Sunday, July 05, 2015
OROP - Hopes slipping to Despair and Anger
I was there yesterday with them at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. Among these Veterans on a Relay Hunger Strike seeking implementation of their 40 year old demand - one rank one pension (OROP) were many decorated warriors, war widows and those who had sacrificed their limbs or sons in battles.
Although the initial plan was to have only 15 volunteers fasting daily, more and more Ex-servicemen poured in voluntarily from various towns and villages insisting to join the relay fast.
Moved by their soldierly zeal to fight for justice, I met and saluted each of them. I counted 35 fasting veterans and a gathering of about 200 others cheering them in their crusade for a Cause. Speaker after speaker lamented on the bureaucratic callousness. Some were so agitated and angry that they threatened the Government with dire consequences.
While parking my car, I overheard a small group of 4-5 people under talking to one person who appeared very angry. When I approached them, I learnt that Ram Chander (60) a teacher in Jhunjunu (Rajasthan) was planning to commit suicide either by hanging from the tree or by self-immolating himself. Why? Because his son - a Hav in a Grenadiers unit had sacrificed his life in a terrorist encounter in Kupwara (J&K) in 2012 leaving behind three younger siblings, a daughter and a son. I argued it out with him. "Why are you so angry. Your daughter-in-law must be getting "full last drawn salary" of your son which is much higher than any family pension rate? You are not even affected by OROP."
"Kya baat kar rahe ho aap? Mera beta apne ghar walon ke liye Kupwara mein jakar marne gaya tha kya? Nahin Sahb wo desh ke liye qurban hua hai. Mera dil aaj saari Fauj ke liye ro raha hai. Yeh Neta, ye Tehsildar se lekar Chief Secretary tak ke officer log loot machaye hue hain. Udhar Jo sainik desh ki sarhadon par khun bahakar ya to mar jate hain ya pension aa jate hain -- aur yeh unka haq nahin de rahe. OROP jise koi bhi nakar bhi nahi raha lekin de bhi nain raha. Aise desh mein mein jeena hi nahi chahta.mein.....Iss se to angrezon ki ghulami achchi thi....."
It was hard for me to refute his arguments and dissuade him from his horrifying intentions. Then I lied to him that I was privy to some inner developments being underway at the PMO and MoD in which the PM is personally addressing these very issues and "soon we shall see some far reaching policy revisions restoring all the lost privileges, status and honour of the military service......So don't be in a hurry."
"Aur aapki baat jhooth nikali to?" he cautioned me astonishingly.
I said, "In that case, I shall join you - I shall embrace Death here before you. You may follow me thereafter. But let's have patience and give this Government some time. Because, we have trusted Modi but not given him enough time to put long term policies into effect."
Thankfully, he cooled down and relented. But what if my false assurance actually proved false in the future? What if he calls me up (he has my contact number and address now) after 15 August or after Vijay Diwas on 16 December or after the next year Kargil day or Independence Day and tells me, "Lo ji, ab batao kya plan hai aapki?"
How shall I face him then? I pray for early release of OROP and a string of Military Reforms to save my life and Ram Chander's - and who knows how many more!. Ram Chander and I may live or die but if the the Military continues to be treated like this - neglected and humbled at home - then it shall only imperil the national security very dangerously particularly in the wake of ever growing Pakistan sponsored terrorism in J&K, Maoist insurgency spreading in other parts of the country and ISIS nodes reportedly having made inroads into India's terror outfits.
Coordinators, however, intervened to discourage provocative outbursts and maintain the apolitical nature of the protest. A consensus had been already been reached to ensure an atmosphere of decorum of discipline restraining intemperate outbursts, personal attacks, politicization or any hate-speech.
Col Inderjeet Singh, the nonagenarian military Veteran who has been fighting and winning all legal battles on the issue of OROP, visits the Jantar Mantar venue daily in his wheel chair. Maj Gen Satbir Singh, Lt Gen Balbir Singh and a host of other retired military officers/JCOs/Petty Officers/WOs/NCOs including general officers, vice/rear admirals and air marshals throng this venue everyday.
Far from diminishing, the idiosyncratic military zeal is in fact catching up with an ever growing number of volunteers coming to register their "hazri" and support at the Venue daily. Similar protest Relay Fasts are going on in 60 other towns and cities in various states all over the country. Even as political harangues have been disallowed by the organizers, the election tempo building up in Bihar seemed to be swaying military veterans away from BJP in that state.
As of date, OROP stands approved and accepted by the Parliament and the Government. Only the implementation is stuck in what can be termed as "hang fire" - a military term used for a rocket/round which is loaded in the chamber of the weapon but does not fire despite trigger/firing knob being pressed.
Time is now running out. The Government must be seen acting decisively in the expected Modi style over ruling the dirty bureaucratic officialese.