Monday, July 13, 2015

OROP fiasco: Why have veterans restarted their agitation

  • Mandeep Singh Bajwa
  • Updated: Jul 12, 2015 10:17 IST

Seeking immediate implementation of One Rank One Pension (OROP), ex-servicemen held a protest rally on the Chandigarh-Bathinda highway. HT Photo

Ex-servicemen have once again taken the agitation route to press for implementation of One Rank One Pension. After thirty years of broken promises and stonewalling from a series of governments, does this come as any kind of surprise? Hope did spring after the then govt accepted the principle of OROP in February 2014 only to be dashed by this govt’s posturing, rhetoric and missed deadlines. The Prime Minister says that he ‘didn’t fully understand the complexities of the issue’ when he made promise after promise. His finance minister goes a step further in questioning the very concept of OROP. This is happening despite the fact that OROP was defined by a committee of Parliament. The defence minister’s series of cut-off dates and contradictory statements have angered veterans.
The main focus of the veterans’ agitation is a relay hunger strike at Jantar Mantar in the national capital with extensions in over 50 cities nationwide. Support is widespread with batches of veterans coming to participate every day from all over the country. With the strong bonds that exist between those who served and fought together, some batches have consisted of veterans from a single unit or regiment. While the nation and the media are outraged that ex-servicemen have to resort to a hunger strike to get their just demands implemented, the politicians have remained unmoved save mouthing inanities mostly seeking to derail the agitation. However, the former soldiers displaying the determination for which they’re famous are sticking to their resolve to accept nothing less than full OROP with no dilution. One aspect worries me. Seeing the cavalier treatment being meted out to their old comrades and forebears, how long before the injustice of the whole affair begins to affect the morale of serving armed forces personnel? God forbid that such a day should ever come!


A number of changes in the higher echelons of the Army are in the offing following the retirement of the vice chief, General Phillip Campose, on July 31. He will be succeeded by General MMS Rai of the Engineers, currently GOC-in-C, Eastern Command. General Rai’s successor as Army Commander at Kolkota will be General Praveen Bakshi, from the Armoured Corps and Chief of Staff, Northern Command at the moment. The latter will be the frontrunner for appointment as Army Chief when the present incumbent, General Dalbir Singh retires on December 31, 2016.
A number of major generals are to be posted to command corps on promotion. These are Generals JS Cheema, Sikh Regiment to XI Corps (Jalandhar), SK Patyal, 5 Gorkha Rifles to XIV Corps (Leh), SK Dua, JAKLI to XV Corps (Srinagar), RR Nimbhorkar, Punjab Regiment to XVI Corps (Nagrota) and Surinder Singh, Guards to XXXIII Corps (Silliguri). All of them are from the 1979 batch.
These officers will be becoming lieutenant generals with 36 years of service. This means they have just two-four years of service left and will therefore have short stints in command before being considered for promotion to army commander.
The late promotions and truncated command tenures came about as a result of the change in retirement ages and consequent stagnation. At one time officers were getting command of units at 20-21 years of service. Mercifully this has now come down to 16 years easing the blockage.


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