The principle behind one rank one pension (OROP) is well established. The Supreme Court has said in the case of DS Nakra and others vs UOI (AIR 1983, SC 130), "Pension is not a bounty nor a matter of grace depending upon the sweet will of the employer.
It is not an ex-gratia payment, but a payment for past services rendered". Pension is a logical demand that equal service must get equal payment. Equal service in military parlance has two parameters, the quantity, in the form of total years in uniform, and the quality, implying the level of responsibility or the rank held. In other words, equal service and equal rank should get equal pension. At present ex-servicemen are denied OROP for reasons best known to the higher power. Politicians are not unaware of the legal and moral issues involved.
There's just no political will to grant the veterans their inalienable right. Its not as if its something peculiar to the current UPA government. There were a number of announcements made at regular intervals by George Fernandes, the defence minister and other worthies during the NDA regime to the effect that 'OROP had been granted' without any implementation of the decision. There's just no choice for veterans but to continue their struggle for their rights. Its time the citizens of India spoke up and forced the politicians and babus to grant our veterans their full and just rights.
Indians, perhaps due to the country's strong oral traditions have always neglected the recording of history. The armed forces are somewhat of an exception. Therefore it was a pleasant surprise to note the efficient recording and presentation of their historical archives by 1st Sikh, the Army's most decorated unit. One can easily spend a month poring over the wealth of detail and historical facts presented therein. Now spearheading our awesome mechanised might as 4 Mech the battalion is commanded by Colonel Vikram Panag from the famous military family of the same name. He runs a happy team that seeks to emulate the record achieved by their forbearers.
Rajesh Khanna as a soldier
Bollywood has usually been less than accurate or fair in its presentation of our soldiers. There are exceptions though. Rajesh Khanna presented a vivid image of the dashing fighter pilot in the blockbuster 'Aradhana' in 1969. Then again his cameo in the 1975 movie 'Aakraman' as the disabled Punjabi soldier was inspiring and motivational enhanced by the two emotional songs picturised on him. RIP.
Air Marshal MM Singh, VrC the dashing air warrior
Victory in the Bangladesh campaign was achieved and the task of the army made undoubtedly easier by the complete air superiority achieved at the beginning of the war as well as the close air support provided by the Indian air force. One of those who helped achieve this overwhelming superiority and excellence in ground air support was Air Marshal Man Mohan Singh (popularly known throughout the Armed Forces and outside as 'MM') who commanded No. 15 Squadron - the Flying Lances.
Belonging to a family originally from Sialkot Distt, now in Pakistan the dashing, handsome MM Singh was commissioned in January 1951 into the fighter stream. Promoted Wing Commander in 1965 he was Officer Commanding (OC) Flying at Bareilly, then commanded 24 Squadron (Gnats) and later went for training on the Sukhoi Su-7 fighter to the Soviet Union. He then inducted the aircraft into 26 Squadron, the first to fly it in the IAF. After a stint on the staff of HQ Western Air Command as Ops-1, looking after fighter operations he took over 15 Squadron operating Gnats from Bagdogra. In the pre-December phase of the campaign the unit conducted air patrols to protect own territory as well as discreet incursions into what was then East Pakistan to provide air cover for Mukti Bahini and covert Indian operations.
At this stage MM Singh was approved for promotion to the next rank and warned about a fresh posting. However the gallant air warrior preferred to defer his promotion and stay with his squadron to take them to war. The squadron conducted its first strikes on enemy positions held by 4 Frontier Force at Hilli. According to the Army after two strikes by four aircraft each from the 'Fighting Fifteen' the Pakistan Army vacated their defences in the area. The unit continued to provide close air support in the Northern Bangladesh sector thereafter. Moving to Dum Dum on 8th December, the Squadron provided close air support (CAS) to the Army at Khulna as well as conducted offensive strikes against river shipping sinking two 10,000 tonnes capacity vessels at Chalna port.
The flying lances achieved the distinction of operating thereafter from Agartala (from the 13th of December to be exact) till then considered unsuitable for fighter operations because of it's short runway, a considerable feat in professional terms. The Squadron supported 57 Mountain Division's successful heliborne crossing of the Meghna by providing air cover and fire support. The Flying Lances fully lived up to their motto 'Nihantavya Shtravaha' meaning 'annihilate the enemy'.
Overall the fighting fifteen flew a total of 250 sorties during the War without losing a single aircraft or suffering any damage with MM Singh himself flying 20 missions. After the war MM Singh was Station Commander, Tezpur then went to the USSR again, this time to do the training course for the SAM-3 missiles and later put the knowledge gained to good use as joint director, air defence at Air HQ. Promoted air commodore he was consecutively station commander, Srinagar, attended the National Defence College (NDC) course and was Air-1 dealing with operations at HQ Western Air Command.
As an air vice marshal he did 3 years as the senior air staff officer at the headquarters of the newly formed South-Western Air Command at Jodhpur. As an air marshal he was once again posted at Air HQ this time as air officer incharge personnel (AOP) His last posting was as air officer commanding in chief (AOC-in-C, known colloquially as CinC) from where he retired in 1988 to settle down in Sector 18 in Chandigarh.
Kargil War remembrance on July 26
On the 26th of July please take time out to remember and pay tributes to those who went up those steep slopes bayonets fixed on their rifles and determination in their hearts, the tireless gunners who supported them with firestorms of deadly lead and not to forget the valiant fighter pilots and helicopter crews who bombed the enemy into oblivion. Greetings on Kargil Vijay Diwas.
The writer is a Chandigarh-based chronicler of military matters. Share your feedback, suggestions and news at 09316135343 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org