There is this story of a deer (Mrig) who is desperately looking for water in a desert. The frantic deer keeps on running towards a mirage of water that keeps on disappearing every time the animal thinks it has reached. This cycle continues until after some time the deer dies of sheer exhaustion due to this worthless chase of his desire to have water, which was not there in the first place. Thus the word Mrigtrishna or the deer’s thirst.
My column, “Euphoria over OROP may be premature”, published in HT Chandigarh on March 14, 2014, evinced criticism from the majority of the veterans who labelled me a pessimist.
“The announcement has been made publicly by the young scion of the ruling party, that too close on the heels of general elections. How can you disregard and spread negativity on the issue?” was the common perception.
During a public rally and interaction with military veterans in the city, even a date in June 2014 for issuing government notification was presumably decided and disseminated.
Thereafter, the government of the day reiterated their commitment towards this noble and just demand of the aggrieved guardians of the nation.
Close to three decades of incessant struggle by about 2 million exsoldiers, I somehow kept my fingers crossed though sub-consciously nurturing tremendous hope and aspiration for the sake of my community.
Disenchanted and discouraged, I am quite convinced that the issue of OROP (one rank, one pension) seems to be dying a natural death and heading towards ossification. A death of hopes and aspirations of two million ex-soldiers, who gave their today for a safe tomorrow of all of us!
I have valid reasons to sound pessimistic. First, there have been conflicting views and actions by different power centres on the issue. The honourable defence minister, after having been convinced with the definition, need and urgency of OROP, made a statement that 80-90% satisfaction should be a good enough solution.
As the godfather of defence services, this may not be a responsible stand. Would he expect a reciprocal 80-90% efficiency by soldiers in the defence of the nation?
Second, the mention of a paltry sum compared to a realistic amount towards OROP in the budget for 2015-16 by the finance minister was indicative of a slip shod, confused attitude to the justified cause.
Third, the dates for announcements of acceptance and implementation of the scheme have been shifting at the speed of roller skates - from March to April to May and now just before the first anniversary of the NDA government. However, during interaction with veterans a little while ago, an army commander indicated a time frame of approximately three months before the scheme may see the light of day. Justice delayed is justice denied!
Fourth, the latest inputs from some sources are that the finance ministry feels the implementation of the scheme in its defined form may be untenable or at least in isolation and hence the issue be clubbed and viewed holistically with the seventh pay commission.
Last, the input news screen has blanked out lately, with no update except an uncomfortable haze! Well, if this story is not akin to Mrigtrishna, what is it then? A great betrayal indeed!
I am reminded of the perception of an elected representative of our country who offered a cut and dried opinion that a soldier’s only role in society was to lay down life and attain martyrdom. The government it seems endorses this view, but sadly fails to reciprocate its duty in return.