OROP – What Next

There is no point in trying to educate the nation’s citizens on the plight of a soldier whether during service or after retirement. It is a waste of effort since a common Indian has no time for all this. All his energies are directed towards his own innumerable problems that he faces on a daily basis.

OROP (One Rank One Pay) has become more of an emotional appeal today as is evident from the manner in which the agitation of ex-servicemen seems to be progressing. This in itself is not wrong since OROP always had an emotional angle to it from the beginning. But what does appear worrisome is the manner in which the agitation is being continued. Today it is more counterproductive than being productive for the soldier. This may sound harsh to the people on the forefront of the agitation but this indeed is a reality check.

One of the key aims of the agitation was to educate the masses about the injustice done to the nation’s armed forces over the last forty years by successive governments. The injustice that was cleverly plotted by the political – babu nexus by playing with the emoluments of the soldier continually over the last few decades without giving him any representation in the various pay commissions and other associated forums. There is no doubt that the aim of the nexus was twofold wherein a reduction in emoluments automatically translated in a reduced stature and prestige for the soldier since the government and bureaucracy measures these attributes primarily based on the emoluments drawn by an individual. So if a Deputy Secretary in a ministry could hardly equate himself to an Army Captain prior to 1973, today he claims to rub shoulders with a Colonel. By implementing NFU for 58 central services in 2006, bureaucracy has ensured that a Brigadier with over 27 years of service will invariably be at a disadvantage to a civilian officer with less than 20 years of service. As far as the bureaucracy is concerned it has achieved its aim by clever manipulations during successive pay commissions with the connivance of the political leadership. Unfortunately the man on the street is not interested in all this.

Is the current OROP agitation sending the required message to the nation? Frankly it would be foolish to assume it is. Ask any normal man on the street and the first comment that he makes is as to why are the Ex servicemen fighting for a few more rupees. This is not surprising. The nation is used to strikes, agitations and representations by different groups of government servants that are invariably for more pay and allowances. OROP agitation too appears to most in the same vein. The fact that a soldier operates under tough conditions, has restricted fundamental rights and spends more than half his service life away from home or that he has committed to lay down his life for the nation unlike any other service does not cut much ice with most citizens. This is primarily because of three reasons. First the general impression in the civilian circles is that the armed forces enjoy a fancy life style where the work content is minimal but enjoyment quotient is very high. Second factor is the misconception that a soldier lives totally off the government since he gets free rations, subsidised liquor and government quarters to live among other perks. Last but not the least is the fact that since the government and administration have never held the military in high esteem, the nation as a whole has also never done so. It is indeed a sad commentary on the understanding of the nation about the professionalism, work culture and the immense responsibility that lies on a soldier’s shoulders. Till this perception is corrected the soldier is unlikely to receive any support or recognition from the common man on the street. It is also true that perceptions cannot be changed overnight or through agitations.

In light of the above is there any sense in continuing with the agitation for OROP in its current mode? If anything it seems to be sending wrong signals to the nation where a soldier is being perceived to be greedy and no different than other government employees who agitate for more money at the drop of a hat. Burning of medals or returning of the same is akin to the return of awards by some pseudo intellectuals who were looking for their two minutes of fame by fabricating the issue if intolerance. Frankly dishonouring medals and decorations is an un-soldierly act and amounts to ‘unbecoming conduct’. Most medals that a soldier earns are without a doubt based on team effort and dishonouring medals amounts to dishonouring the team that helped an individual soldier to reach unimagined heights of courage, valour and devotion to duty in the service of the nation.

There is no point in trying to educate the nation’s citizens on the plight of a soldier whether during service or after retirement. It is a waste of effort since a common Indian has no time for all this. All his energies are directed towards his own innumerable problems that he faces on a daily basis. The government’s stand and approach too is not very encouraging in this regard. If one watched the Defence Minister when he released the notification for OROP recently, it was very clear that as far as he and the government were concerned it was a ‘done’ thing now and the government was in no mood to do anything more. Frankly from his body language it appeared as if he was giving some kind of a dole or largesse to the soldiers and not something that was theirs by right. Such posturing by government functionaries cannot be overcome by an agitation of the kind that is happening at Jantar Mantar today.

