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    BRO gears up to reopen 13,050-ft high Rohtang Pass

    KULLU: Despite the arduous challenge of clearing the heavy snow, going up to five feet, on the Manali-Rohtang Road, the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) is once again geared up to reopen the road to traffic.

    The heavy snowfall over the past two days had blocked the 13,050 feet high Rohtang Pass, the only gateway to Lahaul-Spiti district from Manali, stalling traffic movement completely and cutting off the district from the rest of the world.Talking to HT, BRO commander KP Rajendra said, “The BRO workforce and machinery has been deployed to clear snow from Manali towards Marhi, while the road clearing work on the Lahaul, between Satingri and Koksar, will begin on Saturday.”


    Hero of Indo-Pak wars passes away

    Tribune News Service

    Chandigarh, December 9

    2015_12$largeimg10_Thursday_2015_021036137gallery
    Brig Sant Singh’s daughter Satinder Kaur (left) at her residence in Chandigarh on Wednesday. Tribune Photo: Manoj Mahajan

    Forty-four years after he spearheaded the Indian Army’s charge to Dacca (now Dhaka) during the 1971 Bangladesh campaign, one of the country’s most highly decorated soldiers marched into oblivion.Brig Sant Singh, twice decorated with the Maha Vir Chakra (MVC), the second highest award for gallantry, passed away here last night. He was 94 years old and had been ailing for some time.Brig Sant Singh is survived by his daughter Satinder Kaur, who is married to a Brigadier.Hailing from Panjgrain village near Kotkapura, he had settled down in Chandigarh after retirement. The cremation will take place tomorrow.Belonging to the Sikh Light Infantry, he was among the only six individuals to have been awarded the MVC twice. With his demise, only one such recipient now remains alive.During the 1971 Indo-Pak war, he was commanding the FJ Sector in the eastern theatre and his formation achieved spectacular results, advancing 38 miles almost on foot, to secure Mymensingh and Madhopur in eight days. During the advance, in spite of stiff opposition from the enemy, he cleared heavily defended positions at several places, personally leading the troops. His advance paved the way for Indian troops to enter Dacca and he was among the first officers to enter the headquarters of the East Pakistan Commander, Lt Gen AAK Niazi. For his actions, he was awarded the MVC.A framed picture of Niazi and a desktop timepiece, which he seized from Niazi’s office, was his war trophies displayed in his home.Six years earlier, in November 1965, while commanding a Sikh Light Infantry battalion, Sant Singh, then a Lt Col, had evicted Pakistani troops from the OP Hill in Jammu and Kashmir. The Pakistani troops had encroached on the Indian Territory after the ceasefire. Despite difficult terrain and mine fields, the feature was wrestled back after a bitter hand-to-hand fight. For displaying conspicuous gallantry and leadership in the face of heavy fire, he had received his first MVC.Colonel of the Sikh Light Infantry, Lt Gen NPS Hira has condoled Brig Sant Singh’s death. The entire Sikh Light Infantry fraternity treasures his courage, significant contribution and pays heartfelt tribute to the worthy officer, he said.In his message, Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee president Capt Amarinder Singh said Brig Sant Singh was an exceptional soldier, of whom the Army and the nation was proud of and in his death, the country had lost a great soldier, whose services would always be remembered.

    Brig Sant Singh

    • Brig Sant Singh, twice decorated with the Maha Vir Chakra (MVC), the second highest award for gallantry, was 94 years old and had been ailing for some time.
    • Belonging to the Sikh Light Infantry, he was among the only six individuals to have been awarded the MVC twice.
    • With his demise, only one such recipient now remains alive

    Military is seventh time disadvantaged

    THERE WAS NO REPRESENTATION IN THE SEVENTH CENTRAL PAY COMMISSION FROM THE DEFENCE SERVICES THOUGH THEY FORM THE LARGEST GROUP OF GOVERNMENT SERVICE, OTHER THAN THE RAILWAYS

