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Veterans unhappy with OROP-a Jumla implemented with vast ambiguities and anomalies

No such confusion allegedly exists in retired Army personnel of Pakistan and China.

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Political “Jumlas” used by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his ministers and campaign team are often seen as successful in garnering votes since 2013 but the real issue is hanging fire since 2013 when PM Modi promised to give One Rank one pension (OROP) for military veterans in a first public meeting in Rewari in 2013 after being declared as BJP’s prime ministerial candidate. But the promise has remained unfulfilled due to ambiguities created by Modi government.

Finally one rank one pension scheme was announced by the Modi government on September 6,2015 but ex-servicemen are unhappy saying that they have been actually cheated by the present government.

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As the matter stands an old General is allegedly getting less pension than a major retired in 2015 is drawing currently.

OROP scheme finalized by FM Arun Jaitley

Veterans unfulfilled demands

Government said that pension of the past pensioners would be re-fixed on the basis of retirees of the calendar year 2013, taking into account the average of minimum and maximum pension of the personnel retired, and the scheme is effective  from 1.7.2014, with 2013 as the base year.

Veteran’s demand OROP from April 1,2014 with 2015 as the base year.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitely finalised that  OROP will be average of minimum and maximum pension scale in 2013.

Veterans demand Base for pension should be maximum of the pension scale in 2013.

The scheme to be revised every 5 years.

The scheme should be revised every 1 or 2 year.

One-member judicial commission to submit report every six months.

Five member team under Defense Minister to submit report on monthly basis.

Pension for those drawing above the average shall be protected.

About three million military personnel covered under the OROP scheme. The arrears are to be paid in four half-yearly installments and all widows, including war widows, will get arrears in one go.

Arrears will be paid in four installments, calculated on half-yearly basis. However, exceptions will be given to all family pensioners including those in receipt of Special/Liberalized family pension and Gallantry award winners for whom the arrears will be paid in a single installment.

The estimated cost to exchequer is expected to be Rs 8,000 to 10,000 crore and will increase in future.

Senior officials argue that a senior officer can never receive a smaller pension than a junior officer.

The government initially said soldiers who took “voluntary retirement” would not be entitled to OROP.

at least 40% of servicemen retire early

Actually the one Rank One Pension signifies equal pension to military personnel retiring in the same rank with same length of service, regardless of the date of retirement. Veterans emphasize that OROP is like an honour to them and this type of implementation negates the justice as the military personnel are not treated in equity which are so necessary for  national security.

Retired major General Satbir Singh has rightly claimed that what has been implemented is not OROP but one-time increase in pensions. If the anomalies are not removed, a senior defence personnel will start drawing less pension than their juniors, a system unacceptable constitutionally, fairly and justifiably.

Amid hightened tensions between India and its nuclear-armed neighbour Pakistan, a dispute with the country’s military is something Modi cannot afford.

Military personnel even lined up to return their medals, points to the fact that how the army personnel h are clamoring for their desired pay.

According to the findings of a study of salaries conducted by the Institute of Defence Studies  and Analyses, those serving at the highest positions in United States and United Kingdom are paid much more then their Indian counterparts.

For instance, a General in the UK military would earn close to $23,000 a month as basic salary in purchasing  power parity terms while while his Indian counterpart would get less than $10000. No such confusion allegedly exists in retired Army personnel of Pakistan and China.

 

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By : Arti Bali

Senior Journalist

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Decimated by Xiaomi-led tsunami, Indian smartphone makers toil to survive

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New Delhi, Jan 22 : Once the darling of Indian smartphone users, desi brands like Micromax, Karbonn, Lava, Intex and few others have nearly been decimated by affordable-yet-powerful devices from the Chinese vendors that have flooded both online and offline channels.

In the 2013-2014 period, the domestic brands gained great traction and enjoyed 40-45 per cent market share — till the time Chinese behemoths entered the fray.

Led by Xiaomi, the China-based manufacturers registered 58 per cent market share while Indian local brands had a mere 13 per cent market share in the third quarter (July-August-September) of 2018, according to latest figures shared by Counterpoint Research.

Riding on the success of its budget Redmi series, Xiaomi touched a new high in the third quarter of 2018 in India. According to International Data Corporation (IDC), Xiaomi shipped 11.7 million units and became the top brand with 27.3 per cent share in the third quarter.

Today, smartphones contribute to over 90 per cent of the sale volume for Xiaomi in India and recently, the company entered into new segments like TVs, routers and air purifiers etc which got popular too.

Despite the government push “the local vendor fell prey to China-based vendors owing to powerful specifications at a very affordable and aggressive pricing, thus leading to these vendors almost fading away from the Indian smartphone market,” stressed Upasana Joshi, Associate Research Manager, Client Devices, IDC India.

According to Prabhu Ram, Head-Industry Intelligence Group (IIG), CyberMedia Research (CMR), the rate of change of smartphone technology is phenomenally swift and today, disruption is the rule of the game.

