The OROP Jinx – An open letter to the Prime Minister

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Dear Mr Prime Minister,

I just came across a piece of information via ‘What’s Up’ messaging that back room talks on grant of ‘One Rank One Pension’ (OROP) have failed since the ex-servicemen delegation did not accept what was being offered. I always understood that back room talks were necessary to resolve matters that were invariably not honest and straight in character since in such cases the modus oprendi always involved some wheeling dealing or give and take. The fact that a simple thing like OROP needs back room talks does come as a surprise to me, particularly since it is for the armed forces. All my life I had always understood that armed forces were miles away from such devious means since everything related to forces is invariably a straight line in character.  Frankly I am angry, surprised and a bit sad, all at the same time, at the twists and turns that the issue of OROP is being forced to navigate.

I am angry primarily at the attitude of the government that includes both the political leaders involved in the decision making and the ‘babus’ who are responsible for finding an acceptable and sincere solution to this over forty year old saga. The anger is more directed at the leaders who have time and again given assurances to the ex-servicemen regarding their support and commitment for implementation of the OROP. Many of these leaders, that includes you Mr Prime Minister, announced many times in last eighteen months that OROP is a soldier’s right and the nation owes it to him. One wonders why then the government is dithering on taking a decision on the same despite your being in the chair. I cannot for a moment think that despite your desire for the same, the concerned ministries are unable to find an acceptable solution and implement the same. Knowing your penchant for getting things done once you are convinced of the same, I fail to understand why OROP is still languishing and not seeing the light of the day. Is it because either you are not convinced of the need for OROP or you are not concerned since it has very little political mileage to go with it? Whichever of the two it may be, it does raise a lot of uneasy questions in many minds about your sincerity to a cause and the esteem in which you hold the armed forces of the nation, your public pronunciations notwithstanding.

Soldier OROP

Why am I surprised? Well I am surprised at the attitude of the government as a whole towards the most reliable and nationalistic resource of the nation that never fails the nation. Be it internal threats, calamities, disasters or any external threat from across the borders, the three services have always been up there to meet and exceed the nation’s expectations. Successive governments have denied them the required wherewithal that is essential for them to carry out their role to their full capabilities. Yet, invariably the soldier has made up for this shortcoming with his commitment, zeal and courage, often at grave danger to his own self. This despite the fact that over the last six decades since independence the stature and emoluments of these brave men have been continually reduced, both by design and deceit, by the very people in power who should have actually been protecting the same. Unlike Congress party, BJP had always advocated a strong military and full support for the soldier and his family. But once in power, it is sad to see that BJP too has been left wanting in this regard. Is it not an irony that the government could implement Non Functional Upgradation (NFU) for all director level officers across 58 different Group A services without much ado but it comes up with all kinds of excuses when it comes to OROP for armed forces?

The sadness stems from the fact that indifference of successive governments and in particular your government has forced the otherwise disciplined soldier (ex-serviceman) to come out and protest on the streets. This development may not look very alarming to a politician or a bureaucrat. However a military mind is likely to see this as a very undesirable evolution in the overall interests of the nation and the future of its armed forces. It may be prudent to remember that this is not a protest by just ex-servicemen alone since today’s serving soldier will be an ex-serviceman tomorrow. Therefore OROP has to be viewed as an issue involving all soldiers, serving or retired. The very thought that a serving soldier too may get involved in the demand for OROP is indeed not a very welcome thought, but then neither you, Mr Prime Minister, nor I can predict the future.

I really wish the ex-servicemen did not have to form labour union type organisations and take to the streets to demand this legitimate basic right that is dictated solely by their service conditions. Unfortunately they have been forced to do that due to the apathy shown by the government.  In principle I think the onus was on the Chiefs of the three services to have seen this through, but unfortunately most went home without getting involved with the issue and the current three do not seem to be throwing their might behind it for reasons best known to them. Somehow most Chiefs seem to have forgotten that they are leaders not only for the serving soldier but also for the retired soldiers. May be they need to be reminded of that age old saying ‘once a soldier, always a soldier’.

Can you, Mr Prime Minister, correct the situation, if not for the soldier, at least for the sake of the future of the nation as a whole?

Jai Hind

Lt Col Saroj Chadha (Retired)

Saroj Chadha, an engineering professional, is a successful entrepreneur. Having retired from the Indian Army after having served for over 23 years, he has also been a consultant for leading Indian and Multinational electrical companies. He lives in New Delhi.

