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Friday, November 13, 2015
O R O P : OUT OF HAND?
Reckless belligerence on the one hand, an overdose of political chicanery on the other, and the moral cowardice of the “silent majority” in backing off rather than injecting sanity into the stand-off have blended to ensure that OROP heads the list of four-letters words dominating the national discourse. When some veterans sought to burn their medals on Diwali they only succeeded in ensuring that lingering traces of the reputed military ethos went up in smoke - but hardly “seen” in an already polluted atmosphere. No one can dispute the old soldiers have grievances; resorting to desperate publicity-seeking ploys renders them no different from municipal workers suspending garbage-collection to press demands.
That cracks have developed in the veterans’ ranks, that an officer-jawan divide is evident ought to have caused the Jantar Mantar agitators (are they truly representative?) to review tactics, if not re-work strategy. Alerting photographers to the medal-burning bid and a march to Rashtrapati Bhawan without being granted an appointment by the Supreme Commander are blots on olive-green and both shades of military-blue. Blots that must impact discipline, the chain of command and the significance of “gongs” among those still “serving the colours.” Attempting to curry favour with Opposition parties negates the apolitical tradition of the armed services. The devious attempt to project the government as anti-soldier is dangerous: recall that it took little “poison” to trigger the post-Bluestar revolt in some Army units, or the Air Force mutiny over a Pay Commission award in the mid-1990s.
The administrative inefficiency and inconsistency of the Modi government is re-confirmed by the OROP impasse. If the notification issued last week is indeed the government’s final position why did Manohar Parrikar not muster the guts to issue a formal statement rather than leave it to the Prime Minister to claim the issue had been “resolved”? And what was the “window” the Prime Minister left open during another overly-publicised Diwali with the jawans? Are the goal-posts being shifted, as alleged? Yet it is understandable that no government, not even one yet to come to terms with a political battering, will allow itself to succumb to the kind of pressure the veterans are mounting. And that is where the silence of a vast number of former “generals” is deafening, even demeaning. Before the confrontation snowballed some ex-chiefs ought to have played a more prominent role, averted the agitation from “skidding”. Having done so little, the impression in non-military circles is that they are waiting in the wings for what goodies the agitation will yield while sanctimoniously avoiding getting their hands dirty. In “civvy street” the image conjured up of a military vet is no longer of the likes of Cariappa, Manekshaw, Pereira and Arjan Singh… It has been replaced by the Jantar Mantar brigade.