The bureaucracy in India is known not to be the most efficient in the world, although there is some debate about whether it ought to have earned the epithet of the worst bureaucracy in Asia. Apart from the inordinate time taken to reach a decision, all too often these are half-measures, when not quarter-measures. The consequence is that the disease for which the decision is meant to be a cure lingers, and sometimes gets worse as a result of official “treatment”. The manner in which the One Rank One Pension (OROP) matter has been dealt with, illustrates this point. Despite Prime Ministerial nominee Narendra Modi making an explicit promise to implement OROP during the campaign, and himself being viewed as among the few politicians who mean what they say and implement in deed what was promised in word, 16 months have gone by while the community of military veterans awaited action on the promise made by an individual whom they overwhelmingly supported during the 2014 polls. Prime Minister Modi has made clear from his functioning since 26 May 2014 that he is democratic in his approach and seeks a consensus on issues rather than force others to accept his view. This is clearly the reason why so much time has elapsed before OROP gets announced, most likely in a manner similar to that on offer more than a year ago. Had the BJP managed to prevail over bureaucratic reluctance to allow the military such a welcome step (albeit the same privilege that the highest cadres within the civilian bureaucracy gave themselves decades ago without a tremor of doubt) and implemented OROP early in its term, the party would have got the political benefit of the move, something which is unlikely to occur in a situation where the decision appears to have been forced on the government, despite the truth that PM Modi, from the start, has been in favour of early implementation of OROP but could not find a consensus on the matter among his senior colleagues and officials.
OROP is crucial in the maintenance of an elevated level of morale within the armed forces, which is the only service that places its life on the line each day of active duty on frontline positions. Since 1947, there has never been a day when the armed forces, especially the Army, have not faced the risk of hostile fire. The military has been steeled in the crucible of conflict almost every day of its existence in independent India, and the least that a grateful nation could do would be to make sure that our heroes and heroines in uniform are confident that they and their families will be cared for once they leave service. Such a boost to morale needed to have been factored in during bureaucratic consultations on the matter, but judging by the tardy pace of implementation of a decision taken by Narendra Modi even before the last Lok Sabha elections, this was not done. It is high time that the military in India be given the respect it deserves, including as an institution which has been scrupulous in its adherence to the principles of democracy, primary among which is civilian control exercised through the political executive. OROP is a welcome move and although late, needs to be implemented.