By Rifat Jawaid
India’s army veterans have blamed Prime Minister Narendra Modi for betraying the men in uniform by not fulfilling his promises over One Rank One Pension.
Retired soldiers have been on a relay hunger strike for over a month demanding that the OROP is implemented without further delay.
Speaking exclusively to Jantakareporter.com, Major General Satbir (retired) said that PM Modi on 15 September 2014 in Rewari had assured that he will grant OROP “the moment government is formed.”
He said, “But he’s (Modi) betrayed the very trust of us soldiers. So, in all my hosho hawaas (consciousness), I have no hesitation in saying that Mr Modi is responsible for causing injuries to hearts and minds of the soldiers of this country called Bharat. They call themsleves nationalists. If they were nationalists, they will honour the commitment made to the soldiers. Let Mr Modi come on TV to say that he doesn’t have money to pay to the soldiers, we will finish our agitation. But has he guts to say that to the country?”
In an extraordinary development, as many as 11 Generals sat on hunger strike on Saturday with their demands on OROP. They were joined by 15 more Generals that included five Lt Generals, one Admiral of Indian Navy and 10 Major Generals on Sunday.
Maj General Satbir said that the soldiers were determined to take their fight to its logical end adding that “we don’t leave the battlefield until we’ve either won or lost, or we are POWs or we’ve captured.”
He said, “Military training has taught us to finish our task. There’s no middle ground. It’s not a fight against the government. It’s a fight against injustice. 15 months time delay is unacceptable. We are hurt, we are angry with our prime minister, angry to the core. He’s gone back on his assurance. If his finance minister is not delivering, he should haul him up and tell him to clear the Rs 8300 crores. File is lying with the FM since 17 March 2015.”
The Generals were invited by the defence minister Manohar Parriker after the Army Chief General Suhag and the Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrashekhar reportedly intervened and facilitated the minister’s meeting with the protesting army veterans.
Parriker has agreed to meet them again early next week.
Maj Gen Satbir said that there were 6,75,000 widows of the defence forces and over 24 lakh retired officers adding that “these thirty lakh believed in Modi, who betrayed them spectacularly.”
Army veterans are also accusing the Modi government of being in contempt of the Supreme Court, which on February 16 this year had directed the central government to implement OROP.
A bench of Justices TS Thakur and AK Goel had warned the government of contempt if it failed to abide by its order within three months. Representing government, the Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand had assured the court of working out the ‘modalities within the specified timeframe.”
Another officer, Colonel Tevatia (retired) questioned the government’s intention to implement the OROP. He told jantakareporter.com that “if the government wanted to do it, they would have done it in the first quarter of coming to power.”
Colonel Tevatia blamed the bureaucracy for not allowing the soldiers to meet the prime minister.
He said, “There are n number of lies in the bureaucracy’s briefings, which we want to point out. But we are not allowed to meet the PM.”
A visibly pained Colonel said that the army had been denied the natural justice since independence.
He said, “There’s something known as natural justice, which is where we’ve been suffering right since independence. By natural justice I mean that the aggrieved party should have been heard. No body listens to us.
“Even if we go to streets, we are told this is not expected from the men in uniform. We are suffering, what do we do? We are not killing people, we are not burning buses. Although these people (politicians) understand just one language. That language is of disruption of smooth running of the country. That’s the only language these chaps understand.”
Colonel Tevatia said the recent goings on had adversely impacted the morale of the serving officers, who were worried about their loved ones in case they died protecting the country.
“Unfortunately, we cannot cry in public. But surely when we go to bed at night, when lights are off we are forced to reflect as to what we have gotten ourselves into. This is how naxals are made. If somebody turns naxal today, I’m not going to blame the individual, but I will blame the bureaucracy and the politicians. There’s already a massive shortfall of officers. That’s perhaps why people are less inclined to wear the uniform for this country.”
Rifat Jawaid is the founder and editor-in-chief of jantakareporter.com