Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Veterans speak out: 'Na Cheen ne na Pakistan ne, apne fauj ko barbad kiya Hindustan ne' - Has the OROP matter really been settled? Did government try to sabotage the veterans mass rally on Sept 12?

Because of perceived apathy of the Government and after three months of continuous protests by UFESM at Jantar Mantar, it was decided to hold the Ekta/ Solidarity Rally on 12th September 2015. For the three days preceding the Rally, it was reported that many messages by SMS, WhatsApp and Twitter were being sent out informing everyone that the Ekta Rally had been called off! Personal threats against Gen Satbir Singh were received. A heavy effort to malign individually everyone involved with the protests was set afoot. This was followed up by many TV channels using runners at the bottom of the screens, giving the same message. From: Ex-Servicemen's Welfare Blogspot

Politics and the Military
Lt Gen (Retd) N.S. Brar, PVSM, AVSM, VSM
August 24, 2015

As part of the ongoing agitation by Ex Servicemen (ESM) for One Rank One Pension (OROP), a large number had gathered on the highway bisecting the Bathinda Military Station, which also has the Corps Headquarters, and had intended to enter the station to agitate and hand over a memorandum to the Corps Commander. But the gates had been closed thus preventing them from entering. A media photograph showed a very agitated and aggressive police officer confronting the veterans. The whole incident left many veterans worried: what if the police were to use force against the agitating ESMs and this in turn provoked action by serving personnel? What if the gates were opened by the men on duty? The worry is that it could very well happen with grave consequences.

The purpose of the profession of arms has been, and will remain, the management of organised violence and is inextricably linked with the ultimate question of life and death. The shared uniqueness of the profession moulds its members into the ‘Brotherhood of Arms’ with shared values, beliefs, standards and codes of conduct. The soldier (which includes the sailor and airman) dons the uniform on oath to go by land, sea or air where ordered by his superiors and execute the task allotted even at the cost of his life, if required. Willingness to perform unquestionably, even at the cost of his life, does not come merely because he is paid to do so or simply because his superiors have ordered him to do so. It comes from mutual trust and camaraderie between the leader and the led. It also comes from the time honoured concept of Izzat. Also, wafadari, imandari, self-esteem and pride in honourable soldiering are constant bywords in the military community – things that are under-appreciated outside the military environment.

Surely a soldier will not launch himself into battle with a high probability of loss of limb or life merely on verbal words of command unless this rests on unquestioning faith and trust in his superior.  By the same logic, at the highest level, the armed forces of the country also act on the basis of mutual trust between the political and military leadership.
Military leadership strives to ensure mutual trust on the foundations of justice and fair play. No leader worth his salt can be seen to be acting unfairly or in a partisan manner. Over long years of service this concept of justice and fair play is deeply ingrained in a serviceman. He carries it with him on hanging his uniform. This unique culture rests on accepting the spoken word as inviolable. The soldier’s angst arises when society at large and the political leadership, in particular, is perceived to be ignoring and rescinding its own spoken commitment.

Post-independence, the serviceman has been consistently given an unfair deal; be it the pay commissions, the higher national security policy making apparatus, status, and so on. There is a deeply ingrained sense of injustice harboured by the military – both serving and retired. The ongoing agitation for OROP is primarily driven more by the feeling of lack of fair play then merely by the seeking of monetary gains. In other words, the soldier feels cheated. 

This is compounded by the recent politics injected into the controversy with disastrous consequences. The announcements by the UPA and NDA governments of OROP were blatantly politically motivated with electoral gains in mind. The president of the ruling party had committed to the representatives of the ESM that OROP would be announced within 10 days. Even the Prime Minister had made this commitment on more than one occasion. Not honouring these commitments has generated cynicism and mistrust in the forces, which is likely to lead to questioning the motives of the political leadership even in operational matters.

