Friday, July 3, 2015

OROP: Parrikar calls veterans home, assures, fails to break deadlock

 The meeting took place at the Akbar road residence of Manohar Parrikar, where the defence minister, Army chief General Dalbir Singh were present along with seven representatives of the Indian Ex Servicemen Movement. 

It took eighteen days of protests in the national capital and an intervention by Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar for the first contact between protesting armed forces veterans and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar to take place. However, the meeting failed to break the deadlock with the veterans insisting that they won't call off their protest just yet.

The meeting took place at the Akbar road residence of Manohar Parrikar, where the defence minister, Army chief General Dalbir Singh were present along with seven representatives of the Indian Ex Servicemen Movement (IESM). While the initial time was 6pm, the meeting which went on for forty minutes was postponed to 8pm.    

Said IESM General Secretary Group Captain Captain (Retd) VK Gandhi, "It was a positive meeting. The minister assured us of the party and the government's resolve in implementing the OROP. He also said that the file on OROP had come to him with comments from different departments only today and that he needed to go through." He added, "Parrikar said anyone can write their observations on the file but the political class will take a stand and reason it out. He also assured us there will be no dilution." Asked if this was good enough for them to call off their protests, Gandhi replied in the negative. Another meeting in this regard may take place on Monday or Tuesday as Parrikar has sought time from the veterans to go through all the issues that departments have put on file.

Earlier in the day, when Chandrasekhar visited the site of the protest, he was informed that the only way to break the protest would be for the government to commit a date publically by when the OROP implementation would take place.       

When asked, the MoD did not have an comment to provide on the matter.

What is OROP?

*   One Rank One Pension, simply put is similar pension to all who held the same rank and put in equal number of years of service, irrespective of when one retired

*   Implementing OROP will ensure that an army Major (example) retired in 1985 will get the same pension as one retiring in 2015, provided they have put in equal number of years in service

*   Term popularized by Supreme Court's using it in 1983

*   Ex Servicemen claim the case concerns close to 30 lakh pensioners, including widows

*   Govt believes the financial implication of agreeing to OROP will come to the tune of Rs 8500 crore

*   Govt has clarified that no matter when OROP is implemented, payments to veterans will be from April 1, 2014

*   In February 2014, in its final Vote On Account, the UPA cleared OROP and allocated Rs 500 crore

*   In July 2014, presenting the NDA's first interim budget, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley allocated Rs 1000 crore

*   However, till date there has no government order operationalising budget announcement

(Follow the writer on Twitter @JRPur)

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Immediate Implementation of OROP to Up Keep Morale of Soldiers

Brij Thapa 

The hunger strike  for implementation of OROP  being held by United Front Ex-Servicemen at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi for 18th day and in other 50 cities also hunger strike being held as OROP has not been honoured by the  successive governments for last forty years. The quest of the veterans for OROP, a term coined by a Parliamentary committee headed by KP Singh Deo in 1983, goes back several decades. In 1973, while implementing the recommendations of the Third Pay Commission, the government reduced the pensions of armed forces personnel from 73% of the last pay drawn to 50%.
The concept of ‘military pension’, designed to provide monetary compensation for truncated service due to early retirement, was diluted. Soldiers, sailors and airmen opt to retire between 35 and 37 years of age when most of their family responsibilities are still ahead of them, while most of the officers retire at the age of 54. Despite their discipline, dedication and talent, they find it difficult to get jobs. Personnel in the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) like the BSF, CRPF, ITBP, CISF, SSB and the state police retire between the ages of 57 and 60 years. The Fifth Pay Commission had recommended that armed forces personnel be laterally transferred to the CAPFs after five to seven years of service.
Officers of the CAPFs and all other civilian officers (IAS, IFS, IPS, IRS) retire at the age of 60 years, while only 0.84% of armed forces officers make it to the rank of major general, who retire at 58. A still smaller number are lieutenant general and retire at 60. But, every IAS officer is routinely promoted to the position of joint secretary, considered equal to a major general.
The national consensus favours the implementation of OROP for the armed forces. The Congress-led UPA government gave a commitment to implement OROP and even allotted a sum of Rs 500 crore in the interim budget for FY 2014-15. Union finance minister Arun Jaitley doubled it to Rs 1,000 crore when he presented the budget in July 2014.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi unequivocally promised to implement OROP while addressing the veterans at an election rally at Rewari in September 2013. However, in a surprise to 25 lakh veterans and three lakh widows, the prime minister recently said that it was a “complex” issue and that there were several definitions of OROP.
In February 2014, the following definition of OROP was approved in a meeting chaired by the defence minister: “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 the past pensioners.” The recommendations made by the defence minister, in consultation with the chiefs of the armed forces and the veterans, are reportedly being opposed by the finance ministry on the grounds that the annual cost of Rs8,400 crore is unaffordable and that a similar demand may spring from the CAPFs. It appears that the issue might be referred to the Seventh Pay Commission for a ‘holistic’ overview.
Often, the personnel in CAPFs serve much longer than the ones in the armed forces, which means that they earn more increments and therefore must not be equated for pension. The additional expenditure on OROP is less than 10% of the pension bill of Rs88,521 crore for 2015-16, which is much less than other subsidies. Hence, the recommendation of referring the issue to the Seventh Pay Commission is seen as an insidious plot to scuttle the OROP scheme.
. The serving and retired members of the armed forces feel wronged at having been deprived of their dues in several cases in the past, including the ‘rank pay’ case, 36 pending anomalies in the implementation of the awards of the Fourth, Fifth and the Sixth Pay Commissions, and the withholding of non-functional upgradation (NFU) of pay for officers denied promotion for lack of vacancies. The government must take note of the impact of the prolonged delay in the implementation of OROP on morale — not only of the veterans, but also of the serving soldiers; it may also affect many second or third generation soldiers who are witness to the sad plight of those before them and may refrain joining defence service in future where as there is already short fall.
The Prime Minister before and after election has committed for implementation of OROP also when he addressed the Army Commanders/Joint Commanders Conference in April 2015, he committed to the army and equivalent commanders that OROP will be implemented. The three Chiefs are on record that OROP will be implemented and they have the mandate from the RM to make this statement. The President who is also the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces in his address to the inaugural joint session of the Parliament stated that "his government is committed to OROP".
In fact this is the approach being taken in rallies in most of the States in India including in Uttarakhand and accordingly on above lines memorandums being submitted to concerned authorities. We are not being anti-nationalist or anti-organisation in this critical moment if we refuse to attend these celebrations Vijay Diwas, Kargil Divas and functions organised by state Govt. and governors on Independence Day or on Republic Day.
What are veterans planning? According to a ET report, United Front of ex-servicemen, a conglomerate of all veterans'; have decided to hold protest in front of the house of the parliamentarians It has also been decided that various teams of these veterans will be formed. These teams will visit election-bound states and discourage potential voters to vote for Modi government. Another step is, people will be made aware about the scheme and veteran's genuine demand. Lastly, if nothing will work then war widows will send letters in blood to President along with their bangles. Sources says these widows may begin a fast unto death if government remains adamant on its position.
Addressing the United States servicemen some years ago, US President Barack Obama said, “…when you take off the uniform, we will serve you as well as you’ve served us — because no one who fights for this country should have to fight for a job, or a roof over their heads, or the care that they need when they come home.”
Indian veterans also need to be given a similar respect and assurance, but one that is credible.