    The military has been persistently disadvantaged by successive central pay commissions (CPC). In the case of the first and second CPCs, its case was fielded by the ministry of defence (MoD). The third CPC wanted to hear the case from the military directly but the MoD ruled against this on grounds of discipline, and the top brass accepted the absurd stand.
    This pay commission brought down pensions of military personnel from 70% of last pay drawn to 50% but elevated pensions from 30% to 50% in the case of civil servants. Nearly 80% of military personnel did not even get 50% of the last pay drawn as pension. Only 37% got it because of the shorter span of service. The 50% pension was available only after 20 years of military service. Thereafter, subsequent CPCs persistently disadvantaged the military vis-à-vis civil services. However, the third CPC dangled the one rank one pension (OROP) scheme as an alternative to the decrease in pensions from 70% to 50%.
    MOD, CDA PLAY NEGATIVE ROLE
    Where subsequent pay commissions tried to improve matters for the military, the MoD and the controller of defence accounts (CDA) stepped in to negate them. The fourth CPC, as a consolation for OROP, gave rank pay up to the rank of brigadier. The CDA conveniently deducted this amount from the basic pay, which in turn impacted allowances as well. Three decades later, this is yet to be resolved. The Supreme Court orders on the payment of rank pay have not been implemented fully. Those behind this lapse were neither exposed nor held accountable.
    The sixth CPC ruled that pension should be fixed at 50% of “the minimum of the rank in the pay band corresponding”. The civil bureaucracy rephrased this sentence to read, “minimum of the pay band corresponding”. Those who played this trick were never pointed out and no action was initiated against them. This put four ranks: Lieutenant colonel, colonel, brigadier and major general in the same band 4 and the ministry placed all of them at the bottom of the pay band for the purpose of fixing pension. Thus, a brigadier (with rank pay as admissible to him) got more pension than a major general. This has also not been fully resolved a decade later, the Supreme Court ruling notwithstanding. In addition, more than two score anomalies created by the sixth CPC are yet to be resolved.
    DISABILITY PENSION
    Disabled civil employees of the government are retained till they reach the age of superannuation and given normal pension. Whereas for military personnel, for whom the chances of suffering disability is higher due to professional hazards, the disabled are sent out of service and often denied adequate disability pension. Disabled personnel have been fighting their cases with the government for years. The seventh CPC has further complicated the issue of disability and broadbanding.
    Early retirement, mounting family commitments and resultant financial worries has brought down a soldier’s life expectancy to 61-63 years, while the life expectancy of his counterpart in the civil services is 71-72 and those from the railways is 73. Early death of a soldier creates a wider gap in the sum total of pay and pension between him and his counterpart in the civil and police (state and central services). This sad state of soldiers seems to be of no one’s concern: least of all the military’s top brass.
    CIVIL SERVICES ARE ONE UP ON OROP
    The bureaucracy, via the sixth CPC, gifted itself and all-India Group A services (over four dozen of them) “non-functional upgrade (NFU)” but made it a point to exclude military officers from this largesse. This grant of NFU gave these civil services one up on OROP. Under NFU, everyone from those over four dozen civil services retired in the minimum appointment equivalent to an additional secretary to the government of India (equal to a threestar general), while less than 0.01% vacancies of three star general exist in the military. Even if the seventh CPC recommends NFU to the military, others would have gained 10 years advantage over them.
    The seventh CPC could do no better. As in the past, there was no representation in the CPC from the defence services though they form the largest group of government service (other than the railways). Even among the 150-odd officers drawn from various services to assist the CPC in working out the details of the report, there is none from the military. So the perennial bias and prejudice of bureaucrats against the military play out to the full and even those from the top judiciary, the chairmen of the CPCs, fail to notice this glaring shortfall. It would be too much to expect our service chiefs to take a stand even on this basic issue.
    MISLEADING FACTS
    In working out the defence revenue expenditure and percentage share of revenue expenditure, the seventh CPC took into account only .01% of the defence forces that reaches the rank of lieutenant general and paired it with that of 95% of civil servants who reach the level of additional secretary. This has been done to present a facade of satisfactory remuneration to defence personnel.
    This CPC’s terms of reference were to take into account the economic conditions of the country and the need for fiscal prudence, yet it has recommended grant of OROP to all government employees, while ex-servicemen have been agitating for OROP for more than 160 days and the government has been haggling with them to reduce their demand, citing the fiscal burden. The military’s demand for OROP rested on the grounds of early retirement and limited promotions. No such basis exists in the case of civil servants. The pay commission has gone horribly wrong on the retirement age of military personnel. For it, a sepoy retires at 42-48 years and a naik at 49. The CPC is unaware that 80% of army personnel retire at 37 years and less.