The Army Chief had made a public announcement on implementation of OROP. So had the former servicemen recently elected and appointed ministers of state. Obviously such commitments were made on the assurance of the political establishment. Regrettably all have lost credibility and trust both with the serving and the retired fraternity. More regrettably the Army Chief too has become a victim of politics. If this is not politicising the armed forces, one fails to see what is politicising the armed forces. In a country where everything from garbage to governance is mired in politics the one institution that was outside its purview appears to have finally been sucked into the quagmire.

In the past, the senior leadership would discourage any discussion or comment on issues like pay commission dispensations in the interest of discipline and in keeping with the military ethos. The military continued to perform its role with a healthy disdain for political horse-trading and unethical politics. No more. It has long been a ploy to refer legitimate demands of the armed forces to the pay commissions and thereafter simply ignore the issue. 

The 6th Pay Commission was the last straw. It presented the military with blatant down gradation and a patently unfair dispensation. One such issue was of honorary officers being awarded more pension than regular officers holding the same rank. Approved recommendations of the pay commission were distorted during implementation. Failure to address the large number of issues generated by the 6th Pay Commission finally convinced the military that it had been short-changed and that politics had finally caught up with it.

The rank and file does raise these issues and the leadership has no answers. In some recent gatherings and seminars one has heard ESM questioning the senior leadership as to why they do not take a tough collective stand on issues concerning the armed forces, in other words suggesting ‘collective insubordination'. The social media is rife with irresponsible voices suggesting, if not demanding, that the three Service Chiefs resign over the OROP issue. This is a very dangerous trend indeed. 

Compounding this dangerous trend is the motivated attempts and propaganda to drive a wedge between the officers and the men by suggesting that OROP is primarily for the benefit of the officers with men having little to gain. Such a wedge strikes at the very root of military cohesion besides damaging the vital aspect of mutual trust. We have already seen former Army Commanders joining the protesters at Jantar Mantar. It would be an ultimate shame if former service chiefs are also to do so.

In keeping with the national political culture of horse trading and breaking the opposition through wheeling and dealing, the Central Police Organisations were also encouraged to orchestrate demands for OROP. This was never an issue till now. Promoting their coverage in the media and suppressing the ESM protests was politics at play.  

Then there is the politics of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which is periodically raked up to gain political capital. The soldier does not ask to be employed in counter-insurgency operations. More often than not his employment is brought about by political mishandling and mis-administration. In this environment the soldier sees his sacrifices in counter-insurgency operations as being politically driven and not in the national interest, thereby raising questions in his mind about the sincerity of the powers that be and generating ideas of being ‘used’ unfairly.   
   
The country and the politico–bureaucratic establishment need to remember that if there is any profession which has a generational link it is the profession of arms. Many of my generation were third or fourth generation soldiers serving not only in the same arm but in the same Regiment as their forefathers did. The Army Chief and the former servicemen who are now ministers of state are generational soldiers. Many servicemen today have at least one close relative retired from the armed forces. There is perhaps no other institution more closely linked between the serving and the retired than the armed forces. The sentiments of the ex-servicemen are not confined to them alone, these percolate down to the serving community as well. Whatever happens at Jantar Mantar or anywhere in the country is instantly conveyed through the social media both to the ESM and the serving community. Anything that humiliates the ESM also hurts the self-esteem of the soldier. Anything that concerns the ESM concerns the serviceman.

An unspoken social contract exists between the Indian armed forces and the people of India. At one end of the bargain exists a deep sense of admiration, respect and intrinsic affection for the soldier. At the other end the people expect the armed forces to deliver when required, no matter what the demand or cost. The people believe it to be the one institution that has not been affected by the all-pervasive moral decline of society. This social contract is vital for the future of the armed forces given the indifference or ignorance of matters military by the politico-bureaucratic combine. The soldier’s end of the contract will endure as long as he perceives that he has been given a fair deal by the powers that be and by civil society at large.

