I wasn’t a keen follower of the OROP initially to be very honest, and stood at a moral ground of the rational apathetic until September. This is ironic because all the men in my family have served in the army and today I stand as a proud beneficiary of the same institution.
I remember as I enjoyed my rickshaw ride to the Ministry of External Affairs one day, the rickshaw puller got lost and took me to the Ministry of Home Affairs, the way to which crossed the Jantar Mantar. Being from Chandigarh, I had heard and read quite a lot about its significance and historical importance and how the monument till date stands for progressive thinking and an outlook towards a better future. Right in front and around the monument, I saw retired officers and soldiers, both old and young sweating yet standing tall, fighting for the rights of every man who pledges to serve our nation. There were so many of them with placards, many of their wives and children were present too, it was scorching hot and I wished that they’d be more comfortable, but then their resilience to their cause was a big enough reason for them to endure the roasting weather.
But my empathy, was interrupted with the thought that, those weren’t just ‘any men’ who’d crib at the slightest instance of being uncomfortable but rather those were the men some of who had served at the most severe temperatures, ranging from that at the Siachen Glacier to the dreary sands of the Thar desert to defend our country from forces, committed to ruffle the peace of it.
That was my moment of awakening and I developed a penchant towards the cause.
The demands were simple, One Rank One Pension, irrespective of one’s tenure, for a country that’s GDP has gone up in the recent past and a country where crores are embezzled over building states structures, it wasn’t an unfair cause, which the Indian soldiers were fighting for. In fact, the quest for implementing the OROP started with the promises that were made by the Government at power, before being elected. So the soldiers were just asking their due, in fact, their right that originated from the assurances given by the elected party at the centre.
But we have seen, how their commitment has been at a dilly-dally stance, where they have agreed to implement it but wouldn’t extend the provisions of the same to the officers who take premature retirement after 2013. Thus leaving the positive benefits of the wholesome implementation of the scheme in a limbo.
Now let’s move on to the 7th Pay Commission, which to a layman would serve as an evidence of the fact that the government is doing way too much for the Indian Armed Forces. But I wish that was true. The Seventh Pay commission is a counter-incentive in the garb of a perfectly drafted report, providing the Indian Armed Forces with everything that they could ever imagine.
But this is far from true, to start with the Seventh Pay Commission has cancelled free ration in peace areas.
This is only the tip of the iceberg, the actual deal is this, the hardship allowance of an army officer has been fixed lower than that of a civil servant, which has always been the case. So if an army officer is posted in Siachen glacier, the highest battlefield of the world his hardship allowance would be 31,500 vis a vis an IAS officer’s hardship allowance which shall be around 70,000 for being in Jammu, which is a full-fledged area.
This has irked many in the forces, who expected a bridge of parity to be brought between civil servants and the forces. But because this inequality is perpetually maintained, it goes on to show how the ‘lal batti‘ is favoured more than the olive green uniform. In fact the 7th CPC’s bombshell recommendation, tucked away on Page 151, is that this relative advantage enjoyed by the IAS/IFS should be extended to the IPS and the Indian Forest Services, leaving the military out in the cold. Effectively, IAS, IPS and IFoS officers will get six additional increments by the time they complete 13 years of service. The military gets nothing, apparently in the continuing belief that its functions are not as complex, difficult and critical as the other four All India Services.
To many, the demands of the army officers have been irrational, some have called them greedy, but I ask you, would you ever do anything, anything at all if it required maximum risk and minimal gain? The businessmen might point the flaw in that question and state, “maximum risk goes with maximum gain.”
Now, what is this risk these army men withstand? Because to many, all they do is create destruction and go on raping women and misusing AFSPA.
I won’t spin yarns of praises of this institution because I have always felt that the working of the Indian Armed Forces was flawed at certain areas. But if there is anything at all for which the State is unprepared, be it the ghastly 26/11 attacks, or Prince slipping in a manhole or the floods that hit any State of our nation, or even relief operations, it is the army that is contacted. This is the same army, whose one-day salary is compulsorily cut if there are floods in Kashmir or an earthquake in Nepal.
They too wish that aman and shanti (peace and harmony) could exist and they too yearn that everyone got their own due and that everyone gets whatever they want.
For all that they do, I think they should be the highest paid, men should get incentives to join the armed forces. The number should go up and not come down. It is these men, whose due needs to be given and it is these men who are ensuring that you’re safely reading this.
Here is a glimpse of the protests that took place earlier this year at Jantar Mantar: In Pictures: Beyond The News, The Soldiers And Their Continued Protest At Jantar Mantar