Indian defence veterans, dismayed and appalled by the mistreatment given to them by the bureaucrats of the defence and finance ministries over issues of pension, have now written to the prime minister as a last resort and have threatened to intensify their four-year-old agitation.
The letter, written by Maj Gen (retd) Satbir Singh, vice chairman of the Indian Ex-servicemen Movement, points out that section officers (lower level bureaucrats) send routine replies without going into the details of the ex-servicemen's grievances over the issue of one rank one pension.
'The IESM governing body is compelled to decide that incase the OROP is not sanctioned by 15 Aug 2012, the protest movement across the country will be intensified. Sir, this decision though very painful has been forced on the defence veterans since concerted efforts for the last over four years have been nullified by the govt apathy towards the welfare of defence veterans,' Gen Satbir has said in his letter to the prime minister.
'We are deeply concerned at the way the welfare issues of defence personnel are being dealt with by the govt. Letters to the PM are written only when all efforts to get the issues resolved have not borne results. Mr Prime Minister sir, we wish to inform you that we have appealed to every possible authority including your good self a number of times on the issue. It seems that your staff does not even put up our letters to you since no reply is received which has your approval. Accounts officers/section officers send the routine bureaucratic reply which does not even mention that the PM has considered and the draft of the reply has his approval,' Gen Satbir Singh wrote on July 5.
The retired officer has told the prime minister that the Rajya Sabha Petition Committee had strongly recommended granting of OROP to retired men in uniform and placed it in the house on December 19, 2011. An action taken report was to be submitted within three months, Gen Satbir has told the prime minister, but nothing has moved.
OROP implies that uniform pension be paid to the armed forces personnel retiring in the same rank with the same length of service irrespective of their date of retirement, and any future enhancement in the rates of pension be automatically passed on to past pensioners.
Gen Satbir has quoted the Rajya Sabha committee report to point out that it has not agreed with the infructuous arguments offered by the government to deny OROP to defense pensioners/family pensioners. 'The committee observed that the three reasons, ie, financial, administrative and legal, given by government to deny OROP are untenable and merely a smoke screen to deny the ex-servicemen their rightful dues. The committee felt that such injustice to the defence forces is only due to bureaucratic apathy,' the letter to the prime minister says.
The defence veteran has told the prime minister that the Rajya Sabha committee has noted that 'out of the total financial liability of Rs 1300 crores for the year 2011-12 in case OROP is implemented fully for all the defense personnel in the country, the liability for the commissioned officers would only be Rs 235 crores and remaining for JCOs and other ranks. The committee feels that Rs 1300 crores is not a very big amount for a country of our size and economy for meeting the long-pending demand of the armed forces of the country.'
Maj Gen Satbir Singh further writes: 'Sir, the defence veterans are getting restless due to total apathy and disregard being shown to them. It also adversely affects the serving defence fraternity since most of them have veteran kith and kin and the fact that they would also be veterans in due course of time... OROP is as just and fair demand which must be sanctioned immediately. This affects over two million defence veterans and over three lakh widows.'