In our context and at the very basic level, the emphasis of society at large to reduced deference, if not indifference, to authority and discipline and enhanced awareness of individual rights with lack of corresponding obligation towards duty and the all-pervasive culture of corruption, are at odds with what the military emphasises. The Hon’ble Defence Minister recently expressed the view that the country had lost respect for the armed forces or the armed forces relevance had declined as there had not been any war since 1971. This perception needs to be clarified. 

It is not the nation at large which has lost respect for the armed forces. It is the lower level functionaries of the government at all levels and across all areas of the soldier’s interaction for his basic problems that has lost respect for the armed forces. In an all-pervasive environment of petty graft, seen and experienced before entering the service and when back in the environment on leave, how does a military man reconcile to the core value of ‘imandari’ the profession demands? It is also the highest level of the government, the politico-bureaucratic elite, which is perceived to have lost respect for the armed forces in pursuit of their agenda or narrow objectives. If there is any institution left in the country which is respected by the people at large it is the armed forces. Yet, after every war, the military was downgraded in status, pay and pension by the pay commissions. So much for the respect for or importance of the armed forces which war generates!

A worthy politician had recently derided the death of a soldier by opining that ‘they are paid to die’. Nothing could be more callous or ill-informed. The soldier may well ask whether he could kill someone and pay his family to go scot free. Paying the soldier alone does not buy his obligation for duty and death. Respecting his dignity, promoting his self-esteem and treating him as an important member of society ensures such a commitment. 

Much as the serviceman, and by extension the ex-serviceman, abhors the idea of agitating on the streets, undertaking fasts or indulging in collective protest, today he sees these as the only options in an uncaring environment. The recent death of policemen in a terrorist incident saw their families sitting in protest demanding jobs and compensation. Giving a go bye to the laid down rules for ex gratia and other dispensations, the political leadership acquiesced. It would be a very sad day if the soldier’s families were to agitate similarly.

Our polity by design and default has proceeded to politicise, downgrade and demoralise its own armed forces and veterans. As Bahadur Shah Zafar wrote after 1857: 
Na Shah Iran ne, na Czar Roos ne, Angres ko barbad kiya kartoos ne 
It can now be said 
Na Cheen ne, na Pakistan ne, apne fauj ko barbad kiya Hindustan ne

A dissatisfied military is not in the interest of any nation least of all India which has to contend with multiple internal and external security issues. The nation at large and the political leadership must be alive to the prevailing sentiments and act appropriately lest the gates of military stations are opened.

Lt. Gen. (Retd.) N.S. Brar, PVSM, AVSM, VSM, is a former Deputy Chief of Integrated Defence Staff and Member of the Armed Forces Tribunal.

Over the last three months, we, the constituents of United Front of Ex Servicemen (UFESM) have been diligently and honestly negotiating and talking with everyone from the side of the Government or the BJP.  Col Inderjeet Singh, Lt Gen BS Yadav and Maj Gen Satbir Singh, assisted by Gp Capt VK Gandhi, Brig Kartar Singh, Wg Cdr CK Sharma, Hon Lt K Pandey, Hon Capt JS Rathee and many others were always there to inform the Government of the facts of OROP. During this period, all aspects of OROP have been discussed in great details with just about everyone other than the Prime Minister.

Despite all honest efforts, what the Government finally announced was nowhere near OROP as defined by the Parliaments of February 2014 and June 2014. Just a "One Time Increase" has been offered, with five-yearly reviews instead of the present ten-yearly ones.

Because of perceived apathy of the Government and after three months of continuous protests by UFESM at Jantar Mantar, it was decided to hold the Ekta/ Solidarity Rally on 12th September 2015. For the three days preceding the Rally, it was reported that many messages by SMS, WhatsApp and Twitter were being sent out informing everyone that the Ekta Rally had been called off! Personal threats against Gen Satbir Singh were received. A heavy effort to malign individually everyone involved with the protests was set afoot. This was followed up by many TV channels using runners at the bottom of the screens, giving the same message.

