Editor’s Desk: After 42 long years, the ‘One Rank One Pension’ for the armed forces, was delivered by the Modi Government. Barring some confusion, which was cleared by the Defence Minister and later the PM himself, the veterans rejoiced, celebrated the occasion with sweets and even withdrew their hunger strike. But, the agitation did not end. The protests still continue at Jantar Mantar and the veterans held a rally on September 11.
There is utter confusion within the ranks and files of armed forces over the agitation. Many see no reason to continue with the protests when the PM has announced the implementation of OROP and assured everyone that their concerns will be taken care of. Some even quit the agitation in disgust. But, a section of veterans are not relenting. And, the media is not giving them the attention they seek. Reason? Everyone knows the OROP battle has now taken a political turn.
There were great difficulties to implement OROP in letter and spirit. It was a daunting task for any government. Late PM Indira Gandhi had abolished it in 1973 and successive governments and Pay Commissions as well as Committees rejected it outright. There was a time when former President Pratibha Patil even refused to meet the Veterans, who had to surrender their medals to her staff out of anger and frustration.
After 2011, the issue gained momentum and the Parliamentary Panel led by then BJP MP Bhagat Singh Koshiyari strongly recommended OROP despite objections from various Ministries. The issue was put in cold storage until Narendra Modi took it up at Rewari Rally in 2013. That prompted the UPA Government to take a hasty decision and announce it in Feb 2014. But, they did not know about the modalities and the cost to be incurred.
Despite the odds, PM Modi took special interest and finally announced it at the cost of Rs 10,000 crore burden per annum. The Congress wanted to implement OROP at just Rs 500 crore annum without any calculation. But, yes, as the Bihar polls are round the corner and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is trying its best to revive its fortunes in Punjab, some veterans don’t want to let this opportunity go. The way Aam Aadmi Party cadres have joined the bandwagon on social sites and taking sides by slamming the government, it hints at a slanderous campaign and veterans are falling into that trap.
The pictures showing Major General Satbir Singh, who is spearheading the agitation, being felicitated by AAP District Convenor of Ferozepur (Punjab), have come as a big surprise to all. The same veterans, who forced Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi to make a retreat at one stage, are reportedly meeting AAP and Congress leaders, who are fueling the trouble and creating the confusion.
The social media is abuzz with such reports and it is alleged that Satbir Singh is acting as an AAP agent. It may or may not be true, but the veterans at Jantar Mantar are losing credibility and support among the common people thick and fast. Even, Congress MP Deepender Singh Hooda was seen garnering support for his Maternal Uncle Col. Pushpendra, who was on a hunger strike.
The country always saluted its armymen. They always remained apolitical, non-demanding and disciplined. But, this movement is all set to damage that quotient. For a handful of veterans, who are accused of taking political line, others are facing an embarrassing situation. The government has already fulfilled the major demands. The four demands, which the veterans talk of, are not big factors. They can open the channels of negotiation with the government at a later stage while accepting the OROP in its existing form. A Commission was announced to look into their future concerns, but they don’t accept it.
While talking to Odisha News Insight, the daughter of a late Army Veteran, said, “This is the last thing Armymen can do if the reports are true. “When my Dad retired, he got just Rs 500. Just because we were affluent, my Dad managed to provide me and my two siblings proper education and career. When I think about others, I feel pity. This OROP will serve the purpose of 3.7 lakh widows, who have been waiting for this moment for long. Hope, no hurdles are created now”.
“Factionalism within the Army was never heard before. But, now it is wide in the open. Thank god, they are retired and not serving now. Or else, it would be a great disservice to the nation. The veterans must accept the formula offered by the government, as they know it’s not at all easy to implement OROP. It can’t be ‘My Way or High Way’. There must be limit to demands and criticism,” she further added.
The veterans, irrespective of their political affiliation, must rise to the occasion and think about the old army men who are languishing in poverty and need the benefits of OROP at the earliest. They must think about the widows, who are waiting to get their dues for decades. The dust must settle now. Or else, it would lead to big problems in the coming weeks. The veterans must show some grace here. Hope good sense prevails!
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