Therefore it is time that the present OROP movement does a mid course correction.  The next obvious question is what can be done. A difficult question but here are some action points that can be considered. The first two are directly related to OROP and would possibly go a long way to resolve the mess created. The next three points are in the form of long term measures that aim at establishing a soldier’s position in the society and possibly give him the honour that is due to him apart from making the public aware of what a soldier’s life is all about. These action points are as follows:

  1. The OROP demand has an inherent strength that is not being exploited in the right way. First it has been passed by the parliament and secondly it has the approval of the Supreme Court. If that be so, it is time the Ex Servicemen challenge the government’s notification in the highest court both for its diluted content, delay in implementation and last but not the least for contempt of the court’s ruling. In all probability this should resolve the OROP mess that has been created by the government. Legal experts too recommend this option.

  1. It is time the three Serving Chiefs start working for the overall good of the armed forces instead of making politically correct statements that are neither here nor there. They must insist on suitable representation in the pay commissions as a start point. They must make a realistic list of injustices that have been heaped on the soldier over the last few decades and then seek a proper redress of the same within the realms of the current pay commission in an emphatic manner, both from the financial as well as the stature angles. These have to be pursued with conviction and vigour of a military campaign with the government. If they do not have the will or the gall to do so, then they do not deserve the high offices they are occupying today.

  1. The armed forces have to raise the bar as far as honouring their comrades who make the supreme sacrifice in the course of their duty. There is no point in seeking this from the government or other civilian authorities since that will not be forthcoming. If a national memorial to the Soldier cannot come up near India Gate after decades of deliberations within the government, the forces have to act on their own. It is time a suitable site was selected in the Delhi Cantonment that is under the military and a memorial built there that should become the symbol of the nation. Similar sites should be explored in each state capital that has a tradition of sending their youth in the forces and memorials built. Money for such memorials will not be a constraint since over five million of serving and retired personnel will happily contribute a day’s salary towards this cause which should give a head start to any such project. The aim should be very clear. Every such monument should become the city’s number one attraction and a must visit site for everyone.
  2. All three services must start a youth awareness programme where school children and college youth are given an insight into a soldier’s life and his role in nation building. It cannot be left to National Cadet Corps (NCC) which today is nothing but a big sham. It stopped achieving its goals ages back and today is just another lacklustre programme that the colleges and schools manage without any conviction and sincerity.

  1. It is high time the services raise the bar for military attributes of honesty, integrity and morality across the board to prevent the gradual slide that has taken place over the last few decades. This will also include reinventing some internal methodologies, procedures and working styles that are more suited to the twenty first century. If that means shedding off some age old legacies carried forward from the British days, then so be it. Organisations that tend to defy changing times often invite more problems if they do not shed some redundant baggage of the past.

The road to seek his rightful place in the society for the Indian Soldier is not likely to be an easy task. Neither the government nor the common citizen is inclined to give him his due. The former lacks the will and the later is ignorant of his role in nation building. In the final analysis it will devolve on the soldier himself to find solutions to his problems and aspirations. The senior military leadership will have to play a major role in this regard. Unfortunately in the recent past it failed to do so and therefore the present problems. Whatever be the situation, one thing is certain that the humble Indian soldier will continue to play his part in nation building – irrespective of whether or not rewards and applause come his way.

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.

7 Comments

  • A well reasoned, middle of the road article containing sensible and positive suggestions. If the veterans persist with their agitation even now when the genuine difficulties of 90% of the armed forces( the jawans and ORs) have been conceded by the govt., this will only confirm what many had suspected all along-viz. that the officer cadres had been using the jawans only to extract the maximum benefits for themselves.
    Saroj is being a bit harsh on the general public when he states that they have no sympathy for the veterans because they have no idea of the role of the armed forces in ” nation building”. This is a face saving exit clause. There are two explanations for his indifference. One, the simple fact is that its difficult to sympathise for a chap who wants his PENSION to be raised by a few thousand rupees when you don’t know where your next meal is going be coming from. Lets face it- the armed forces are, in the eyes of the common man, as much a part of an exploitative ruling apparatus as the bureaucracy, which milks the govt. at every opportunity. Second, he is not too impressed with the army’s claim of ” nation building”- as I stated some time back in an article, even the labourer working on a road or a farmer tilling a flooded field contributes as much to building the nation as us bureaucrats or military men- at a fraction of the cost. Let us not appropriate too much credit to ourselves for this. And let us not expect the average Indian citizen to be taken in by this.