UFESM countered these efforts of those inimical to the sanction of OROP by releasing advertisements in newspapers regarding the Ekta Rally. The contentions of UFESM are:

Whilst the Government has announced acceptance of the principle of OROP, there are serious drawbacks that the country needs to know to appreciate why the agitation has not been withdrawn. OROP implies “Same Pension for same rank, for same number of years of service rendered, regardless of when retired and any future enhancements in rate of pension to be passed to Past Pensioners automatically.”  There are many contradictions in what has been announced by the Government and what actually comprises OROP:

1    VRS: The Government has created avoidable confusion by including ‘VRS’ in their announcement as VRS does not exist in the Defence Forces. However, those who have taken Pre-Mature Retirement must come under OROP.

2    BASE YEAR: After having agreed to FY 13-14, the Government has now gone to some never-heard concept of middle of calendar year!

3    ANNUAL EQUALISATION: This is the very core of OROP in order to ensure that no Senior ever gets less pension than a junior and cannot be ignored by making equalisation a five-yearly effort.

4    ONE-MAN COMMISSION: If the Govt were to agree to all the points put up by ESM, there would be no need for any Commission. However, if unavoidable, it must be a Committee of three ESM, one serving member with one person nominated by RM and the report must be submitted in one month and NOT six months.

5    AVERAGE OF PAY SCALES: The Defence Minister had earlier assured that pensions would be taken from “top of the pay scales” whereas now, the Government seems to have gone to an unknown concept!

6    OROP INDEPENDENT OF CPC: Whatever awards accrue from OROP must be totally protected from anything that Central Pay Commissions may give to Central Government employees.

7    OROP CONCEPT ‘IN PERPETUITY’: Everything that is given to Defence Forces pensioners are given in perpetuity for all times to come.

The changes proposed by the Government will not save any significant amount of money for the Nation but will definitely dilute and distort the definition of OROP which the Ex Servicemen have been seeking for the last 40 years.
​ 
We are pleased to report that the Ekta Rally was a huge, thundering success! Starting from Friday evening onwards, many buses and vehicles of ESM had started coming into Delhi. Many arrived by train or public buses, too. Whilst many made their own arrangements for stay, many others were put up at Gurudwaras by UFESM​. On a conservative estimate, there were at least 200 vehicles that had come from Rajasthan, UP, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Uttaranchal etc etc. ​A serious effort was made by the Government t​o stop many of the buses with ESM at various entry points of Delhi. ​And yet, the attendance at Jantar Mantar has been reported by conservatives as about 20,000 to 25,000​. Whereas, those who were there for the cause say that the rolling number of people who have attended the Ekta Rally was 50,000!

​There has now been a total blackout of the reports on the Rally in all media. Whilst virtually all channels had their OB Vans on the stand-bye, none of the cameras​ were rolling. There is not even a mention of the Rally in this morning's newspapers. Those who were at Jantar Mantar speak in awe of the sea of humanity that was there, all around. As far as the eye could see, there were the ESM and their families, everywhere. Every time a question was asked, you could see tens of thousands of arms waving in the air in agreement!

​It has been decided that the protest Relay Hunger Strike will continue at Jantar Mantar​ till the Government agrees to give what OROP is actually about. ​It is requested that every Ex Serviceman​ who gets this message to please convey it not only to all your ESM contacts and friends, but also to all your civilian friends. We HAVE to fight the misinformation campaign and negative publicity that the Government is doing with all our efforts to ensure that Ex Servicemen are given due justice and equity for which this struggle is!
Wg Cdr CK Sharma
Treasurer, UFESM/IESM
Even if the OROP issue is resolved, there is an urgent need to address the relationship between India’s civil and the military, which has reached a nadir.

THE year 1965 saw a war in which many military veterans of today fought fiercely against Pakistan to save India’s honour. Fifty years later, in 2015, most of them were compelled to fight a war against the Government of India to defend their own honour. All because of breach of trust!