13 Comments

  • Titus says:

    Lt col, You have said it very correctly.Today’s soldier is tomorrow’s VETERAN,let us pray that the present situation doesn’t lead to such conclusions.ABSOLUTE POWER BREADS ABSOLUTE CORRUPTION .That IS HISTORY

  • ,JPS Shergill says:

    Politicians are congenital liars.They seldom mean what they say. Never deliver after making lofty promises. Who would ever dare to disobey and negate a deliberate order of a strong PM like Mr. Modi.

    • Saroj Chadha says:

      I agree if the PM wanted it, the same would have been done by now- any problems not withstanding. Unfortunately we are not part of a vote bank and therefore the lack of interest and urgency.

  • Mohit Kapoor says:

    Sir, defence personnel are now allowed to vote where they are posted so they are also vote banks & perhaps the reason for enthusiasm of our political leaders on OROP. Things have to be set right & dharnaas can’t become means to achieve demands.

  • Saroj Chadha says:

    Yes Defence Personnel can vote but it is not a Vote Bank in any sense since they do not vote en bloc as soldiers come from all parts of the country. Also the voting average is low doe to various reasons. On Dharnas, in principle I am in agreement and no one should adopt that route, but try telling a 85 year old veteran, who retired at less than 40 years of age, who has been waiting for over 40 years for this OROP and in the meantime struggling to make two ends meet day after day, year after year. Unfortunately a large number of people in our country tend to believe that a soldier gets paid to die, so what is the big deal. Sad but true and sadder part is that today’s young upwardly mobile youth too seems to be unconcerned and they are the future. So now you know what the future holds for a soldier.

  • menon kpr says:

    Sir You rightly said that this contingency would not have arisen if our chiefs taken up the issue in 1973 itself. I am happy that they have done it now. We are grateful to them. JAIHIND

  • Handy says:

    It is with a sense of deep anguish that we are writing to draw the attention of the Supreme Commander to the dismal spectacle of our Veteran soldiers, driven to undertake public protests and demonstrations to press their demand for the – long overdue – grant of one-rank, one-pension or OROP the retired Chiefs have said. They have asked the President to direct the government to open talks with the representatives of the agitating soldiers, and subsequent to this make the government issue a call to them to call off their strike.

  • Brig Jay Kaul says:

    A big let down. Bottom line is never trust a politician.A battle thrust on us and we have to fight it. Stay united for the cause.
    Many battles ahead. We have many fronts to open up till our IZZAT is restored. We have to restored earlier order of precedence and salary structure.
    Our Chiefs have let us down.Spineless leadership who never knew how to thump the tables

  • L.D.Sharma says:

    I am surprised at the comments of Mohit kapoor that dharna’s cant be way of demand. I want to clarify that this is not demands this is right ,gradually taken away by Nehru ji, Indira Gandhi and never fulfilled. Have you heard in any other country’s PM promising even troops that OROP is done ,pl share with me if you know ! Hon. Supreme Court has decided after long hearing that defence deserves OROP. After nehru’s cut in defence salaries, the Salaries of IAS has gone UP 108 times since 1973 where as for defence it is only 45 times. All for Mr. Mohit Kapoor !

  • R Nath says:

    It is the neta babu nexus which has brought about the current situation. The three chiefs are equally to be blamed as they have been well compensated.Very sad.These are selfish and character less people. The country will pay for this betrayal one day for their evil karma.
    .

  • R Nath says:

    The only hope in solving this mess of OROP is the PM who should meet the agitating veterans without the babus. His final decision will be welcomed .

  • KN Ganesan says:

    I bet Mohit has no one near and dear in the forces and has not faced the bullets and hardship. Let us only hope the agitation does not go the other way from peaceful demand for legitimate demands which were promised to what one fears.

  • Saroj Chadha says:

    Thank you for all the comments from all those who have read the blog. It does appear that instead of resolving the matter the government, as always, is allowing the discontent to simmer while it is busy in other more pressing issues like Bihar elections. As is a politician’s want in India, they seldom think beyond their nose and OROP is currently not in that zone while Bihar elections are. The problem here is not just a few hundred rupees more for the veteran, as is perceived by most civilians with very little understanding of the nation’s defence forces. The main issue here is the status and respect of the soldier on one hand and the credibility / attitude of the Politician – Babu nexus on the other. The later wants to ensure that the former is rubbed into the ground as is evident from last five decades – Cost to Nation not withstanding and Reasons for this approach known only to them. This wilful lack of commitment on part of the nexus (read government) is what is disturbing. If the Honourable Prime Minister does not step in to correct the same on a priority basis, the harm it may do to the nation may be irreversible in more ways than one. It is common knowledge that the OROP announcement done is a hurry was at the behest of the RSS and the Defence Minister just read out what the Babu gave him without going in to details, thereby creating fresh controversies where there should have been none.

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