Upset over the delay in the implementation of the ‘One Rank, One Pension’ policy, hundreds of retired military personnel on Sunday staged demonstrations at 55 locations around India, including Delhi, demanding immediate implementation of one rank, one pension (OROP).
[By Col NN Bhatia (Retd)]
The military veterans of the Indian Armed Forces have been fighting over the issue of ‘One Rank, One Pension’, popularly called as ‘OROP’ for over last three decades. The BIG let down by the Modi Government’s back tracking from the legitimate dues, is now being felt as fooling with the veterans as political election gimmick and false promises.
Notwithstanding OROP was used as a triumph card during pre-election rallies to woo veterans’ en-masse in the Modi fold, in the subsequent post election rallies in Hissar or with troops in Siachen, while the PM Modi has been promising release of the OROP dues but the actual implementation has been a forlorn pipe dream.
The false intentions of the Modi Government were shockingly known to the veterans when Modi suddenly reiterated his assurance to implement the OROP in the eighth episode of his radio programme “Mann Ki Baat” on 31 May by ranting it as complex issue that needed more time to deliberate with no time frame in mind.
When veterans reiterate one pension for one rank, where are the complexities Mr Prime Minister! These complexities have been created by the bureaucrats and lack of governmental will to honour its commitment.
The babuism of Raksha Mantri (RM) and Finance Minister (FM) at both ends with the PM as the fulcrum has tossed ‘OROP’ in the see saw fooling many war veterans. The short sighted policies of the government should warn the nation that the shabby treatment meted to today’s veterans will easily percolate to serving soldiers -the veterans of future, thus lowering their morale and will to fight, qualities, so very essential for ensuring combat effectiveness.
For the last week or so, the Indian Ex Servicemen Movement (IESM) and its numerous affiliates rightly went viral with mass nationwide protests at the Jantar Mantar on Sunday, 14 June 2015. I talked to many morning walk veteran friends in Noida and though most of them support the movement and openly discuss how much arrears might accrue in their bank accounts, it is a pity not many wanted to join and support the cause giving flimsy excuses.
Noida may boast of being the largest fortress of veterans in the country, yet not more than a bus load was in the rally. It is a typical middle class syndrome bugging them. Ask them for an evening cocktail and amazing numbers would be clicking their glasses with once more! Every morning during their morning walks, they dissect government response and give ‘Chanakya’ like wisdom in resolving the issue but when it comes to grass root commitments, they have ample flimsy opt outs.
The previous night it had rained heavily and intermittent showers followed on 14 June, the day for which the clarion call of mass rally had been made. My neighbor Brig IS Lamba, veteran ASC Officer and decided to travel by Metro as parking vehicles in a rally like this was a major problem. My daughter dropped us at City Centre Metro Station at 9.45 am and with a change at Mandi House we reached the rally sight Jantar Mantar by 1030 a.m. At Mandi House inter change we met about half a dozen more familiar Noida veterans whose faces I could recollect but their names eluded my memory.
There was a sea of veterans flowing towards the venue and many ‘Veer Naris’ and ladies accompanied them. Many grandchildren accompanied their former ‘Fauji’ grandparents. The vast sea of humanity was mainly from Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan.
Nothing thrilled me more when I was spotted by 4 veterans of 13 Kumaon who came from Rewari. I met many familiar faces but could not recollect their names but we warmly shook hands and wished each other well. I met colonels, brigadiers and generals floating with the endless lesser mortals. Yes, most of them took pictures on mobiles and ipads but one 92-year-old Sikh veteran wearing a black half sleeve jacket painted with bold letters, ‘I am 92 years old. When will I get my OROP dues’, was a major attraction amidst nearly twenty thousand former soldiers, many wearing side caps and miniature medals.
Jantar Mantar (Yantra – instruments, mantra – formulae) constructed in 1724 by Maharaja Jai Singh of Jaipur built as observatory is now famous for all sorts of strikers and agitators squatting under the vagaries of nature for indefinite times with no proper food, shelter, hygiene and sanitation. The stage and audio management was woefully lacking. When we reached President of the Punjab Chapter of IESM was forcefully speaking of betrayal by successive governments and urgency of early implementation of OROP. No amount of rain, mud, filth, fatigue and poor sanitary conditions could dampen their spirits.
Some Punjab veterans shouted anti- Modi slogans but they were pacified by saying that OROP agitation was apolitical. Another veteran enthusiast started singing lines in between ‘Aiye Mere Vaton Ke logon’ with his hoarse and jarring voice. We were waiting to hear Maj Gen Satbir Singh, SM (Retd), Chairman of the IESM but though we could spot him on the dais, the unregulated stage entry and unsatisfactory management led to people shouting, sloganeering and wanting to speak out of turn. This was indeed a very sore point of an otherwise very peaceful protest rally.
Behind the main dais, steaming hot tea with liberal supply of crisp ‘mathis’ and biscuits were being served by some veterans from Punjab and Haryana. The only thing lacking were toilet facilities for very old veterans and the ladies with some of them doing overnight journeys from far off places like Hamirpur, Amritsar or Ajmer.
My daughter Neerja was prompt and punctual to take us home from Golf Ground Metro Station. I asked her enthusiastically,
‘How was the OROP Rally coverage on the TV’?
She replied sadly no channel has covered it as the External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj was at the centre of a political storm after acknowledging that she helped controversial former IPL chief Lalit Modi procure British travel documents on “humanitarian grounds”, prompting calls for her resignation from the opposition parties.
Obviously our TV Channels could not ask for better ‘masala’ news to raise their TRP ratings! She asked me, ’But how was the rally Papa and I replied feebly,
‘Even Rain God has shed tears over the unfulfilled OROP promise of the PM Modi’.