New Delhi: After a long day of hectic activity, a big announcement and sharp reactions thereafter, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar met ex-servicemen who have been on a hunger strike at Jantar Mantar on Saturday evening and sought to clarify the misgivings on the word VRS which finds its way into the government’s OROP announcement. He is believed to have agreed with the veterans that there is indeed nothing called VRS (voluntary retirement from service) in the defence services and the right word to replace it would be pre-mature retirement (PMR).
It’s not clear yet whether the protesters are fully satisfied with the minister’s gesture – there are conflicting reports on this – but they are certainly wary of the use of VRS, which started making its presence felt in the whole OROP stand-off very late. Many ex-servicemen from the three wings of the defence forces called it a “bureaucratic mischief”.
“There’s nothing called VRS in defence services; it’s nonsensical. Some bureaucrat with ulterior motive has introduced it to mislead our movement and the government. The objective behind this is to prevent extending OROP to those who have taken pre-mature retirement,” Maj Gen (retd) Jagjit Singh Mahil, a member of the ex-servicemen group on agitation told Firstpost.
VRS vs PMR
According to ex-servicemen, there’s no concept of VRS in defence service. Instead, there is the PMR, which a jawan or an official can opt for during his service tenure.
· VRS is a scheme offered by the government undertakings, PSUs, banks, corporate sector – in which a lump sum amount is given to the employee as ‘golden handshake’ and no pension is offered.
· In defence services, for officers, the minimum permissible service period is 20 years, whereas for the jawans, it’s 15 years, to be eligible for PMR.
· After completing the statutory period, if one seeks PMR and it is accepted, the officer or the jawan becomes entitled for pension.
· If an officer or a jawan is short even by a day in completing his permissible service period and gets PMR, he won’t be eligible for pension.
· PMR is usually applied by defence personnel, in the following cases: (1) when one is superseded by a junior and the former doesn’t want to work under the latter (2) fails to get promoted on time, and decides not to continue (3) unfit on medical grounds (4) extraordinary conditions related to personal problems.
· The government has said the OROP scheme will not be applicable to pre-mature retirees.
· Ex-servicemen have demanded OROP for pre-mature retirees as well.
General (retd) VK Chaturvedi said, “We have the PMR system and those who go for it should also be given OROP because they have served the defence forces and are drawing pension. They are relieved with the consent of the ministry. If it rejects their application, they cannot leave the service. Therefore, OROP becomes their legitimate right.”
Added Commodore (retd) Yashwant Prakash added, “It’s misleading to equate VRS with PMR. If, one doesn’t complete his permissible period, his option of getting pension automatically becomes invalid and so there’s no question of OROP. But, if he’s eligible for pension, OROP should be applicable to him as in normal case announced by the government.”
Though, the retired defence personnel on agitation welcomed the government’s OROP announcement, they were visibly angry on the use of the term ‘VRS’ and said they would continue with their relay hunger strike and agitation.
The leader of the movement on OROP, Maj Gen (retd) Satbir Singh said, “Government agreed to OROP implementation. We welcome this move. But, we’ll approach Defence Ministry for clarification on ‘VRS’. We want that OROP should be applicable to pre-mature retirees as well. If the government agrees to this demand of ours, we’ll withdraw our fast unto death, but continue our agitation and hunger strike till all conditions are fulfilled.”
No one has the clue how this term ‘VRS’ got onto the negotiation table. According to the ex-servicemen, the term ‘VRS’ came into existence “all of a sudden” some three-four days ago during discussions with the government.
A majority of those on agitation believes that “it was done intentionally to derail the process”, but nobody has any idea who put this term into their negotiation with the government.
“It got into the discussion some three-four days back. It’s the game of the IAS lobby which controls each and every decision-making body of the government. And, it’s not possible to have VRS in defence service, as there’s already shortage of 12,500 officers. The question doesn’t arise. In fact, the government wants to keep 40% of those who seek PMR out of OROP to save money,” said Capt (retd) Shubhendu Kumar.