CHANDIGARH: The OROP saga continues. Even though for the nth time the government has accepted that OROP is a justified demand of the Indian Military, it is still vacillating in issuing the implementation order. The announcement made by the Defence Minister in a press conference on 5 September still remains just an announcement. Thereafter too, many functionaries of the government, especially the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister have repeatedly stated that OROP is accepted, but why is there is no movement towards implementation. The protesting veterans have unequivocally stated that the diluted version is not acceptable, as both the present and the previous governments and indeed even the Parliament have accepted it in totality.

Since then, this important demand seems to be hanging in the air, as the government has taken ‘Maun Vrat’ on the issue, while the veteran’s leadership has stated that OROP with caveats is not acceptable, as they are after thoughts inserted by the bureaucracy to delay and deny a justifiable demand. This deadlock must end as this unnecessary confrontation is neither good for the government nor for the Indian Military. One does not need to be a space scientist to also add that it is adversely affecting the security of the nation.

The veterans have repeatedly stated that the following are the areas of dissonance that need to be removed; an implementation letter issued; and this unnecessary hiatus brought to an end:

1. Inserting ‘VRS’, an obvious red herring, by vested interests needs to be removed forthwith, as this is inapplicable to the military. Subsequently, both the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister have publicly stated that those who had taken pre-mature retirement (a legitimate action) are covered by OROP. So, why is there hesitancy in promulgating it?

2. During negotiations, government representatives had confirmed that the base year would be 2013-14. So, why was it changed to a vague terminology? Another red herring by the same wily functionaries!

3. Annual equalization is necessary so that at no stage does a senior person starts getting less emoluments. This is a core issue and is in consonance with the Supreme Court judgment. The government’s offer of equalization after five years on the grounds of administrative difficulties is laughable in this electronic era.

4. Government’s suggestion of appointing a one-judge commission is obviously for further delaying implementation. If the legitimate projected demands are accepted, no commission or committee of any type is needed.

5. Another red herring is the so-called ‘average pay scales’, when it was already decided that “top of the pay scales” would apply.

6. OROP must not be linked to any contrary insertions in future pay commissions, as the whole concept hinges on and has been accepted as an action in perpetuity.

The above points are hardly impossible demands, as it is made out to be. The problem is ‘attitude’, nothing else.

It is apparent that the bureaucrats are bent on taking both the political leadership as well as the military for a royal ride and in the bargain have tried to show to the public that the veterans are being greedy. The entire delay in implementing OROP is on account of the unnecessary and motivated brouhaha about draining the treasury, when crores are being promised/spent on election gimmicks. It is sad that even leaders of stature, like the Prime Minister, as well as defence and finance ministers have fallen in this obvious bureaucratic trap. They must think independently and ensure that promises made in the run-up to the elections and subsequently are fully met.

All leaders, whether kings and emperors of a previous era, or elected representatives of the people today, have always understood the dire need to secure the frontiers of the nation against external aggression. That is the reason for having militaries; bureaucrats and diplomats do not fight – only soldiers do. Our political leaders must understand the need to have a modernized, satisfied and happy military for securing the state, which is of paramount importance.

In earlier times, it was a matter of good governance that this important instrument of the state was accorded the highest status, usually just below the state leadership. This norm continues in all countries. However, in our country, a continuing and deliberate policy of downgrading the military continues. This is a post-Independence phenomenon, the roots of which lie in the rise of an ignorant political class, which a wily bureaucracy exploited to its advantage. This combination has seems to have reached a nadir now and unless drastic measures are taken and urgently, there is grave danger of the nation losing both its security and sovereignty.

Such a grave tragedy could have occurred much earlier, but India has such a highly dedicated and loyal military, steeped in traditions of valour and sacrifice that the Indian Military, despite all the negatives thrown in its way persevered and served the nation with professionalism, competence and élan.

It was the rapid response by the Indian Military that saved the day when the Pakistani marauders attacked J&K within two months of our Independence in October 1947, when the military was in the midst of being divided between India and Pakistan. Thereafter, every war that was forced on India was tackled with resolve despite indifferent and at times timid political leadership and poor equipment. The war of 1971 was the most glorious chapter that the Indian Military wrote in blood and then in 1999, despite unnecessary curbs imposed on the military during the Kargil War, the sacrifices of the Indian Military brought the nation victory against overwhelming odds. However, while the military was doing its duty diligently, scheming file-pushers were continuing with their policy of running down the military, both in status and in monetary terms. Such a situation could not last forever as even the most disciplined individual or group reaches a point after which the break occurs.

It is my conviction that such a point has nearly been reached. Hence, the need for immediate resolution of this long-festering problem.

The Indian Military has many grouses, all legitimate, but the most recent and the most emotive is the issue of OROP that concerns every soldier, sailor and airman, whether serving or retired. The recent vacillation and pussyfooting by the government is exacerbating the problem. Apparently, the political leadership is getting wrong and motivated advice. Unless the leadership stops listening to its self-centered and myopic advisers, a catastrophe is waiting to happen. The nation’s leaders, intellectuals and well-meaning citizens need to weigh all aspects with maturity and seriousness and resolve this issue by thinking and acting as statesmen and not mere political leaders. It is patently wrong to think that like trade unions the veterans have hiked their demands and they would finally accept some kind of a negotiated settlement. Those who understand the military mind know that this is not so, but apparently those advising the political leadership are unable to see anything beyond their noses!

I am sure that the government has received the reports of the recent Ekta Rally and the overwhelming response it has received from all military persons, despite unnecessary and stupid curbs by naïve administrators. If the leadership wants to continue acting like ostriches, it will find itself wringing its hands when the balloon goes up. Please believe me that the thread that tethers the balloon is so worn out now that it has nearly reached its breaking point.

Let me end this epistle with what William Shakespeare had stated, which continues to be as relevant today as it was then.

“There is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood,
leads on to fortune;
omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries”