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Sitrep: Why veterans are still agitating for OROP

Despite the defence minister’s announcement on implementation of the ‘one rank, one pension’ (OROP) on September 5, the veterans’ battle continues for a resolution of disagreements.

punjab Updated: Oct 04, 2015 09:23 IST
Mandeep Singh Bajwa
Mandeep Singh Bajwa
Hindustan Times
Large crowds at the veterans’ rally for the OROP at Ambala on October 2. Subedar Attar Singh Multani, who led the team that organised the massive show, is standing on the right with his back to the camera. (Photo: UFESM)

Despite the defence minister’s announcement on implementation of the ‘one rank, one pension’ (OROP) on September 5, the veterans’ battle continues for a resolution of disagreements. The first is changing of the basis of implementation of the OROP from financial year 2013-14 to calendar year 2013. Exclusion of premature retirees from the benefits by describing them as having availed themselves of golden handshakes, a non-existent system, has angered veterans.

The possibility of the OROP being referred to the Seventh Pay Commission has been rejected because it already stands approved by two successive Parliaments. Another sticking point is the date of implementation pushed back to August 1 from the agreed upon April 1. The government’s proposals to rationalise pensions once in five years instead of annually and fixing them as a median of the pay band instead of at the top will demolish the OROP entirely. Veterans have also not taken kindly to their non-representation in a committee to make recommendations after studying variances, appointing a one-man judicial commission instead.

The veterans’ organisation held successful rallies on October 2 at Ambala, Agra, Gurdaspur, Khanna, Noida and Vadodara. What has been gratifying is that civil society has shown that it stands by the veterans. At Ambala, the veterans’ team led by Subedar Attar Singh Multani organised a massive rally with over 10,000 enthusiastic participants. Lastly, the Prime Minister’s assertion at a public meeting in Chandigarh on September 12 that the OROP was being granted at the cost of the poor has not gone down well with ex-servicemen.

1st Sikh LI in the 1965 War

In September 1965, 26 Division launched an offensive towards Sialkot. The aim was to fix enemy forces defending the town, preventing them from reinforcing troops facing the larger Indian armoured thrust. One of the Army’s finest battalions, 1st Sikh Light Infantry under command 162 Brigade was to eliminate the screen at Kundanpur consisting of a 19 Punjab company and a reconnaissance platoon from 13 Frontier Force. The recently arrived battalion had achieved an early success while killing two infiltrators and capturing three in an ambush. On the intervening night of September 7 and 8, the unit launched the attack closely supported by the 25-pounders of 13 Field Regiment (living up to their motto of Charh di Kala – Always in the Ascendant). This excellent artillery support was to be a feature throughout the operations. The objective was taken with the capture of nine enemy soldiers, vehicles, weapons and ammunition and the killing of seven Pakistanis.

Next night an enemy battalion counter-attacked along with a squadron of armour. This was beaten off with artillery support, the Sikh LI’s recoilless guns accounting for a Chaffee tank.

The battalion then enlarged it’s frontage on the flanks, holding it despite coming under constant, accurate artillery fire and aerial strafing. The theatre honour ‘Punjab 1965’, one Vir Chakra and seven Sena Medals were awarded to 1 SLI. All non-Sikh officers wore turbans and beard nets throughout, in order to fully identify with their troops. What set 1st Sikh LI apart was their thirsting for revenge against the enemy -- any enemy -- after the shambles of the defence of Bomdila in November 1962, when the unit’s strength was frittered away in penny-packets. According to General Belliappa, then adjutant, this was a prime motivating factor for the whole army.

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First Published: Oct 04, 2015 09:07 IST