  • Hi Avay thanks for the response. I have only made a reference to the role of a soldier in nation building and at no point have I said that others, including a labourer, do not play any significant role. Discussion here is about the soldier and what he does. All citizens have a part to play, whose is more important or more significant is an entirely different matter. But I do certainly maintain that a soldier’s contribution, whatever it may be, is not understood and possibly not recognised by most. This stems mainly from the near indifferent attitude of the government towards the soldier as it filters down and spreads across the nation. Surely a nation cannot be built with soldiers alone.

  • Officer centric policies of previous governments have hurt the jawans the most. These policies are due to selective socialism of Congress party. Their brand of governance is RED TAPISM give babus and officers everything. They won’t let the rest to rise. The governments of past or pay commissions never bothered to do their duties rightfully. Instead they towed to eyewash presented by officers and Babus. CONGRESS PARTY’S SELECTIVE SOCIALISM IS KEPT VERY SIMPLE “APPEASEMENT OF OFFICERS AND BABUS”.
    Present hullabaloo of OROP is also an eyewash. The JAWANS who form 97% of the ESM contingent are seriously misinformed, misguided by various OFFICER CENTRIC GROUPS. Our pensions were revised every 10 years any way. The JAWANS are CHEATED again. Jawans’ support to OROP is the biggest ever mistake of our cadre. Instead we would have showed fight for proper revision of pre 2006 beneficiaries.
    Let me expose the hidden agenda of the whole OFFICER contingent behind drama of OROP.

    THE EXPOSE :

    1. Every commissioned OFFICER attains Rank of LTCol/Commander even if suppressed in promotion. No OFFICER takes PMR before reaching Rank of Lt colonel/Commander.

    2. The colonial cousins(officers) were always having aspirations of putting their foot in IAS officers shoes. In 6 th CPC officers managed to upgrade themselves to PAY BAND 2(pay grade of IAS officers). Think of an IAS administrating/ managing a city/district consisting of lakhs of people. And a defence officer managing 50-60 highly disciplined soldiers. But due to selective socialism of Congress party now both IAS and Defense officers are on same pay band.

    3. Now after implementation of OROP their biggest beneficiaries officers every one of them will be getting Pension equivalent to an IAS, as post OROP every EX OFFICER being in pay band 2. Basic rise from Rs 16400/- to 37700/- Nowhere in the world such a rise is given to anyone.

    4. OROP is a conspiracy to give each officer staggering Pension rise.

    In last few years since Timescale promotion policy is in effect. A breed of useless unprofessional morons have been promoted. Worthless posts are created to accommodate them. It is mockery of natural justice. At one place u don’t promote JAWANS equate them to a jhaduwala of municipality. On the other hand free hand is being give to OFFICER promotion. And also declare deficit of officers!!!!
    NFU and TIMESCALE are ways to kill competence of individuals. That makes jack a dull boy. Now a days top leadership of ARMED FORCES is acting like vampires to drain the life out of Indian youth.

    Healthy competition is must for any institution to succeed, thrive be it a country or ARMED FORCES. But when in the name of selection. You have this so called SSB that is actually Service Rejection Board. Your SSB doesn’t want sons of soil to be officers. SSB in principal is against Indianness and INDIAN in general. They want to recruit people who are either dumb or can be converted into a dumber fellow later in ACADEMIES. The Desi robust fellow INDIAN is simply not welcome and faces outright Rejection. The cult of defence ACADEMIES has succeeded in mass conversation of fellow INDIAN and turned them into COLONIAL COUSINS.
    कहाँ है मेरे हम वतन। कहाँ है मेरे भाई। फ़ौजो के गलियारों में धंधा चल रहाहै मेरे हिंदुस्तानी भाई को अँगरेज़ बनाने का। मेरे दुश्मन मेरे भाई मेरे हम साये। मेरा भी वतन तेरा भी वतन।

    In India we have blood sucker vampires everywhere. They can drain blood from our veins in the name of patriotism, nationalism. Now a days its true with most of the officers and jawans joining in Defence. Once u are in there is no competition. बने रहो पगला। काम करेगा अगला। देदो NFU timescale प्रोमोशन्स सारे फुद्दू कर्नल ज़रूर बनेंगे। अब तो उपरवाला बचाये। socialism is good in principle but has never been successfully implemented. Likewise outright capitalism is also draining mother earth of all its resources. We must find a middle path. Sustainable development, and sustainable living were principles developed by one Mr Gandhi. He tried to give answers to these Burning issues through his books. I have found solace in some of his thoughts.