    Putting the military at the disadvantage has made the service unattractive. This would impact national security in the long run because the man behind the gun continues to be more important than the gun. It’s time to rectify the anomalies of successive pay commissions and end the bias against the military.
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    LT GEN HARWANT SINGH (RETD) gen_harwant@hotmail.com The writer, a former deputy chief of army staff, is a commentator on defence and security issues. Views expressed are personal


    LT GEN AMBRE TAKES CHARGE OF RISING STAR CORPS

    dy-commandant
    File photo of Maj Gen ( Now Lt Gen) Ashok Ambre,

    PATHANKOT: Lieutenant general Rajeev Tewari handed over the charge of the Rising Star Corps to lieutenant general Ashok Ambre, here on Monday. According to a press release from the army lieutenant general Tewari, during his illustrious command of the formation, oversaw the effective handling of counterterrorist operations, resulting in the elimination of all infiltrating terrorists and the successful conduct of rescue missions in the Corps zone. “Lieutenant general Ashok Ambre with an excellent service profile and rich experience in counter-terrorist operations has assumed the command of the Rising Star Corps,” the release said.


    Stop seeing China as adversary, says IAF chief

    2015_11$largeimg29_Sunday_2015_021942766
    Pranab presents President’s Standards to MiG-27’s two squadrons based in West Bengal’s Alipurduar
    Hasimara (West Bengal), Nov 28
    Calling for mature statesmanship from India and China, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha today said the country should not look at China as an adversary anymore.
    “We are in the same region, we have common interests. I don’t think that we should look at them as adversaries anymore,” Raha said in Alipurduar district.
    “Yes, we had fought a conflict, we have borders to settle. I think it’s time for mature statesmanship from both the countries to reconcile on many issues,” he said.
    All MIG-27 fighter jets, which have not been upgraded, will be phased out in the next couple of years and there are plans to introduce Rafale and Tejas, he added.
    President Pranab Mukherjee said India was firmly committed to peace but was always prepared to deploy its military might to safeguard its sovereignty as he decorated two gallant IAF fighter aircraft squadrons at a strategic border airbase here today.
    Mukherjee presented the President’s Standards to the 22nd and 18th Squadrons of the Indian Air Force operating the strike and combat superior MiG-27 aircraft to secure Indian skies along the eastern theatre during peace times and war.
    The Squadrons are based here in Alipurduar district of West Bengal, strategically located right across the India-Bhutan border with the task to keep a vigil over the entire north-east border skies of India.
    “India’s increasing eminence in the comity of nations draws its strength from the capabilities of our armed forces. Though we remain firmly committed to peace, we will use all our might to protect the sovereignty of the nation. I am confident that our valiant men and women in uniform will rise to the occasion,” the President said.
    The President’s Standards are given to armed forces’ units which render exceptional and dedicated service over a period of time. Both the units which got the honours today have been doing so for the past 50 years now.
    While the 18th Squadron, called the “Flying Bullets”, was formed in 1965 in Ambala, the 22nd Squadron was raised in 1966 in Bareilly and subsequently based at the Hasimara Air Force Station here.
    Mukherjee praised the IAF’s role in carrying out numerous humanitarian aid and disaster relief operations especially during the 2013 deluge in Uttarakhand and during the earthquake in Nepal in April this year.
    “The nation is indeed proud of you,” he said complimenting the two units and the Air Force.
    The two air strike units decorated today have played important roles during the 1971 Indo-Pak war with the 18th Squadron being the lone recipient of the highest battle-time gallantry medal — the Param Vir Chakra — for the daredevil operation of its Flying Officer NJS Sekhon, who successfully brought down Pakistani air force “Sabre” fighter jets in skilled dogfights.
    The 22nd Squadron, also called “The Swifts” for their fast and precision skills, earned its laurels during the same war when its fighters brought down three Pakistani jets over Jessore in a single sortie.
    IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha and senior air force officers were present at the event along with state government officials. — PTI


    Army reaches out to youth

    Our Correspondent
    Ferozepur, November 27
    In continuation with the Indian armed forces’ relentless efforts to connect with the people, especially with the youth, the Golden Arrow Division today organised a seminar to mark the golden jubilee celebrations of the historic 1965 Indo-Pak war which saw intense action here.
    During the seminar organised at RSD College in Ferozepur City, the speakers educated the youth about the nefarious and aggressive designs of the western neighbour and gave an overview about the war which was fought on this land 50 years ago. The event was attended by hundreds of students and faculty members of various colleges besides several dignitaries.
    The Army officials also gave a talk about the sacrifices made by the armed forces personnel in protecting the sovereignty of the nation. The Army officials said the Indian Army being the principal stakeholder in the nation building will continue to lead from the front working hand in hand with proud citizens. The Army officials also lauded the role of Punjabis for their sacrifice for the sake of the motherland, especially the people of this “Land of martyrs” whom they said have always stood like a second wall of defence in case of any external aggression.


