Monday, February 21, 2011

Safety Honour and Welfare of Soldiers

Dear Brig Kamboj,
An scanned copy of article under the caption "Safety Honour and Welfare of Soldiers: Lateral Absorption and OROP" published in Free Press the local Indore Daily on Sunday, 20 February 2011, is attached herewith. It seems the end portion has got omitted from the scan, as such I am also sending here with the MS Word version of the article, for the ease of reading. You may like to circulate, it since it concerns the ESM.
Thanking you and with regards
Col LK Anand (Retd).
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Safety Honour and Welfare of Soldiers : Lateral Absorption and OROP
“The safety honour and welfare of the country comes first always and every time” is a well known phrase and no one can deny it. The defence forces officers and soldiers abide by this dictum to the hilt.
Why should this dictum not be so, for our leaders or for that matter for our bureaucrats, who are not too far behind them in the race for self aggrandisement and corrupt practices? And why not so many more categories, which could be added to the list? Even though, they all claim to have patriotic or nationalistic fervour, yet their acts prove otherwise and “Safety Honour and Welfare of the Nation comes last always and every time”. Supreme Court also rightly remarked for our leaders and bureaucrats that “God only can Save India” or words to that effect.
In the light of the above, where does the safety honour and welfare of the soldiers or even veterans, who stand by this dictum throughout their life, lie in the eyes of the people who control their destiny. Due to their continued indifference towards these gallant men, there is a growing desperation in the minds of all categories of defence personnel, that the Nation has deliberately overlooked their feelings and values, to guard their future, knowing full well that they lay down their arms to retire, much earlier and at a much younger age, in comparison with their counterparts elsewhere.
They are being left to sustain themselves on their meagre pensions, which have not kept pace with the overall increases being enjoyed by their serving brethrens. It implies that a person of a particular rank, who retired many years ago, gets much lesser pension, than the new retiree of the same rank, gets now. This demand of the veterans, termed as “One Rank One Pension” or (OROP), has been denied by the ruling governments for over two and a half decades. In these hard days of inflation how can it be expected that the old pensioners would be able to survive with dignity, as also make both ends meet. Government prefers deliberately, to be a mute spectator to this problem, universally faced by all the pre 2006 defence veterans, instead of finding a solution.
It is a well known fact that average veteran officers, who retired prior to 2006 or before 1996 ie before the 5th Pay Commission hardly got a measly amount of Rs 2 to 3 lacs from commutation, gratuity and AGI besides about Rs 1500 to 1800 as un-commuted portion of pension. The case of the soldiers was even worse. No investments could have yielded sufficient returns for them to sustain themselves with dignity in today’s environment. On top of that, almost zero prospects of any further employment, meant nothing but more struggle for them, in the twilight years of their life. It amazes one to fathom, that even after seeing the miserable state of the veterans, why the attitude of a responsible and majority Government does not change favourably for the grant of OROP. There seems no justification for continuously ignoring this just demand.
Unfortunately, the Armed Forces Law, does not permit its men to go on strikes, or to write to news papers or to protest in any form against the Government, as other government services or entities, like Gujjars under Kirori Mal Bhainsla and many more of their likes, who resort to violence, disrupting various activities, services and life of innocent citizens beyond limits, to bring the ministers/officials on their knees to go to them and accept their demands. But, a soldier is helpless, and at the mercy of the Government or the bureaucracy, and has to silently suffer by accepting everything doled out to him, whether fair or unfair. To their misery, even their own top brass remains mute and fails to take a stand, in front of the Government or the bureaucracy against the injustices being perpetrated upon them.
The situation arose, ever since the announcement and implementation of the 6th Pay Commission, which has taken the cake amongst all the previous pay commissions, because it has performed the impossible. In that, it has not only literally closed the prospects of OROP for defence veterans but also has denigrated and degraded the high reputation of the Defence forces, which was intended to live for years and years to come, in a single go to their extreme detriment. The anomalies committee deliberately confused the issue more and did not act favourably for the soldier.
It is an irony that the powers that be, are unwilling to look into the disparity, their degradation, their reputation (Izzat, which each and every soldier in the Armed Forces stands for, survives in deep crisis, and is ever prepared to lay down his life, for the safety, security, welfare and integrity of the Nation) and their financial means. Their indifferent attitude has not only totally demotivated and demoralised the veterans, but also has adversely affected the morale of many a classes of serving soldiers and officers, who are not only their sons, daughters or close relatives, but who would also be veterans after a while.
