The roll-out of OROP (One Rank One Pension) by Prime Minister Narendra Modi led BJP NDA Government is not just fulfilling an election promise but giving our Armed Forces personnel what is morally and legitimately due to them. If it took forty years for successive governments to decide, it only shows criminal insensitivity to the legitimate aspirations of our soldiers who, in answer to their call of duty have sacrificed their lives. And today, if OROP is approved, the nation is doing its duty. It is we the citizens who should be obliged to the Armed Forces.
It is because the Armed Forces are guarding our borders that democracy is safe and it is only in such secure climate that economic development can progress. The onerous task of defending the nation is discharged by the Armed Forces whenever called upon to do so. They have sacrificed their lives in the line of duty. The least they expect is that their families and dependents are cared for. Is this a price too high that the ex-servicemen should be made to wait for – forty years?
The OROP ensures that widows of the service personnel receive arrears, if any, in one installment while the veterans will receive it in four installments. Every rank will get pension on par.
In 1970, the pension was 75% of the last drawn salary. Tragically, after the Bangladesh victory in 1971, the pension was reduced to 50%. Is it not some bizarre decision tantamount to punishing the Armed Forces for their sacrifices and for ensuring victory for India?
Lt. Col. Anil Kaul, a Jaffna war hero retired in 2005 with a monthly salary of Rs.17,500 and, post-retirement, he receives a meager pension of Rs.9500. The nation ought to hang its head in shame for such a poor remuneration.
The hero of Bangladesh war Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw received arrears on his pension only when he was on the death bed in Connoor.
Many years back at the Reunion event of the Artillery Centre at Nashik, top officers were visibly moved by the plight of the war widows.
The family of 1965 Indo Pak War hero, Havaldar Abdul Hamid and Param Vir Chakra awardee lived in chill penury and severe destitution.
In India, no political leader appears to have the courtesy to attend the funeral of our martyrs or retired Armed Forces personnel. In the US, President Obama personally went to receive the US Troops, returning from Afghanistan. And in the civil aircrafts the returning troops were given a standing ovation by the passengers.
In India, it is only during the wars that we remember our brave-hearts. Even on the issue of the announcement of the OROP by the BJP Government, the nation witnessed an ugly spectacle of political upmanship. A soldier fights for the country and not for any political party. Let our MPs and MLAs spend a few days on the frontline trenches or the icy heights of Siachen or the mosquito infested Indo-Bangla border or even in the blistering heat of India’s border in Rajasthan and they will know what it is to fight a war and what life is on the frontline.
A nation that does not respect a soldier’s izzat or honour is unworthy of its national flag under which our soldiers fight and even sacrifice their lives for our safety.
In fact, the BJP Government should ensure that school curriculum includes chapters on war heroes and their sacrifices. Schools should adopt one martyr, preferably in the martyr’s village or town, to commemorate the day of his martyrdom. The nation should build a National War Memorial as a tribute to their sacrifice and bravery. It is more than 67 years after Independence and even after four full wars and major conflicts like Kargil, India does not have a war memorial.
In fact, if the ex-servicemen have to stage a dharna to fight for their legitimate dues it is a pathetic state of affairs. We want our soldiers to fight for the country and safeguard our borders when in service, and after retirement, they have to fight for their legitimate dues. Is it not a national shame? By rolling out OROP the nation has not obliged them. Armed forces personnel got and should get what is consistent with their izzat. The nation owes it to them.
Nitin G. Raut is an advocate by profession and a freelance writer. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org