“Smartphones are becoming incredibly sophisticated with decreasing costs. With increasing adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), it is imperative for smartphone brands to ramp up their internal research and development, and product engineering capabilities,” Ram told IANS.

Xiaomi has managed to generate a strong pull for its brand through aggressive product specs and pricing which very few brands can match.

“This has helped the brand to gain mind share, followed by market share and become the top smartphone brand in India in its third year of India operations,” said Tarun Pathak, Associate Director at Counterpoint Research.

Later, Pathak added, the strong demand for Xiaomi’s products during flash sales further spiked consumer interest with retailers too started showing interest in stocking Xiaomi products as they sell very fast.

Aiming to help domestic smartphone manufacturers recover lost ground, the government has taken several measures in the recent past, like easing norms for local manufacturing and hiking customs duty on mobile phones.

The government also came up with a phased manufacturing plan to boost indigenous production of mobile phones by providing tax relief and other incentives on components and accessories used for the devices.

However, most of the Chinese vendors are now manufacturing and locally sourcing parts so they are not affected by changes in the policy.

Unless the Indian vendors ramp up research and development, they will not succeed at the smartphone wars. “

“They cannot simply rely on just contract manufacturers to get them their competitive edge,” Ram noted.

There is, however, a thin silver lining for the Indian players.

In the less than Rs 5,000 segment lies a huge potential for FTBs (first-time buyers) of smartphones and the ones migrating from feature phones to smartphones.

“Currently, there is no vendor in the market who is focusing on this segment as availability of easy financing schemes has raised the overall average selling price (ASP) of smartphones.”

“If local vendors focus on this less than 5K segment and launch products which are equivalent in all means to China-based vendors (quality, pricing and promotions) along with some subsidies from Telco players like Reliance and Airtel, it might help them make a comeback,” explained Joshi.

With the revised government policies on e-commerce players and level-playing game for all ecosystem channel partners, offline will continue to remain relevant along with a power-play game in the online channel too for all the smartphone players.

“Micromax, Intex, Karbonn and Lava have had deep reach and presence across offline retail counters. They can leverage on this strength and come back to market with good quality, high-rated specifications at affordable prices,” said Joshi.

(Nishant Arora can be contacted at [email protected])

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Green activists to build a Taj with plastic/polythene waste in Agra

Eco-bricks are made of plastic bottles that are stuffed with polythene bags and sealed.

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Taj mahal

Agra, Jan 22 : Green activists will attempt to construct a Taj Mahal with plastic and polythene waste at the Etmauddaula viewpoint park on the Yamuna river here.

At a workshop here by NGO Unfold Foundation to train activists on making eco-bricks with plastic bottles, members of the River Connect Campaign announced they would work on putting together a model of the Taj Mahal with these building blocks. The efforts could take around six months.

Eco-bricks are made of plastic bottles that are stuffed with polythene bags and sealed.

“This is a highly cost effective waste-control exercise based on common sense. We collect used plastic bottles, pack them with packing material, gutkha pouches and polythene, make the bottles air tight and seal them. The bottles become rock solid and are good enough to last 500 years,” Dr Meeta Kulshreshtha, a surgeon, and coordinator of Unfold Foundation, told IANS.

“If one person can give us one bottle filled with waste material, in one year, we will have 20 lakh such eco-bricks to build any solid structure,” Programme Convener Harvijay Bahia said.

River Connect Campaign member Chaturbhuj Tiwari said: “Every week when we clean a patch of Yamuna riverbed, we gather heaps of polythene and used plastic material. If we can manage to fill all this in plastic bottles and jars, we could not only help solve a major urban problem, but have material ready for a structure to be used by the public. Tree guards, benches and stools are among the products that can be made.”

The Taj city daily generates around a thousand tons of civic garbage, most of it plastic and polythene waste.

“If each household starts filling up bottles with used polythene bags and sliced plastic, we could easily prevent pollution of rivers and water bodies and also avoid choking of drains and sewer lines,” social activist Shravan Kumar Singh said.

(Brij Khandelwal can be reached at [email protected])

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RSS affliates warn against farm loan waiver in interim budget

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Farmers Protest

New Delhi, Jan 21 (IANS) Four BJP governments in states had rolled out farm loan waiver schemes but RSS affiliates have strongly warned against these in the interim budget, saying such a move would only worsen the agrarian crisis and put further pressure on the banks.

This comes in the midst of speculation that the Narendra Modi government may be showering sops on farmers in its interim budget before the Lok Sabha polls.

Instead, the sangh parivar affliates want a social security net and various forms of assistance for the farmers.

With agrarian distress expected to be a major plank for the opposition and the Congress promise of farm loan waiver that helped it majorly in its victory in the Hindi heartland state, there are indications that the Modi government may walk a similar path making the February 1 exercise more significant than a vote on account.