In view of the continued injustices perpetrated upon them, the angry veterans are feeling highly insulted and are surrendering their medals, earned for gallantry and service in hostile areas, to their Supreme Commander and with extreme anguish and distress have even signed protests in their own blood. Unfortunately to the utter dismay of one and all, the Government and the Supreme Commander who should have had welfare and interests, of these gallant veterans, closest to their hearts, have ruthlessly failed to show any sympathy or inkling towards their cause whatsoever.
The extent of painful and distressful agony, which the Armed Forces veterans, have suffered, in trying to persuade the Government to meet their genuinely justified demands, even conceded by the Supreme Court in a similar case for Major Generals during September 2008, is actually unparalleled in the history of Indian Veterans. It is unbelievable that the veterans, have been constrained to adopt such means first time ever, in the past six decades, post Independence and they have been compelled to do, what they never did in the past.
It is indeed so pathetic, unthinkable or unimaginable that in spite of the recommendations of various high ranking committees, public representatives, as well as highest judiciary, the Defence minister, who should also have been most concerned about the welfare and well being of defence personnel including veterans, has been deliberately ignoring their grievances, by declaring, non feasibility of OROP at every possible occasion on most flimsy, frivolous and unjustified grounds. He has unfortunately, never given any heed to the much larger number of recommendations and decisions in favour of this demand.
Our Netajis or bureaucrats, are unable to understand and appreciate the pride of the soldiers and officers in uniform, who are always prepared to face any eventuality or perform any service for which they may not even be trained, but have to, when the Nation calls upon them to do so. It happens so often, when other inefficient and incapable services, fail frequently in their own jobs and duties, or become ineffective and helpless. Just a lip service and passing remarks of “Jai Ho” for a soldier, when he performs others’ duty, does not solve his domestic and financial problems. He still has to look after his family and bring up his children to face this cruel world. However, at the time when he needs the Government’s help the most, the Government and its officials turn a Nelson’s eye towards him and leave the young retired/discharged soldier/veteran to fend for himself.
It is well known that the soldiers retire much earlier than their counterparts elsewhere, and are losers in every respect including, their respect, their honour, financially, government facilities and worst of all many post retirement/re-employment benefits. The comparative financial loss due to early retirement as well as non sanction of OROP for each rank would be substantial, and may range in several lakhs for various ranks. Who in this world, would ever realise and evolve solutions for this malaise, if the Government does not? With the government’s known and available resources, there should be no difficulty in sanctioning at least the OROP, to nominally compensate the defence veterans.
Nearly all the soldiers retire very young, usually in the age group of 35 to 42, are well disciplined and trained, physically and mentally strong and very fit. They can definitely form an effective nucleus for induction into most of the uniformed services like, BSF, ITBP, RPF, CRP, Home Guards, Coast Guards, Police and many such services whose men serve up to the age of 58 to 62. In the present environment, where the internal security has become a major cause of worry for the home minister, this trained manpower can provide yeoman’s service to the nation.
At present nearly all the services are deficient of their authorised man power. Besides, the overall requirement of all such security related services has gone up manifolds, due to increase in population, crime rate, security threats and many related factors, but no departments have given it a serious thought, and the situation is becoming from bad to worse. There appears no tangible alternative in sight, to overcome such a situation. The government can certainly devise means and frame policies for induction of discharged/retired defence personnel into such services. This would partially help the defence veterans to start a second career, to compensate for their truncated service.
With the advent of the year 2011, it can be hoped that the humble appeal and aspirations of over two million veterans would not fall on deaf ears and the stance of the Government would be more humane towards its brave soldiers. The Government should immediately formulate policies, to not only ensure lateral absorption of younger lot of defence personnel/veterans, into paramilitary and police services, but also ensure welfare of older ie pre 2006 veterans, by enhancing their pensionary benefits to as close to the level of “one rank one pension” as justifiably feasible.
Col LK Anand Retd

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