    ​INDIA BROADENS TRAINING ROLE OF PC-7 MK II

    Pilatus_PC-7_Mk2_Trainer_2
    The Indian Air Force has been forced to commence intermediate stage II pilot training with the Pilatus PC-7 Mk II basic trainer aircraft (BTA), which also serves as its basic stage I trainer.

    “We understand that in the last couple of months, the IAF has thoroughly tested the aircraft with regard to their Stage II training syllabus requirements and determined that the PC-7 Mk II is very capable for deployment in an intermediate flying training role,” says Pilatus Aircraft executive Jim Roche in an email to Flightglobal.

    The PC-7 Mk II’s service entry in early 2013 ended the crisis stemming from the grounding of Hindustan Aeronautics’ HPT-32 ‘Deepak’ basic trainer on safety grounds.

    Prior to the induction of the PC-7, the air force undertook stage I and stage II training on Kiran jet trainers. In a reversal of roles, the PC-7 Mk II will now take-over the Kiran’s Stage II training role, as the service looks to keep the 1960s type in service till 2018.

    A number of challenges remain for the air force. Only 38 additional PC-7 Mk IIs are planned to be acquired from Pilatus, for a total of 113, instead of the 181 originally planned.

    Despite the delay in finalising the contract, the Swiss airframer’s now proven ability to deliver aircraft in short order, once a contract is inked, could be a source of comfort for the air force.

    At the beginning of the year, then HAL Chairman RK Tyagi told Flightglobal that its developmental basic trainer, the HTT40, would undertake its maiden flight before the end of the year. It would provide an indigenous solution to India’s basic trainer needs and include a weaponised variant. Developmental work on the type is now expected to be completed by 2018.

    Nonetheless, Pilatus remains confident of a firm order for 38 more PC-7 Mk IIs.

    “As has been reported by various IAF sources, discussions are continuing between Pilatus and the Indian air force regarding implementation of the option clause within the current contract,” says Roche.

    One advantage Pilatus has is a hot production line, which is producing five PC-7 Mk IIs for Malaysia and will produce nine PC-9Ms for Jordon. Deliveries for both run out to 2017.

    HAL, meanwhile, continues to have issues with its HJT-36 Sitara Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT).

    Fifteen years of development have resulted in an aircraft that is overweight, has yet to clear spin trials and is powered by an NPO Saturn AL-55I engine with a Total Technical Life (TTL) of only 300 hours.

    The IAF has orders for 12 limited series production (LSP) aircraft, of which six have been produced so far, and orders for 73 series production aircraft. Nonetheless, the air force issued a request for information to global OEMs in February 2014 seeking an IJT. With the PC-7 Mk II fulfilling the stage II training role of the IJT, it is not clear if this RFI will lead to an RFP.


    Beijing shows might in South China Sea

    Ajay Banerjee
    Tribune News Service
    New Delhi, November 25
    The Chinese navy has recently completed a series of ‘realistic confrontation training exercises’ in the South China Sea (SCS) which could set the tone for renewed tension in the disputed waters.
    The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) fielded a new type of ‘submarine’. However, it is not clear if the vessel was one of the new Type 94 Jin-class nuclear submarines. Multi-type of destroyers and frigates carrying anti-submarine helicopters were part of the exercise.
    Sources said the vessel was a submarine submersible ballistic nuclear (SSBN)—- in other terms, a nuclear-powered sub capable of carrying nuclear missiles. This was second such exercise within weeks.