Buoyed by the Congress coming to power in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, party President Rahul Gandhi has flayed Modi for waiving corporate loans while ignoring the plight of farmers. He has even asserted that an “united opposition will not let Modi sleep” until and unless farmers’ loans across the country were waived.

While the Congress’ farm loan waiver attracted much ridicule from Prime Minister Modi, it was he who had triggered the trend of waiving farm loans when ahead of Uttar Pradesh elections he had announced relief for the farmers in February, 2017. Subsequently the Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government announced a loan waiver package for around 86 lakh small and marginal farmers.

The BJP governments in Maharashtra and Rajasthan in 2018 had announced waiver of loans taken by small and marginal farmers.

Soon after the Congress executing its pre-poll promise of loan waiver in the three Hindi heartland states, the BJP regime in Jharkhand in December last followed suit, giving farmers financial assistance of Rs 5,000 per acre for the kharif season.

However, the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS), a sangh parivar affliate, asserts that the Modi government should desist from indulging in populist measures. Its has warned about pitfalls of farm loan waivers.

“The last thing the government should do is resort to farm loan waivers. Rather than being a solution, loan waiver would further deepen the miseries of our farmers. Indeed farmers are in distress and the way the opposition parties for their electoral sake, have raised the issue, the government may deem it to be a political compulsion. But it would be a mistake if it does so,” BKS organisational secretary Dinesh Kulkarni told IANS.

Explaining the opposition to the “short-cut” of loan waiver, Kulkarni said such a move only encourages the practice of defaulting on loans contending that only a handful of farmers benefit.

“The Congress governments in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh have waived farm loans but has it solved the crisis of the farmers. The only thing that it did is pressuring the banks and making them wary of giving further loans to the farmers,” Kulkarni said.

He said that unless there was holistic mechanism to ensure that farmers get the right price for their produce and middlemen are eliminated, the vicious circle of debt will continue.

“Loan waiver may halt the vicious debt circle for a short period of time but it won’t bring them out of that. Without a mechanism to make agriculture profitable or even allowing the farmers to recover their cost of production, they will be back to being debt ridden from the next season,” said Kulkarni adding that the government must sit with peasant bodies and other stakeholders to chalk out long term plans to resolve the agrarian distress.

Talking about its expectations from the budget, the RSS’ labour wing the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) said the focus should be on expanding the social security net to the unorganised sector including agriculture workers and also advocated against farm loan waiver.

While admitting that the government may be inclined towards presenting a populist budget, BMS President C.K. Saji Narayanan said farmers should be incentivised to procure seeds , fertilisers and equipments rather than waiving their loans.

“Our farmers are in distress and indeed need lot of assistance from the government but loan waiver should be the last thing. Waiver as a short term measure is acceptable but then it has its long term effects on the economy which the government should guard against.

“The need is put up a mechanism to ensure that farmers gets right price of their produce. They should be given subsidy to purchase seeds, fertilisers and equipments instead of loan waiver,” Narayanan said.

A critic of the Modi government’s labour and economic policies, Narayanan said the budget should focus on giving relief to the middle class and urorganised sector workers.

“This government for most part of its tenure, has functioned like Congress-led UPA. But in the last year or so there has been substantial change in its attitude. However, with elections on the horizon, it may indulge in populist measures. But that doesn’t mean it should go for loan waivers.

Narayanan said the government in the budget should look to providing relief to the middle class and the workers in the unorganised sector.

“Our major demand is that the income tax exemption limit should be raised to Rs 10 lakh besides that we hope that government will no more neglect our workers especially contract labourers. In addition to hiking contract labour’s wages, unorganised sector has to be brought under social security net including agricultural labours,” he added.

While Prime Minister Modi and his government have been touting GDP growth as FDI inflow as its major achoevemnets, the Swadeshi Jagaran Manch (SJM), the economic wing of the RSS said, job-less growth was meaningless.

“GDP growth or FDI inflow should not be the parameters for development, what matters is how much employment is generated.

“As regards the agrarian crisis, the question is why our farmers are debt ridden, and answer to that question can never be loan waiver,” SJM National Co-Convener Ashwani Mahajan said.

He held the “historic neglect” of the agriculture sector by successive governments to be the core issue.

“Besides their persistent failure to even recover their cost of production, the steady rise of prices of farm inputs and farm equipments being under GST, has further pauperised the farmers,” he said.

He said instead of giving the farmers “alms” in form of loan waiver, the need was concrete policies aimed at reforming and reviving the farm sector and making it economically viable and profitable.

“There are large numbers of seasonal agricultural labourers who are rendered jobless for a large part of the year. The focus should be on rehabilitating them as also come with policies to make agriculture profitable.

Mahajan recommended giving major focus on food processing, oil seeds protection, change in crop production, subsidizing farm inputs.

“The one thing that must be immediately done is to exempt farm equipments from GST. We sincerely hope the government will use this budget to lay out long term plans to revitalize the economy and resolve the agrarian crisis instead of falling trap to electoral populism,” added Mahajan.

(Anurag Dey can be contacted at [email protected])

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