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The One Rank One Pension Agitation and Indian Armed Forces Morale

A senior air warrior, graduate from the Staff College and a PG in military studies. He is qualified to write on war and allied matters.

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Background

The Indian army traces its history to the militia raised by the East India Company almost 3 centuries back. Over the years the army developed a professional outlook and became the main cog of the Raj. It helped the British empire fight 2 World Wars and also helped consolidate British power all over the world from China to East Africa and Singapore to the northwest Frontier.

The army and other services during the days of the Raj were a privileged force and they were well looked after. The British realized that a nation's standing in the world comity of nations was dependent on military power and they took great pains to ensure that the Indian armed forces personnel did not have a raw deal. This approach showed foresight and only Mao Tse Tung articulated what the British had put into effect earlier by stating that " Political power comes out of the barrel of a gun".

During the period just after World War II from 1945-to 46, the British came to face the hard fact that the army on which they had relied to control India was no longer dependable. There were mutinies in Karachi and Bombay and British officers were shot dead. They took a decision to withdraw from India and granted independence to India by an act of the British parliament called the Indian Independence Act. This was passed in 1946 and the British left India in 1947. The new Indian state inherited the first-class army and at that time India was the dominant power in Asia as China was fighting a civil war and Japan had been Atom Bombed into submission.

Downgradation of the Armed Forces

Nehru took over as prime minister of India. Unfortunately Nehru had spent his entire life agitating against the English by non violent methods. He was used to the politics of fasting and non cooperation. He had no idea what strategic power meant. He became prime minister and had a deep distrust of the army. When in rival countries like Burma and Pakistan the military seized power, his fear of the Indian army bordered on the paranoid. He was scared that he would be ousted by the military in a coup and decided to defang the army and reduce its importance. He also sanctioned a systematic purge of all privileges of the army and decided to sideline any soldier who he thought was a threat to him. Thus distinguished soldiers were retired and yes-men promoted.

Nehru also refused to sanction the latest weaponry for the army and also reduced its perks including pension. The 1962 war with China punctured Nehru's ego and he was completely deflated as he realized he had committed a cardinal sin by neglecting and downgrading the army. He died a broken man, scorned by many who at one time adulated him.

This state of affairs continued under successive prime ministers and despite the Indian army giving a great victory in 1971, the pensions which were 70% of the last pay drawn were reduced to 50% in 1973 by Indira Gandhi. No explanation is available as to why it was done, but the fact is that the armed forces were on a downslide.

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The Present Scenario

The army for many years represented the central government to sanction One Rank One Pension(OROP) . This demand became strident in about 2004 when Manmohan Singh became Prime Minister. Unfortunately, the old distrust and dominance of the IAS lobby ensured that the demand was never conceded. The government talked only of progress and neglected the armed forces and hoped like the Ostrich that the storm will blow away. They failed to realize the effect of this on the serving soldiers who have an umbilical cord with retired servicemen. After all today's soldiers will be ex-servicemen tomorrow.

In 2014, matters came to head and the ex-servicemen launched an agitation against the newly elected BJP government headed by Narendra Modi. The sad part is that on at least 3 occasions Narendra Modi promised he would sanction OROP and yet when the crunch came, Modi did not approve OROP which had been recommended by the Koshyiari Committee appointed by Parliament. Two sittings of Parliament had approved the recommendations of this committee.

The government under pressure from the RSS did come up with the approval of OROP, but it was way below what has been approved by parliament. In fact, it was a diluted OROP and yet Modi and the BJP are unable to see the light. The situation is bad and the veterans are on hunger strike demanding that OROP as agreed and approved by parliament. The Modi government by not approving this demand is playing with fire. The serving soldier is affected and one wonders how India can assert its position as a great power.

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Reference to Supreme Court and developments.

Veterans Association led by General Satbir Singh decided to approach the Supreme Court for the redress of their grievances. The case was heard for almost 8 years and just a month back the Supreme Court has come up with a Bizarre judgment. It has justified the government's stand and stated that it is not practical that a person holding the same rank must get the same pension; this was the crux of the OROP agitation and the recommendations of the Koshyiari committee. This judgment is a body blow and confirms that the Supreme Court can never be a vehicle of change in India.

Comments

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on July 21, 2020:

Thank you Anupama, a new topic for you.

Anupam Mitu from MUMBAI on July 21, 2020:

We are really clueless. Surprised to read the details here.

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