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Friday, September 4, 2015

Resolving the OROP stir: My dear veterans, don't go a bridge too far

One of the more relevant elements in the tactics of fighting a war is to ensure you don’t go a bridge too far. You could lose the ground you have gained.
The Armed Forces, being dear to me, and integral to my upbringing will always get my vote. Because of that right I just feel that the much delayed agreement to implement 'One Rank, One Pension' is deserved but without codicils added on. Even now it has dragged on in a most shabby manner.
Yes, the government has dilly-dallied over this issue for years. We know that. Yes, the ex-servicemen currently into their 84th day protest at Jantar Mantar have shown extraordinary courage and commitment and filled many of us service family brats on civvy street with tangible pride.
But in the past week, the favourable tide has begun to move away from the beach and leave a little debris in its soggy ebb. Much of that comes from the media’s contention that the ex-servicemen are stretching their luck and moving onto to more demands, the most startling being an annual review of the pension.
The current impasse centers round whether the five year review should be two years or every year with the government ostensibly giving the nod to the bi-annual while the protestors want it annually.
File photo of the veterans. Naresh Sharma
File photo of the veterans. Naresh Sharma
If this be true and there is no reason to doubt it then they are giving Modi no wiggle room and putting him to the sword as well as offering Arun Jaitley a chance to say, 'I told you so, bloody ungrateful lot, give them an inch and...'.
One can take Jaitley messing with Modi’s mind but if this image of being unreasonable coalesces into greed then public sympathy will dry faster than instant paint. There is already a certain fatigue setting in and that is dangerous.
The call for OROP should be singular and come with no riders. Any military strategist would tell you to focus on your objective. While I completely fail to understand the connection between the so-called planned announcement being made to coincide with the Bihar elections Modi might have his advisers convince him that OROP with the annual revision will open up a can of worms and they will spill across the board and balloon into monstrous goblins on his back. Every cadre will demand parity.
I have stood with these fine old men and felt their hurt. Even today they are confounded by the doublespeak of Indian politicians and the decades old contempt in the bureaucracy and its well known disaffection for the forces. The goalposts keep shifting and they are far more adept at gamesmanship in the corridors of power than the men in uniform.
Which is why it is so essential not to come off as grasping. And that colour is being splashed on this fight, like it or not. Government PR is scoring points by emphasising the ‘unfair’ demands of the ex-servicemen and it is getting heard across the country. There has to be retaliation and clarity.
What the spearhead of the movement Major General Satbir Singh has to do immediately is engage in a reiteration of the points he made last month and what most thought was the core of the situation vis-a-vis the government.
- Mandate the OROP.
- Give a deadline and stick to it.
- Give a backdate from when it is effective.
- That’s it.
- Stop dicking about.
Nothing more. Nothing. Keep it clean and neat and polished... like you would your rifle.
By Bikram Vohra
The author is a senior Dubai-based journalist.

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