    Veterans asking for too much

    TALKING GRIEVANCES With the central government issuing the one rank one pension notification recently, shouldn’t ex-servicemen call off the OROP agitation instead of threatening to intensify their protest over a few sticking points? Doesn’t returning meda
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    FOR

    Diluted OROP no relief to veterans, will do more harm
    The Modi government has released OROP in a diluted form which will do more harm to the soldiers than providing any relief. The major flaw is that this OROP will not be applicable to those soldiers who quit their service pre-maturely due to some reasons. The frequency of revision and fixing of benchmark of pension are other issues. It is a serious anomaly that goes against the post-Kargil military reforms that have helped bring down the average age of field commanders. In seeking a solution to the outstanding issues, appointing yet another committee to look into the grievances will amount to nothing but a travesty of justice.
    CAPT AMAR JEET KUMAR, SAS Nagar
    Recent OROP notification has several anomalies
    The armed forces have always remained apolitical. The veterans only seek to get the OROP in letter and spirit as promised by Narendra Modi as a prime ministerial candidate during the 2014 election campaigning on a number of occasions. The recent OROP notification has several anomalies as highlighted by the veterans, but to no avail. Parliament had also passed the OROP on two occasions — first, during the UPA rule and then by the NDA regime. Even defence minister Manohar Parikkar had allocated a budget of `8,300 crores in February this year for the purpose, but now they are throwing crumbs at ex-servicemen. The truncated OROP will cost the government just `3500 crore.
    COLONEL SK SOOD (RETD), Panchkula
    Govt’s attitude adding fuel to fire, failed to meet pre-poll promise
    Nobody wants to fight the government of the day, forget about the harried veterans. By not meeting the pre-poll promise and not implementing the unambiguous decision of Parliament and the Supreme Court for implementing the recommendations of a committee the NDA leadership has forced the veterans to hit the streets. After lot of dilly dallying and lame excuses for the delay, what has now been dished out is a complete negation of everything that the veterans have been fighting for.
    SC LUTHRA, Manimajra
    Agitation a symptom of a larger malaise
    I believe the OROP agitation is a symptom of a larger malaise, i.e. neglect of the defence forces by successive governments. The defence forces have been systematically downgraded over the period of time. The service chiefs do not have the authority to undertake the responsibilities that they have been charged with. The authority rests with bureaucratic structure of the ministry of defence (MoD), which does not have the requisite professional competence to take decisions on matters related to national security. There is an urgent need for a full and meaningful integration of the service headquarters with the MoD so that the basic principles of management are not violated to the detriment of national security planning, procurement, and execution. The structures give an impression of the soldier being treated as a ‘paid mercenary’ rather than the only professional partner in ensuring national security.
    WG CDR JP JOSHI (RETD), Zirakpur
    Delay in implementing OROP affecting morale of ex-servicemen
    Today’s serving soldier is tomorrow’s veteran. Our demand is parity in pension and that is at no stage a junior in rank and length of service should draw more pension than his senior. If the government wants to resolve this long-standing issue it should do it once and for all. The government knows that the Supreme Court accepted the OROP in1982. Delay on the part of the government in accepting the actual OROP, and implementing it is affecting the morale of the ex-servicemen community. When the government did not pay attention to the OROP demand, protest rallies followed.
    COL CT ARASU (RETD), Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu
    Government has divided veterans on the issue
    The government by announcing the OROP notification has succeeded in dividing the veterans. Some anxious veterans are in a hurry to compromise on the issue. There are people who want to belittle the entire ex-servicemen community. They will have to stand in front of the oneman committee pleading for their case. The government took 30 years to resolve the issue but not to the satisfaction of veterans. The honorable SC has already decided in their favour.
    PS BAJWA, via email
    Diluted OROP insult to real heroes, govt sending wrong message
    It is a matter of shame to the entire country that its war veterans are protesting for their rights. What kind of message we are trying to send across the world? The Centre spent thousands of crores on the Swachh Bharat Mission but when it came to our war veterans they cite shortage of funds. Successive governments have been befooling ex- army officers for the last 40 years. The Centre needs to fulfill their demands. To burn or return the medals will send a wrong message. Medals are conferred on the soldiers for their service and gallantry and returning these is disrespect to the nation.
    GAGANDEEP JASSOWAL, Chandigarh
    Complete misunderstanding of OROP concept must
    I am deeply hurt by what Brig Ravi Bains said on the issue. It is clearly apparent that there is complete misunderstanding of the OROP concept. The veterans have been compelled to launch the agitation. And continue, they will. All we demand are honourable post-retirement considerations for selfless sacrifices and hardships we undergo in the prime of our life. Nearly 95% of these men retire before the age of 40 and majority of them are forced to seek jobs. Political leaders belittle the role played by these men.
    COL NIRMAL SINGH (RETD), Panchkula
    Modified parity and not OROP
    The government’s recent OROP notification cannot be termed real OROP. Right in the beginning, the veterans would be granted pension less than that of their counterparts with the same rank and the length of service. For example, a pre-1996 retiree jawan with 17 years of service gets a pension of `5,196 while a recent retiree gets a pension of `7,605. As per the recent government notification he is likely to get `6,000 approximately which is lower than that of a recent retiree by `1,605 which is considerable. Same would be in the case of all offecers, JCOs and other ranks. This difference would keep increasing till 2018.This is against the very definition of OROP. At best, this can be termed as modified parity.
    BRIG JOGINDAR SINGH (RETD), via email
    Ex-servicemen’s agitation is more about honour
    The ex-servicemen’s agitation even after issuing of notification is more to do with honour and slight meted out to them by the government. The fundamental issue of OROP has been settled. I identify with the fraternity which feels that pension should be equalized every year. Now, it is just a matter of little amount. The future premature retirees are not entitled to OROP. I think that once you are entitled to pension, you should get OROP.
    LT GEN HS PANAG (RETD)
    Learn to honour the soldier, protest peaceful way to draw attention
    If we look at the OROP agitation as a battle between the government and the ex-servicemen then we are on a wrong track. It is a peaceful way of drawing the government’s attention to our 40-year-old demand of one rank one pension, which the present PM promised to fulfill before the general elections in 2014. The protest is more about our honour than money. They are forced to take up such small jobs because they can’t run their households with the meagre pension they get.
    COL RD SINGH (RETD), Ambala Cantonment