The struggle for the One Rank One Pension (OROP) scheme, that seeks equity in the payment of pensions to ex-servicemen, has been going on for years. At the fag end of its term, UPA II made a sleight of hand and granted this demand by making a token Budget allocation. The BJP, as a political party during elections, and Narendra Modi, as prime ministerial candidate and then as the Prime Minister, made voluminous promises of implementing OROP. But, when the veterans felt that Prime Minister Modi and the government he heads were reneging on this commitment, citing some difficulties in its ‘arithmetical translation’, they rose up as one man and went on the warpath with rallies and protests all over the country. Volunteers among them sat on a chain dharna at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar.

Sensing the discontent and distress, four former Service Chiefs—one from the Army and three from the Navy—came together and wrote to the President of India, stating that this development has the potential for inflicting long-term damage to India’s ‘proud and apolitical military ethos’. They pointed out that successive Pay Commissions have been used to whittle down the financial and protocol status of the military vis-à-vis their civilian counterparts. The letter expressed the suspicion that there has been a sustained effort to bring the armed forces on a par with the police and paramilitary forces and make the Indian army subservient to the bureaucracy. 

They also warned: “In the daunting security scenario that prevails, our powerful military is expected to be at the peak of combat-readiness, with high morale and motivation, ready to react swiftly to orders of the political leadership to meet every national crisis. However, such a response may not be readily forthcoming from a military which suffers low self-esteem because its respected veterans are seen to be ignored and humiliated by their own sarkar.” According to the chiefs, weak politics and lack of political will is the root cause of this malaise. 

Then something preposterous happened. On Independence Day Eve, Delhi Police, in its attempt to ‘evict’ the peacefully protesting veterans from Jantar Mantar on the pretext of ‘security’, manhandled them and reportedly even snatched a train of medals from the shirt of one of them. In this era of instant communication, electronic and digital photography, the images of the aging and struggling veterans being beaten and pushed around will haunt the conscience of most citizens. Even worse, the next day, in his near-90 minutes’ ‘oration to the nation’ from the ramparts of the Red Fort, the Prime Minister did not even mention this sordid episode, let alone express any regret. As for OROP, he only repeated the words that have been spoken ad nauseam. 

OVERNIGHT, the OROP struggle transformed from a monetary issue to one of fauji izzat (military honour). Across the veterans’ email circuit, the thought process on the future role of the armed forces was moving towards a sort of ‘non-cooperation in aid to civil authorities’. Even if OROP issue is financially resolved, the wide civil-military hiatus caused by senseless procrastination for long years would continue and could even get worse if the message reaches the serving personnel

“…..The safety, honour and welfare of your country comes first, always and every time. Of course it does, but you don’t have to take on other people’s work just because they are inept and corrupt. Saving people from floods and other disasters is not your job. There are over-paid officials in the civil services and police who are supposed to do it. The funds earmarked for such relief work is meticulously divided amongst themselves, while you share your meager rations with the disaster afflicted.

“…..If a child falls in a bore-well, don’t get all worked up about it. Your country doesn’t care about you one way or the other. If a few jihadis with weapons and bombs sneak in through the Line of Control, it shouldn’t agitate you. Keeping them on the other side is the job of the fattened BSF, commanded at the higher levels by corrupt cops of the IPS who have never fired in anger or been fired at.

“…..Don’t go around shooting your own countrymen just because they are insurgents. That’s not your job. Let the CRPF and the motley lot of other central and State policemen do it. They are highly paid and very well equipped and if they cannot or will not do their job, so be it. Let the netas, babus and cops, who started the alienation in the first place, sort it out between themselves. You do not come into the picture here. Don’t make enemies of your own countrymen while the babus and cops play goody-goody. When war comes, these rats will scuttle away. You will need the help of your countrymen to fight the enemy. 

“…..Do only what you are supposed to do–train for war and win it when it comes.In the meantime, live it up. Everyone else is!”

