One Rank One Pension (OROP) and runs heads the Social Media Cell for the campaign: Veterans of India.
The Blue Pencil: What law always your true calling?
Richa Singh: Yes. It was law all the way for me. I remember that from the 9th standard I have wanted to pursue law as a career and do good to the society. I stuck with my choice and have always worked for the betterment of the society (whenever & wherever I can).
TBP: What was life at AIL like? Looking back, what do you miss the most about college life?
RS: Life at AIL was that part of my journey which I will never forget. I was there for a mere 3 years, but I still have friends who I can call “family”. Right after my 12th grade, I moved out from the shield that my parents had kept me in, to a place with immense freedom, exposure and wildernesses. And I immediately accepted the change and adjusted to the hostel. Time at AIL was beautiful and I will always cherish it.
TBP: You are heading the media cell of OROP. Please tell our readers what OROP is all about?
RS: In 1971, the pension of the Army Personnel was decreased from 70% of their salary to a mere 50%, while the pension for the bureaucrats was increased from 30% to 50%.
The fight for OROP has been going on since then and it is only in the last year, that the agitation took a major turn. After more than 200 days today, the veterans continue to bear the scorching heat of the summer sun and the jittery cold winter days in the capital at Jantar Mantar, but all has fallen on the deaf years of the government. The new notification on OROP is equally dissatisfying.
There are 7 key problems with the OROP that has been granted because the Government version highly dilutes the concept.
- Firstly, the base year for implementation of OROP was decided to be FY 2013-14, but in the announcement it was changed to the calendar year 2013. This move completely ruins the definition of OROP by creating a divide between pensioners’ past and present, thereby destroying the very soul of OROP.
- Furthermore, the date of implementation that was agreed to be April 1, 2014, has been conveniently pushed forward to July 1, 2014. This move benefits the government by 2100 crore rupees and a loss to the Ex-Service Men (ESM) by the same amount.
- Thirdly, the government is insisting that the rationalization of pensions be once in five years instead of annually. This will destroy the complete definition of OROP will make it One Rank Five Pensions instead of One Rank One Pension.
- Moreover, the government has approved a one-man judicial commission to study the anomalies and make recommendations whereas the United Front of Ex-Servicemen Movement (UFESM) does not accept a one-man commission and instead demands a five-member commission composed of three Ex-servicemen, one serving officer and one bureaucrat.
- Fifthly, the government has created the much “avoidable” confusion by including VRS (Voluntary Retirement Scheme) in its announcement. However, VRS is a concept borrowed from Civil Service and Public Sector Units where manpower is surplus. However, this is not the scenario with the Armed Forces. This move of the government is against the law.
- The government has also proposed the fixation of pension as the mean average of the pay band instead of the top level (as decided earlier). This defeats the basic ethos of a structured and a hierarchical organization.
- The veterans demand that the OROP be independent of the Central Pay Commission (CPC) and the concept should be in perpetuity. This is because, once adopted by the Parliament, no CPC or any other such commission has the authority to adjudicate upon the same.
It must be noted that points 1-4 were the only points discussed between the veterans and the government representatives, till as late as 1130 hrs, September 5, 2015, the day of the announcement of the government’s proposal for OROP. Points 5-7 were never, at any point of time, discussed with the veterans by the government representatives, till the government announced the proposal at 1430 hrs, September 5, 2015. The inclusion of these points came as a complete surprise to the Ex-servicemen.
It was in June 2015, that the Ex-servicemen commenced nationwide protests and hunger strikes against the BJP led government for their failure to implement the true version of OROP. The biggest agitation is being held at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi. Veterans, families and friends have come from all over the country to protest. Our veterans have been sitting on hunger strikes for days now. Lately, even the women and children have joined in. TBP: What motivated you to join the campaign? What is your role in the entire campaign? How is a social media cell important?
RS: I am the Facebook head for the social media team and have a strong and big team work that works with me day in and day out to make the struggle a success.
The facebook page that we operate from is Veterans of India.
I believe the social media cell is extremely important because the media refuses to cover anything about OROP, and well, for obvious reasons. The social media is the only medium to connect & unite the veterans from across the globe and helps us bridge the gap.
TBP: Lastly, how can readers associate themselves with the campaign?
RS: We are all fauji kids, brothers or sisters and this movement is a sound, peaceful revolution. This movement will get back the honor and status that the 3 SERVICES had back in 1971. We being the fauji kids must come forward and support them. It doesn’t really take more than a minute to share posts!
Richa Singh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.