One Rank One Pension: Beware of Adverse Repercussions
Protests for OROP across the country
It is sad to see the ostrich-like attitude adopted by the present government towards the on-going peaceful protests across the country by the veterans relating to the implementation of One Rank One Pension (OROP). There are no two schools of thought regarding the legitimacy of the demand. The present government, as indeed its predecessors, has accepted that the demand is just and the veterans need to be compensated. Why then are unnecessary impediments being created? Are there some segments or powerful entities that are bent on scuttling this righteous demand and if so, do they understand the implications?
The protests by the most disciplined, apolitical and loyal segment of the nation’s polity, which are steadily increasing, should make all citizens of the nation do a double-take and ponder as to why the government’s reaction is so muted and routine. They need to reflect over its implications – both long and short term, on the highly adverse impact it is having on the security of the nation.
Most veterans in the country continue to have faith and confidence in the political acumen of Prime Minister Modi. They continue to believe that the Prime Minister understands ground realities, is perceptive and unlike many politicians understands what adverse repercussions may accrue if this emotive and close to the heart issue for over 30 lakh veterans continues to be ignored, but do his advisers understand this? I have my grave doubts; otherwise the issue would not have reached the current impasse.
The numbers of all ranks involved in the protests, from ‘Jawans to Generals’, are increasing on a daily basis. The involvement is in a variety of ways and the pointers are that there is unlikely to be any let-up in these large-scale protests. On the contrary, escalation both horizontally and vertically, is on the cards and may come sooner than later. It therefore behooves the political establishment to take serious note of these important developments.
It appears that the government has overlooked that planning and execution of a mission comes naturally to ‘soldiers’ (used in a generic sense) and does not get rusted merely because they have shed their uniforms. The run of the mill adviser may not understand this, but political leaders must, for they do develop a sharp nose for ground realities. Why then is this government dithering and churning out moronic excuses - like more time needed; inadequacy of funds; difficult calculations by the pundits sitting in the concerned ministries, departments and subordinate offices in various parts of the country; and the excuse that the demand may have a spiraling effect among other government employees. It is well known that all these issues have been analysed threadbare and hence the military cannot comprehend this inordinate and unnecessary delay.
OROP has been through the crucible of fire not once but many times and has passed through the scrutiny of a large number of specialists, including Parliamentarians, dealing with practically every aspect of governance. It has been considered, accepted and promised by every political party that has been in power in the past. The same is the case with the present government. Even those political parties that have euphemistically ‘merged’ and re-emerged in different avatars and under new names have given a thumbs up to it over the last nearly four decades. All military personnel, both serving and retired, are therefore bewildered at this turn of events, especially as they had great faith in the present government, which had explicitly and on numerous occasions emphatically accepted the concept in totality.
Every facet of the legitimacy of the demand, its background and its nuances has already been highlighted in considerable detail. It will therefore be repetitive if I again detail its history, the arguments and its dire need. However, I do want to dilate on the perils and pitfalls if the government continues to procrastinate and delays its implementation.
The surge of veterans who are now involved in the on-going agitation and the complete support it is getting from all ranks, should make all decision-makers sit up and reflect deeply. In our country, protests, agitations and associated actions are not new. The difference here is the peaceful nature and the geographical expanse of the protests; where discipline and gentlemanly behavior stand out; the pains being taken to keep the hot-heads under tight control; and the indisputable legitimacy and fairness of the demand. This needs to be commended and not visualized as a weakness.
The longer the government dithers; it may not be possible for the leaders to keep effective control. The training, ethos, love for the nation and the willingness to make sacrifices are the hallmarks of the military. While all these are positive qualities, it does not take long for negativity to seep in. Political acumen; statesmanship; and reading signals correctly; translate in to good governance. The time has come for the government to act and the earlier it does so the better it will be for the nation.
Let me make an important, nay a crucial point now. The veteran of today is the serving person of yesterday and the serving soldier of today is the veteran of tomorrow. There is a symbiotic relationship between the two. I have no doubt that responsible political leaders understand this, but every politician is neither responsible nor savvy about the ground realities, although many pretend to be so! Those with vested interests have spread a canard that the veterans are ‘spent cartridges’ and their activities have no relevance to the active fraternity. How wrong can one be, but then we are talking about advisers who, as well as their progeny, have never heard even a shot fired in anger!
The grapevine is already talking about restiveness among our serving comrades. I have no doubt that the hierarchies of the services, especially the three Chiefs and commanders down the chain are keeping a close watch on the morale and motivation of the troops and conveying their assessments to the political masters, but at times subjectivity does creep in. There is also the important factor of information being filtered, as we are still in the unfortunate mode of a bureaucratic layer that separates the military hierarchy from the political leadership. A third but important factor is the tendency in some to suppress bad news, in the hope that it will disappear over time and unfortunately military leaders are as susceptible to this as others!
It is not my intention to spread alarm and despondency, but having spent long years in uniform and at many levels, it is not too difficult to read and analyze signals in a methodical manner. People like me also keep their ears to the ground and learn from friends, erstwhile colleagues and serving children of veteran officers and jawans, which enables one to form usually correct opinions. Prudence and perspicuity demand that our political leadership takes a realistic view and not listen to ill-considered advice of know-it-all advisers, who disappear at the first sign of trouble and are well known to cover their backs when the chips are down!
All governments in the past have succumbed to the blandishments of their advisers and have downgraded & degraded the Indian Military in every aspect of its functioning during the past 67 years. Sadly, the political establishment in the past has looked the other way. While this is not the subject of this essay, it cannot and must not continue if we are genuinely interested in the security and sovereignty of the nation and want it to grow strong in every respect.
Security of the nation is far too important to be sacrificed at the instigation and whims and fancies of persons with vested interests. I appeal to the powers that be, and particularly to Prime Minister Modi and Raksha Mantri Parrikar to take an early and positive decision and not follow what an erstwhile Prime Minister, Shri Narsiman Rao had stated in Parliament - “Taking no decision is also a decision”!