The June 2015 issue of SALUTE, which focused on the situation in J&K has been very well received by the environment. This month we focus on the ongoing agitation by our Veterans and also on issues which have led to the continual downward erosion of the status of the Armed Forces.
The agitation by the Veterans is not so much about getting a better financial deal in terms of pension – though the central theme of the protest is One Rank One Pension (OROP). It is more about equity and fair play. For decades now the Services, which have contributed so much to the security and development of the nation feel shortchanged by the system. It is a travesty of justice that post India’s magnificent victory in the Bangladesh War of Liberation in 1971, a recalcitrant bureaucracy, in what can only be described as an act of vendetta, reduced the pension scale of veterans from 70 percent to 50 percent. As this was also linked to the length of service, the impact was far greater and the pensioners found that instead of getting 70 percent of the last pay drawn (LPD), they landed up with just about 37 percent of LPD. In effect, their pension was halved. The civilians on the other hand who were getting 33 percent of LPD, ended up getting 50 percent.
Status in Indian society is linked to last pay drawn. The Indian soldier has thus been at the receiving end of the pettiness of India’s bureaucracy in every pay commission. The babus rule the roost and to build their own self esteem, simply resort to bashing the Services. Perhaps it has something to do with their servility to the political establishment, compelling an over compensation in hitting out at an establishment that is known for its virility. The shabby manner in which the late Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw was treated by India’s bureaucracy in denying him privileges due to a Field Marshal is a case in point. Another petty person, who rose to the highest ranks in India’s bureaucracy infamously said that the Services will get OROP over his dead body. In humour in the fashion of PG Wodehouse, the Services could well have retorted that that could be arranged. But the Services have always remained ethically and morally a cut above the rest and in any event, such a humorous retort would most certainly have been misconstrued.