Monumental decision by the Centre
The strident note struck by the agitating veterans of the armed forces for the past few months was very disconcerting for any anybody who has a nationalist thought process. The soldiers have been denied their due when they were stripped of their feathers by then Congress government in 1973, which withdrew one-rank-one-pension for the soldiers retiring from the armed forces. That Congress leader Indira Gandhi would do such disservice to the soldier community was unthinkable especially
after having ridden to glory on their shoulders during the war in 1971.
On the other hand, 42 years later, the BJP government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken the historical step of restoring to the veterans what should have been their fundamental right in the first place. Despite an adverse economic situation prevailing across the globe, Prime Minister Modi has kept the poll promise at a huge fiscal cost of Rs 10,000 crore annually. In addition to this the arrears will amount to around Rs 12,000 crore.
Putting together Rs 22,000 crore is no meager task. Contrast this with the previous Manmohan Singh government that had kept aside a paltry Rs 500 crore for expenditure on OROP. The government has decided to pay the arrears in four installments, at a gap of every six months. To war widows, the arrears will be given in one go. Veterans above 60 years of age will also get arrears in one go. The effect of the decision and the service to those who serve the nation with their blood and sweat would be felt with greater impact after the amount trickles down into the bank accounts. The impoverished veterans and their families would no more be forced to live a life of penury.
Therefore, I was amazed that former Defence Minister AK Antony and his colleague Kapil Sibal, soon after the announcement of the package to the veterans, decided to take up cudgels against the government. It’s no less than a joke that the Congress party that stripped the veterans of their pensions and denied them their rights should criticise the Narendra Modi government’s package for retired soldiers. The Congress party’s decision to add to the confusion on a few minor issues should be condemned strongly.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said during his Independence Day speech that in principle he has agreed to OROP and that he was hopeful of a very positive outcome.
He has shown his resolve and dedication by announcing the huge package on the day, which coincided with the Teachers Day and Janamasthami celebrations. Now that the government has shown its resolve, the ex-servicemen leading the protests should withdraw their agitation completely and focus on negotiations and strike the best bargain with the government on residual matters. The best deals are struck by trusting the person on the other side of the table while remaining firm on furthering their own cause. However, there is a fine line between remaining resolute and turning stubborn. What’s the best way forward is for the ex-servicemen to decide <g data-gr-id="68">alone.</g>
(The writer is Leader of House, MCD, South and general secretary, Delhi BJP. Views expressed are personal)