    AGAINST
    Soldiers fighting shamelessly for petty considerations
    Both sides are lacking open-mindedness with the confrontation acquiring new proportions. It is sad that defence personnel, who having fought for national honours, are now fighting shamelessly for petty material consideration. Old retirees are all for parity in pension with the new ones, but what would they say aabbout theirs having got pension decades more than the others. Moreover, how would defence retirees respond to many of them getting absorbed in lucrative civil positions, and their entitlements for canteen concessions? What if civilians too come agitating for OROP or lucrative adjustments on defence posts? It looks undignified and shameful for defence personnel quarrelling for few bucks.

    AGAINST

    MPS CHADHA, SAS Nagar
    Notification takes care of veterans’ basic demands
    The OROP notification the government has come out with takes care of the basic demands of veterans. Other things are also soldier-friendly. The most important issue that has been highlighted is that the pensioners who retired long back stand to benefit more than others and deservingly so. The agitation should be brought to an end immediately and benefits announced be implemented at the earliest. The negotiations can continue in a systematic manner without political meddling into the issue.
    PRITHIPAL SINGH, Chandigarh
    No rationale behind continuing stir after OROP notification
    The common man is unable to understand the reasons behind continuation of agitation by ex-servicemen after the OROP notification by the central government on Diwali eve. Logically speaking, ex-servicemen can approach the commission or committee appointed by the government to hear their grievances, if any.
    VD KALRA, Panchkula
    Veterans should have waited for outcome first
    The OROP agitation launched about six months ago was uncalled as the government had made a statement on accepting the demand. Ex-servicemen as disciplined soldiers needed to trust this, and should have awaited the outcome. Any such decision is not free from complications and not that simple as it may appear to be. It may have repercussions and disturb the existing structured pension pattern creating more problems for the government. Now when OROP has been notified and is being implemented and the government has announced a one-man judicial commission to look into grievances. Therefore, there is no point continuing with the agitation.
    DS BANATI, SAS Nagar
    Some protesting for publicity
    The decades-long struggle of veterans brought results when the NDA government notified OROP implementation on Diwali. No government in the past gave a serious thought to the issue. The UPA-2 announced `500 crore for OROP which was mere tokenism. Innocent veterans came from all parts of country contributed money amounting to crores. It is a holy protest by some unholy veterans at Jantar Mantar for money and self glorification. It should end and the veterans should join talks.
    VEDPAL RATHEE VETERAN, Rohtak
    Start caring for our paramilitary forces also
    With the central govt issuing the one rank one pension notification, I feel that the ex-servicemen should call off their stir, not because they have got what they have asked for but at least a beginning has been made. The matter can be solved amicably. It is high time that we as a nation start caring for our paramilitary forces, state police forces and other departments engaged in the security of our people.
    SUMEET SETH ZIRAKPUR
    Returning medals disrespect towards nation
    The Union government has already implemented the OROP scheme. Returning medals and holding agitations only shows disrespect towards the nation. The ex-servicemen should negotiate with the government in a proper manner on the modifications required by them in the scheme.
    BHANU MADAN, Chandigarh
    Credit goes to NDA govt for taking OROP decision
    The OROP agitation is decades old and the previous governments have been deferring the decision on it. It was the NDA leadership promised to solve it during the General Election and they have done it, even as the grievances remain. Credit must be given where credit is due. Defence people must accept it with all magnanimity. For pending issues, a one-man judicial commission is in place to set the things right. They must behave like true soldiers and gentlemen and stop the agitation.
    DEVINDER GARG, Chandigarh
    Agitation has not achieved anything
    The agitation has not achieved anything. The government has given what it has been saying all along and announced it at a time which suited them. The continued agitation has brought us down in the eyes of the public and alienated the media. I do not understand the purpose of agitation. If we keep agitating, the government will not talk to us. Burning the medals is sacrilege, as there is Ashoka emblem on it.
    LT GEN RAJ KADYAN (RETD), ex-army deputy chief
    Veterans should withdraw the ongoing agitation
    As a veteran I myself feel the pain and anguish over the way the OROP scheme has been handled by the central government. After indulging in lip service for long, the government finally announced a diluted OROP which is unacceptable to the veterans in its present form. Some of the pending issues are of minor nature and can be resolved through a constructive and positive dialogue. The government should take the initiative and start a dialogue with the veterans who should also withdraw the agitation which is losing support and is now becoming counterproductive.
    COL ASHOK SHARMA (RETD), Rupnagar