Sensing the trend, 10 more former Chiefs - seven from the Army, one from the Navy and two from the Air Force - joined the fray, making it almost a confrontation between the civil and military. As the Chiefs said in the letter, for the government and people of India things appear to be going out of hand. It became worse when the younger generation entered the OROP struggle with the appeal to all children of ex-servicemen to come out and support the veterans.

The dysfunctional relationship between India’s civil and the military has reached a nadir. Now, even if the OROP issue is resolved, the wide civil-military hiatus caused by senseless procrastination for long years would continue and could even get worse if the message reaches the serving personnel. This would directly impact on the country’s security and sovereignty and needs to be addressed urgently in its proper perspective. 

For doing so, we need to draw on the centuries-old wisdom of Kautilya reiterated in modern times by the General-turned-President of the US, Dwight Eisenhower: “When diplomats fail to maintain peace, the soldier is called upon to restore peace. When civil administration fails to maintain order, the soldier is called to restore order. As the nation’s final safeguard, the army cannot afford a failure in either circumstance. Failure of army can lead to national catastrophe, endangering the survival of the nation.” 

This sums up the role performed by our military and the criticality of an abiding civil-military relationship, lest the nation face any catastrophe. It should be realised that in war or conflict military men do not offer the ‘supreme sacrifice’ just for money or rank. There is something far more precious called ‘patriotism and honour’ and this is embedded in the Indian Military Academy’s Chetwood Hall credo, which none of the civil servants or politicians have gone through but most military leaders haveIt reads thus: “First—the Safety, Honour and Welfare of your Country come First, Always and Every Time. Second—the Honour, Welfare and Comfort of the Men You Command come Next. Third—Your Own Ease, Comfort and Safety come Last, Always and Every Time.” The Civil-military relationship should be moored on such an anchor. 

DESPITE the passage of seven decades since Independence, the political leadership has failed to evolve a framework for a coherent civil-military relationship. But the military brass had attempted it. Way back in 1998, in his treatise, The Soldier and the State, former Naval Chief Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat wrote: “The modern military profession exists as part of the government insofar as the term ‘government’ includes the executive departments of the nation-state... Modern democracies therefore pay great attention to the supremacy of the political class over the military in governance, normally referred to as ‘civilian control of the military’. This is clearly how it should be, since all ultimate power and decision making should be wielded by the elected representatives of the people.” 

On the eve of his demitting office in 2012, General VK Singh fully endorsed this view with a compelling caveat: “I am a firm believer in civilian supremacy over the military in a democracy. I subscribe to the views of the former Naval Chief, Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat. However, civilian supremacy must always be rooted in the fundamental principles of justice, merit and fairness. Violation of this in any form must be resisted if we are to protect the institutional integrity of our Armed Forces.” 

The combined views of the former Navy and Army Chiefs set forth certain non-negotiable imperatives for the civil-military relationship: democracy as a vibrant and functioning entity with the ‘elected representatives of the people’ running the government as per established democratic norms; military profession existing as part of such government; civilian supremacy to be exercised by the ‘elected representatives of the people’; such supremacy to be rooted on the principles of justice, merit and fairness; violation of this can be resisted to protect the institutional integrity of the armed forces.

Whether governments in India are being run as per established democratic norms is a burning question! Even so, India’s professional military is meant to protect, safeguard and sustain our Democratic Republic wherein lives one-sixth of the human race. Therefore, it is imperative that a democratic civil-military relationship framework exists, is practised and sustained. But, unfortunately, this has not even been attempted and the civil-military relationship is not mandated in the governance system. It has been continuously and dangerously drifting.  

