The <g data-gr-id="37">aerarium</g> <g data-gr-id="38">militare</g> was the military treasury of Imperial Rome. It was instituted by Augustus, the first Roman emperor, as a “permanent revenue source” for pensions for veterans of the Imperial Roman army. The Imperial biographer and historian Suetonius saw the <g data-gr-id="39">aerarium</g> <g data-gr-id="40">militare</g> as a response to the uncertainty of retired military men in need who might be inclined to support a coup or foment unrest. The professionalising of the army during the Republic created the new problem of veterans, since earlier in Rome’s history male citizens served short-term to confront specific threats or carry out seasonal campaigns, and then returned to their normal occupations. The solution in the late Republic had been to settle veterans and let them spend their twilight years in peace and reasonable comfort. That perhaps the present ruling dispensation has learnt nothing from the lessons of history is not a harsh assessment to make. By upping the ante and sending messages written in blood ex-servicemen have made one thing clear. This is no country for army veterans. That things had to come to this is a sad and pitiable state of affairs.
Thousands of retired military personnel on Sunday piled on pressure on the NDA government to implement the “One Rank One Pension” (OROP) scheme, holding protests in Delhi and cities across the country and saying the campaign will be intensified with the launch of an indefinite hunger strike. The Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement (IESM), a leading association of retired military personnel, has said that they would agitate further if their demands are not met. The Indian government, on its part, patently justifies this debilitating lethargy by stating that procedural difficulties are impeding the Indian government’s ability to implement the much-delayed scheme whose gestation period has by now lasted decades. In Delhi, former armed forces personnel gathered at that bastion of civil society that is Jantar Mantar and made their demands clear in a clear and unequivocal manner.
Simultaneously a series of ‘mahasangram’ rallies were organised in cities around the country. Even as ex-servicemen held protests over delay in non-implementation of the ‘One Rank, One Pension’ scheme, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar today sought to assuage their concerns, saying the “promises” made will be kept and that they should be “patient”. The Modi Government also seems to be dilly dallying following the sudden and swooping realisation that the payout would be immense. It would impose around `8,400 crores initially and add around `1,000 crores every year to accommodate nearly 2.4 million existing ex-servicemen. However, this is a pittance compared to the allocations made for other social security schemes. Moreover if we can’t take care of those who serve and protect our country night and day then there is a reason for concern as to the government’s policy priorities.
While the ex-servicemen’s feeling of betrayal is justified, the path being adopted by them is perhaps the only option in front of them. However, a direct, stentorian confrontation with the government will, however, tarnish the disciplined and duty-bound organisational image of the armed forces. It must be noted that the mood within a section of the retired servicemen is reportedly against adopting such a strong confrontational tone and give some more time to the government. For the Narendra Modi led government, too, the onerous task which lies ahead is of ensuring that concrete steps are made towards OROP instead of assuaging fears through an excessively schmaltzy ‘Mann’ ki Baat’.There are surely numerous ways which can be found to balance the deep set cost implications through restructuring the service and cutting off unnecessary corpulence along the broader organisational structure of the forces.