|Courtesy Times Of India|
Dear Mr Chetan Bhagat,
Every morning when I turn the pages of the newspaper, I expect to be enlightened and informed by grey matter way above on the ladder, of those who wield the pen. And this bright sultry Sunday, as I turned the pages, TOI column Underage Optimist’s headlines screaming of OROP grabbed my attention. Being a fauji wife, but naturally you had my attention for those full five minutes till I finished reading it. That’s how long it took. Then I went back to it again. And again. Just to understand and swallow the fact that a national daily that boasts of being the best in terms of number of copies being circulated, actually published your opinion on a matter over which you have no expertise whatsoever.
On that matter, we are at the same level. I mean, the matter of subject knowledge. So, could I just deconstruct your column so as to understand the informed pearls of wisdom spewing from the black print.If I had been a teacher or even a customer service trainer, you would have scored a perfect CGPA 10 for beginning on a positive note with melodrama laced at the edges. You have talked of sacrifice and how the Defence is the only sector that is shown in a positive light by our beloved Bollywood. And I shall come to this later, I promise.
1. How is OROP a misnomer? That the veterans are fighting for one pension for the respective ranks irrespective of the year of retirement, has never been under the cloak. Or is it that you realized the core issue when you decided to write this article? When you say that the general perception on the issue is driven by sentiments such as, “ They guard our borders so they must get it”, are you trying to throw alms into a begging bowl?
No one is holding a bowl here, Mr Bhagat. The veterans are only asking to revert to a practice that was already in place. Why and how this practice ceased, maybe you could research a bit (for a change) and enlighten us on it in your next column.
2. You claim “ …After all those who protect our borders must be treated well. OROP was seen as something that meant soldiers were treated well. Hence, you better give OROP, and now!”
( Did you seriously conjure up this sentence!)
This agitation did not happen one fine day when the veterans decided to sit for a picnic at Jantar Mantar during the oppressively sultry days. It was borne out of false promises and hopes raised over the last forty years ever since this bone of contention has been represented in various capacities. The picture that you see today is that of frustration raising its head.
3. “ People who wanted to do an objective analysis had to scurry and hide in a corner….”
No, they did not have to, Chetan Bhagat! Objective analysis has always been welcomed by the Forces. But armed with facts and figures and no skeletons hiding in the cupboard. There should be no space for objective analysis without all the facts on the table. How else do you think wars are fought? Or strategies formulated in the war games ? It is objective analysis. They think with their heads and not with the hearts. However, these very forces when they are called upon for humanitarian missions perform extremely well. They think with their head and the heart, Mr Bhagat.
4. Do you think it worries the Forces personnel whether the status “ Army good, politician bad” will be maintained after this? That soldier at the border will continue to trudge cross country at more than 10000 feet in Arunachal Pradesh and sleep in the open so he can set up a post for your security; or stand at 23000 feet surrounded by snowfields in Siachen and come down with medical issues that would be a reminder of the tenure for his entire lifetime (for your information Mt Everest is at 29000feet) ; or sit inside an armoured tank without an AC when the outside temperature is above fifty degrees Celsius. Was that the AC humming when you wrote this article?
5. “ …we have OROP for defence why not for our paramilitary and police?”
You have been a bad boy, Mr Bhagat! I will tell your mamma that you don’t do your homework well. The OROP issue has its basis on the retirement age of defence personnel. The paramilitary and police personnel retire at the age of 57 to 60 years while a soldier’s retirement age is 35 years.
6. And since you have defaulted on research, how about telling the world through your column that exactly how the defence pension of Rs 60000 crores per year gets divided between the actual defence personnel and the civilian defence officials. Please add to it that how the Rs 12000 crores that you tout the exchequer will be burdened with every year will actually be mitigated in five years time. The latter figure, by the way, is a backlog of the payment due for non-implementation of OROP for the last so many years.
7. “ These funds are given out with no output obtained in return?“, “ …to pay the officers more or the jawans more?”, “ …more money be spent on veterans or more hospitals for veterans? “
There speaks a true investment banker! Looking for the best horse to bet on. Thank you, but the soldier had already put aside a part of his money into the ECHS scheme (Ex Servicemen Health Scheme) at the time of retirement so he could do the rounds of Military Hospital in his old age. The doubts you think aloud are best kept under wraps till you understand the whole system and the complex web woven for years.”…many sectors don’t even have pensions” - Where do you live Mr Chetan Bhagat? We are talking of Government services here. Incidentally, many of these services also have a Provident Fund scheme where the organization also contributes to the employees fund. On the other hand, a soldier maintains a EPF/DSOP where he is the sole contributor.
Like I promised in the beginning, Mr Chetan Bhagat, I shall come back to your opening lines. The defence fraternity humbly accepts and is grateful to Bollywood for showing us in such glowing light, receiving the hoots and whistles in a dark hall and making money out of it. Taking note of your condescending tone ( for I did get a stink of it), when a soldier dies he oozes blood and not ketchup. Do you send out a prayer when there is a cas evac ( casualty evacuation) so the injured soldiers are flown to the nearest MH in time for medical attention? Do you fight snow storms to reach out to the grievously injured in the glacier so his life can be saved? Do you fly choppers at altitudes where they were never meant to be flown? However these machines are employed beyond their stated limits because there is no other way and there is no other battlefield higher than the Siachen glacier. Do you stand by the widows when these choppers crash? Have you seen a burning bus load of bloodied soldiers rushed back to the MH while they were on their way home for Diwali holidays after a year? Be a part of this and then adopt a tone for your article.
And next time I shall hope to read an informed article in your column about the three hundred percent hike that our esteemed members of the parliament have gifted themselves with, as also a hundred percent hike in the pipeline this year.