  • MR MANNAN BHAT HOW MANY TIMES U HAVE VISITED JAFFNA ,JUNGLES OF VAVUNIA AND MULLAITIVU(SRILANKA)TO SEE WHAT INDIAN ARMY HAS BEEN DOING ,HAVE U BEE TO SIACHIN AND SEEN WHAT DOES A SOLDIER IMEAN OFFICERS AND MEN DO ,HAVE YOU BEEN TO ANY SEARCH OPERATION IN PLACES LIKE HILL KAKA IN POONCH DISTRICT OR STEEP HIGHTS OF DODA WHICH WERE AT ONE AMOUNT OF TIME INFESTED WITH BLOODY MILITANTS /MERCENERIES,HAVE U BEEN THROUGH THE FLOOD DEVASATION RESCUE MISSIONS .SIMPLY NO .YE KITAABI KIDAA BANNEY SEKOI FAYDA NAHI YOU ARE HOODWINKING YOUR OWN SYSTEM .SINCE YOU DONT HAVE IN YOU THATS WHY U GET REJECTEDIN ESTEEMED SSB ,SSB REJECTION MEANS U R NOT FIT FOR AN ESTEEMED ORGANISATION LIKE INDIAN ARMY .SO PLEASE CHECK UR TOUNG AND THING THE1000TIMES MORE BEFORE COMMENTING ON INDIAN ARMY OUR IS THE ORGANISATION WHICH HAS GOT22 BATTLE HONOURS .DO YOU KNOW HOW THE BATTLE HONOURS ARE WON READ THE HISTORY OF INDIAN ARMY .I WILL NOT COMMENT N OTHER ORGANISATIONS AS SUCH BUT WHAT I KNOW ABOUT INDIAN ARMY IS JUST CLASS APART NO OTHER ORGANISATION AS ON TODAY CAN MATCH STATUS OF INDIAN ARMY .WHER MARTIAL RACES HAVE BEEN CONTRIBUTING TO MAKE OUR COUNTRY FORMIDABLE ,THE GREAT NATION ALLTOGATHER.AND THESE HAVE BEEN POSSIBLE BY THE WHOLE INDIAN ARMY BEING LEAD AND GUIDED FROM THE FRONT BY THE COMMISSIONED OFFICERS.SO PLEASE DONT POUR OIL ON BURNING FIRE OF ISSUES U UR SELF WILL GET HANDS BURNED

  • All I can say on Mr Bhatt’s views is that he comes out as an extremely jealous, disgruntled, bitter and uninformed individual with no understanding of life in armed forces or the ethos of the uniform. As far as getting in officer cadre in armed forces, without a doubt the system followed is perhaps the best and most unbiased in the whole nation, no other recruitment system even comes close to it.

  • The OROP movement proved one thing for sure. The government with its politicians and the bureaucrats want to do what they like and not give a chance to a sensible dialogue unless it comes with violence. Soldiers by training are not attuned to be patient, still they were disciplined all through the movement and that very fact was treated as their weakness. A reasonable solution was wilfully thwarted for a long time and diluted from its very definition. It is not the soldiers who last their respect, it is the nation as a whole which joined our enemy nations in laughing at them. It is a shame on the nation and the leaders who slighted the soldiers for their unflinching loyalty and integrity in serving the nation selflessly. In the long run, these leaders will realise their folly for inflicting insults on various counts on them.

  • Mr bhatt
    you r the mistake of ur parents. why dont you go n serve in -40℃ and ask for higher pay band. you rascal, Indian Army is saving ur ass since 1947 other wise u have not taken birth in India only..you must be a ssb rejection u dumb.

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