Bahadur Shah Zafar died pining for ‘do gaz zameen’ for burial in his beloved motherland. It seems our current martyrs are not to be given space for a dignified send-off. The Army makes sure that those making the supreme sacrifice get the appropriate military honours at their funerals. At Delhi airport, where bodies of most martyrs are brought en route to their native places, a moving ceremony is held to pay tribute to them. This started during the Kargil War in the cargo receipt area. Deeming this arrangement unsatisfactory in terms of space and the dignity necessary for the honouring of martyrs, the Army in October 2012 leased 625 square yards of land from the airport consortium and constructed a reception area with coffin table plinths covered by a concrete canopy set against a black granite wall, a lawn and waiting rooms.
However, this Shradhanjali Sthal completed in August 2014, at a cost of Rs 32 lakh, remains unused because the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security has prohibited entry to the site citing aviation security rules that prohibit ceremonies near the airside (the part of an airport nearest the aircraft, the boundary of which is the security check, customs, passport control, etc).
Deprived of its designated site, the Army has had to fall back on an awful alternative – receiving its martyrs’ bodies in a derelict spot in the car parking of the cargo complex of Terminal 2. The area is virtually a garbage dump with piles of construction material lying around. This is where the bodies of 26 battle casualties have been received since August 2014.
Considered suggestions proffered by the Army to clear the bureaucratic logjam have not been accepted. It seems that while the armed forces are entrusted with the security of the country, they can’t be trusted to enter the airport premises. Yet another example of the constantly-widening gap between the armed forces and the civil establishment.
Contradictions on OROP
On March 1, I was hoping to inform veterans who call me every day that their long-standing demand for one-rank one-pension (OROP) had been approved, budgeted and the mechanism put in place to transfer the arrears to their accents. However, the much awaited announcement on the OROP was missing in the budget speech. Nor was there any provision for its implementation in the budget. This after the defence minister’s solemn promises made to an ESM delegation on February 1 of a time-bound approval and execution. Needless to say, this led to deep disappointment among veterans. The sense of betrayal deepened after a statement by the finance minister to the effect that the modalities of the OROP were stuck in a wrangle between the Services headquarters and the defence ministry. A junior minister, himself a former soldier, tweeted that Rs 8,300 crores had been set aside for paying the enhanced pensions that the OROP involves. Where that was, only God Almighty knows!
On March 2, the defence minister informed an IESM delegation, however, that the finance ministry was yet to accord approval to the scheme. Moreover, the demand was to be vetted yet again, this time, by the cabinet committee on political affairs. God alone knows when this ungrateful nation and its venal politicians and obstreperous bureaucrats will decide to render unto those who sacrificed their all for our freedom, their just rights!
(Would like to hear from veterans of the 1965 War. Please write in to firstname.lastname@example.org or call on 093161-35343)