    NEUTRAL

    Accept benefits and pursue matter through negotiations
    Wait for final report by judicial commission
    Having fought bravely on all fronts, the ex-servicemen deserved OROP, which would not have come soon had they not resorted to agitation. The returning of bravery medals may not have been necessary but it may have been thought so as the government was delaying OROP on one pretext or the other. However, they should accept the presently offered benefits and continue pursuing the matter by negotiations.
    MANJEET SINGH ISHAR, SAS Nagar
    Pursue OROP issue with commission, call off protest
    The one rank one pension agitation is not about money alone. It is about ensuring justice to a soldier retiring in the prime of his life. Though the soldier has again been shortchanged by an insecure bureaucracy that led to the defence minister announcing a diluted OROP recently, the rallies, street protests and returning of medals should stop now. Such protests don’t behove a disciplined veteran. Our representatives should instead take up the pending demands with the one-man judicial commission. Let us be magnanimous and trust the government.
    LT COL NS YADAV (RETD), Panchkula Notwithstanding some shortcomings in the notification issued by the government, OROP is a reality. The definition as enunciated in Koshiyari committee report falls short when the notification talks of pension correction every five years as against every year. The second major issue of no OROP for future pre-mature retirees is presumptuous. The government is playing a psychological game with soldiers who seek pre-mature retirement on genuine grounds.

    COL AVNISH SHARMA, Chandigarh
    Everyone says that we should not call off the agitation unless all the seven demands are met. The government did not stand by its commitment. It is betrayal of trust. If one cannot trust the Prime Minister of this country whom shall we trust? It (the recent notification on OROP) is totally unacceptable.
    Brig Kiran Krishan (retd),
    convener, Indian Ex-servicemen Movement The government has accepted the OROP. Whatever they have given we should accept it but we should continue our fight for more. Returning medals will not achieve anything. They are awarded for exceptional service and bravery. Rather than returning medals, we should focus on getting more from the government.
    Bhim Sen Sehgal, chairman,
    All India Ex-servicemen Association Burning of medals is an offence and insult to their sanctity and value. Service honour and medals are very precious and close to our hearts. We are rather planning to take back our deposited medals, once the OROP issue is settled. Some politically motivated people leading the ex-servicemen are misguiding and misrepresenting the veterans for their personal gains
    .It is not about money alone
    getimage (7)BRIG BS GILL, Chandigarh
    It has to be OROP in the purest form as recommended by the Koshiyari Committee and passed by two Parliaments and directed by the apex court. And it is not about money alone but about restoration of military pride and rightful place in the civil society. There are seven major anomalies in the diluted OROP notification.


