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A military veteran laments the government’s apathy towards the Indian armed forces with respect to pension and the lack of leadership could turn out to be disastrous
The issue of ‘One Rank One Pension’ (OROP), for the military services, has been heating up for a long time. More recently, India has seen its 2.3 million ex-servicemen—the most disciplined and law-abiding class in our society—having to publicly protest and return their medals, with petitions signed in blood, to draw government’s attention. Unlike their Indian Administrative Services (IAS) and other civil services brethren, military services soldiers do not have ‘Associations’ to hold rallies and demonstrations to express their grievances. Ex-servicemen (or ex-military services personnel) are, therefore, neither used to nor temperamentally inclined to make public their woes—a virtue the nation must respect. Yet, if an increasing number of them are now resorting to such methods, it must become a cause of concern for the government.
The arguments citing burden on the national exchequer and risk of triggering similar demands from other central civil services are unfair and unjust because there is no similarity in the job profiles of civil and military services. The rationale behind such rival claims would, therefore, be grossly faulty and scantily-clad mischief aimed at perpetuating the ongoing neglect and systematic suppression of the military and its retiring/retired soldiers. There are ground realities that further reinforce the genuineness and urgency of not only the grant of OROP to the ex-servicemen but also the importance of restoring the lost dignity, morale and well being of the nation’s muscle power—Indian Armed Forces:
Accordingly, if military personnel chose to invoke the “principle of equity”, they should rightfully be demanding the highest pension grades in the corresponding running pay band of sub-major in respect of JCOs/OR (other rank) and the final scale of Senior Administrative Grade (SAG)/Higher Administrative Grade (HAG) (Major General/Lt General) in respect of officers since similar dispensation is in vogue for civil services.
The treatment being meted out to the Armed Forces in India has hurt serving and retired soldiers alike. A calculated and systematic method is seen clearly at work in degrading the position and prestige of military ever since the Fourth Pay Commission. Every successive pay commission has pushed Armed Forces a few notches below their deserved niche. The way the Ex-servicemen’s demand for OROP proves that there are anti-military forces aggressively at work to deprive soldiers and ex-soldiers of their genuine dues. In all fairness, bureaucrats found guilty of delaying and denying military dues and entitlements must be severely dealt with and even prosecuted for their inefficiency and anti-national outlook. This must be particularly ensured in cases where the political leadership and/or the higher judiciary have ruled in favour of the military. The case in point is the ex-servicemen’s demand for OROP, which has been long lost in bureaucratic machinations despite its non-controversial character and unanimous support from all parties that have ever deliberated over this demand. It is clear from the following facts on record:
Unfortunately, a skewed impression has been created about the genuine requirements of the serving and retired soldiers as if these were nothing more than their welfare demands. The seriousness of repercussions of such distorted views, in weakening the vitals of our national defence, is indeed grave because the nation’s defence potency will be only as strong as the motivation of its soldiers. Their well-being must, therefore, be viewed as national imperatives and not merely questions of their welfare. Since every serving soldier is a future ex-serviceman, repercussions of decisions on issues like OROP directly affect the psyche of fighting soldiers as well. The simmering disgruntlement among the soldiers and ex-soldiers raises serious questions on the state of morale and motivation of our Armed Forces. Nothing can be more perilous for a country than an impoverished leadership in the wake of continuing government apathy towards a demoralised military on basic issues such as OROP.
(The author is a military veteran and author of two international bestseller books on Leadership Development.)