In the colonial and aristocratic past, when soldiers were illiterate, Alfred Lord Tennyson’s dictum—‘Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but to do and die’ (“The Charge of the Light Brigade, 1854)—prevailed. But today’s military comprises well-educated and highly skilled men, who have a mind of their own to distinguish good from bad and right from wrong. Officers who command them come through a rigorous selection process based on merit. So, it is difficult to stomach the statement of a former Union Minister of State of Defence, in the ‘august’ presence of then Army Chief General Bikram Singh, that military forces have remained loyal and ‘obedient servant’ of governments! Had it been so, India could have turned into a dynastic dictatorship following the Emergency of the mid-Seventies. Why this did not happen is aptly described in an article in Time magazine of August 11, 1975, written by Claire Sterling after visiting India. This is better reproduced verbatim: 

The letter by four former service chiefs to the President expressed the suspicion that there has been a sustained effort to bring the armed forces on a par with the police and paramilitary forces and make the Indian army subservient to the bureaucracy

“Indira Gandhi is perhaps more powerful than ever before, but she is also more alone. There is no one left to share with her the blame of the regime’s failings, no one of any stature to partake with her the task of running her vast benighted nation….. “India’s standing Army of nearly a million men has been resolutely non-political since Independence. But it is also sensitive to the smallest slight to its honour, dignity and military independence, not to mention the nation’s sovereignty; and it is steeped in loyalty to constitutional principles. It was altogether her Army when she enjoyed unquestioned legitimacy of constitutional rule. It may not be, should its ranking officers conclude that she has become something else. More than ever now her fate hangs on the Army’s loyalty…“Depending on how fast and how far she goes in changing from a traditional Prime Minister to the one-woman ruler of a police state, the Indian Army - the one group with the power to stop the process - could intervene. If it were to do so, it would almost certainly be not to replace her with a military dictator, but to restore the institutions (of democracy) it has been drilled into defending since birth.”

I know this for sure since as the then District Magistrate of Chandigarh and custodian of JP, the enemy-number-one of the State, I was abreast of what has been happening in Delhi. This had also been confirmed by Lt. General SK Sinha, then Director, Military Intelligence. In a recent article, he gave credit for this to the then Army Chief, General TN Raina. Compared to these men, where does the present top brass of the Army stand? All said, as of now, the words of Rudyard Kipling written about a century ago can be altered and applied to today’s civil-military relationship: “Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.” This can be so only at the nation’s peril. This will be so even if the OROP tangle is resolved. There is much more that needs to be done for the ‘twain’ to really meet. The sooner, the better. 

The writer is a former Army and IAS officer.

Across the aisle - P Chidambaram
Whatever it takes to implement OROP, the resources must be found. In 2010-11, the RBI transferred to Government a surplus of Rs 15,009 crore. Who thought RBI would transfer Rs 65,896 crore in 2015-16? If there is will, a way can be found... in the race to claim credit (and disown criticism), the OROP issue is being presented as a big controversy shrouded in mystery.

Get facts right: Let’s get the facts right. The Indian Armed Forces are voluntary forces. There is no conscription. Men and women join the forces as jawans or officers for a variety of reasons and, among them, is the security of a job. While the job is reasonably secure, it is not a job for the entire working life. According to the report of the Koshiyari Committee, 85 per cent of the Armed Forces personnel retire by the age of 38 years and another 10 per cent retire by the age of 46 years. They have to work for a living for many more years, but there is no guarantee of a post-retirement job. Retirement at an early age is good and necessary to keep the forces young and fighting fit. Hence the case for an honourable pension.

There is another reason to make pension an attractive term of service that has not been noticed adequately: it is to attract new volunteers. The attrition rates, and the vacancy levels, are alarmingly high and, if the Armed Forces have to remain voluntary forces, recruitment must remain robust. The promise of an honourable pension is an important factor in recruitment. OROP is an honourable pension. The time to debate the merits and demerits of OROP is over... read more:


This India Today article is reported by a retired service officer as "very short on facts. E.g. It talks about a few hundred veterans in the 12 Sep rally when there were clearly several thousand. Some other questionable issues like rift in the ranks of the veterans, which are not correct and more an attempt by vested interests in the govt. to tarnish the leadership and image of the UFESM.."

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