    Poke Me: Ex-servicemen are demanding even more pension. Is this war against the taxpayer now?

    This week’s ” Poke Me” invites your comments on “Crossing the Line of Control”. The feature will be reproduced on the edit page of the Saturday edition of the newspaper with a pick of readers’ best comments. So be poked and fire in your comments to us right away. Comments reproduced in the paper will be the ones that support or oppose the views expressed here intelligently. Feel free to add reference links etc, in support of your comments.
    Indians love their armed forces so much that it’s impossible for anybody to damage, or even dent, the goodwill they have enjoyed for decades. Unless some insiders set out on a destructive mission. Sadly, a loud and unruly section of retired soldiers seems determined to do just that. Some ex-servicemen are talking of returning bravery medals to extract more money from the taxpayer. Some have proudly told news channels that their campaign is a key reason behind the BJP’s humiliation in the Bihar elections, and that they will campaign against the ruling party in every subsequent election. Now, we all love our soldiers, both serving and retired, because they are efficient, competent and apolitical in a world where the common man is routinely harassed by crooked politicians and authorities such as the politicised police. Not because they want to help politicians like Lalu Prasad Yadav who has exploited caste and reservations to rise, unlike the defence forces which have shunned reservations to uphold quality. If you want to return medals, please also return the benefits you got with.
    People still see the defence forces as a beacon of hope. But a section is beginning to wonder if soldiers are being too greedy if they are totally disgruntled after the government raised pensions that will cost the taxpayer up to Rs 10,000 crore a year to start with, and much more later.
    Perhaps they were happier with previous regimes, when they were marching in step with those heroic, super-tolerant liberals who are returning awards these days to highlight contemporary ‘intolerance’ but did not earlier find it — riots in 2002 Gujarat included — worth such protest.
    Perhaps some ex-servicemen think that by accepting part of their demands, the government has conceded territory, and it’s now time to go for the kill. This logic works on the battlefield. If the enemy is in retreat, you can ravage him and his territory. Governance of a complex country like India, on the other hand, does not work this way. The government is not the enemy. It is elected by taxpayers who will foot the bill for generous pensions. The vast majority of these taxpayers lead a humble life with a lot of hardship, no pension, no healthcare, no tax-free alcohol, no golf courses, no fancy clubs or numerous other perks our armed forces enjoy, perhaps a little ungratefully at times.
    The common man has so far applauded the services, even though soldiers at times make uncharitable comments about civilians whom they are paid to protect. So far, the taxpayer and the media have supported the forces all the way and looked the other way when respected authorities like the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India found glaring irregularities in the way defence land, mostly in prime locations in big cities, is managed, leased out to private parties, or used to build schools or or luxurious golf courses and clubs where civilians can pay and have fun along with officers. The money earned, according to the CAG, is not under parliamentary scrutiny. When the CAG criticised the coal auctions and the petroleum ministry, the media, the common man and politicians made it a national issue. But the same auditor’s comments on the defence forces faded away after a few headlines. This can change if ex-servicemen, best known for discipline, courtesy and protocol, continue their march away from their core competence and keep trying their hand at politics and excessive protests.
    The defence forces have already lost some ground. Some people are beginning to ask questions. Why should the government give them cheap alcohol when it is supposed to be injurious to health? Why not charge the full rate and use the extra money for higher pensions?
    What are the spectacular successes of the defence forces after the 1971 war? How well have they prevented infiltration of militants from Pakistan into Kashmir? Were some of these outspoken ex-servicemen deployed on the Kargil border before they retired. And if so, what were they doing when the enemy was occupying Indian territory?
    How many senior army officials have been declared disabled in the last year of their service, giving them a much higher pension? Why are armymen near the border paid much more than say the Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), whose men are positioned to face the first Chinese bullet, miles ahead of the army? Or more than those in the Central Reserve Police Force, India’s largest paramilitary forces?
    re all allegations of human rights violations exaggerations?
    All of these are complex issues that are not understood by most people. It’s best for the country and its soldiers that the forces don’t soil their own reputation to the point that citizens applaud the next adverse comment by the CAG, and ill-informed television anchors take up these complex questions.
    The country needs people’s goodwill towards the army, which they correctly showed with nationwide admiration for the brave Colonel Santosh Mahadik who fell to terrorist bullets in J&K. But still, it would help if ex-servicemen keep their protests within a lakshman rekha. Or line of control, if they prefer that term.

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