Lt Col B M Thapa, Veteran
Member- United Front of Ex-Servicemen (UFESM),

Uttarakhand, Dehradun

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Cheating the Jawans of Their Due

The Armed Forces have been the most disciplined organ of the Government ever since independence. But they are cheated by the bureaucrats, who love to play with the sentiments of the soldiers to ensure civilian supremacy.

A lot has been written and said about the one-rank-one-pension scheme. Yet, there is a need to write more about it so that each and every citizen of the country understands its nuances and the reason why the veterans — proud soldiers of yesteryears, have been forced to agitate and sit on a hunger strike.
Chanakya gave the following advice to Chandragupta Maurya: “If ever things come to a sordid pass when, on a given day, the Mauryan soldier has to look back over his shoulder, prompted by even a single worry about his and his family’s material, physical and social well-being, it should cause you and your council, the greatest concern and distress. I beseech you to take instant note and act with uncommon dispatch to address the soldier’s anxiety.
It is my bounden duty to assure you, my lord, that the day when the Mauryan soldier has to demand his dues or worse, plead for them, will neither have arrived overnight nor in vain. It will also bode ill for Magadha. For then on that day, you, my lord, will have lost all moral sanction to be the King! It shall also be the beginning of the end of the Mauryan Empire.”
Chanayka’s advice has been accepted universally. A soldier enrolls into the nation’s Army with a pledge to make the supreme sacrifice for the motherland, and the nation promises to look after him and his family’s material, physical and social well-being. It’s a solemn promise that motivates him to attain martyrdom without even blinking an eye. Is our country going wrong somewhere in honouring this promise?
Facts speak for themselves. To keep the forces young and fit, the soldiers of the Indian Army start retiring between 34 and 37 years of age. In the civil street, this age is termed as the prime of a youth. On the other hand, compatriots in the police and other Government jobs retire at the ripe age of 60 years.
The remainder of the Armed Forces personnel (fewer officers) retire before 50 years of age. A bulk of the officers retire between 54 and 58 years and only one per cent retire at the age of 60.
The disadvantage that accrues from retiring at a younger age is that you draw a fewer number of annual increments, resulting into lesser salary at the time of retirement. It has a twin financial effect on the after-retirement life of the soldier: Lesser pension (which is a derivative of the last salary drawn) and fewer savings (a derivative of the total earnings during service).
Within the Armed Forces itself, those who retired in the early years get lesser pension than those who retire in the later years, as each Pay Commission enhances salaries considerably.
The one-rank-one-pension scheme simply means that the pension of the retired officer will be based on the total length of service and the rank held by him at the time of retirement rather than the date of retirement.
In other words, a Sepoy with 15 years of service who retired, say, 10 years back, should get the same pension as that of a Sepoy with the same length of service who retires today.
It is very simple, but a few vested interests in the bureaucracy have always convinced the political leadership to the contrary. It involves bringing the pension at par with present retirees as on a cut-off date, say, April 1, 2014 (the date agreed by the Government for its implementation) and an annual increment thereafter.
The Indian Armed Forces have been the most disciplined and responsive organ of the Government ever since independence. Immediately after independence, when the forces were busy fighting the Pakistan invaders who had entered Jammu & Kashmir for its forced annexation, the salary of the Armed Forces was reduced by five per cent (a princely sum in those days). It was happily accepted in the national interest.
Then immediately after the 1971 war, a conflict that raised the nation’s sagging morale after the debacle of 1962, the Third Pay Commission reduced the pension of Junior Commissioned officers/other ranks from 70 per cent to 50 per cent and enhanced the pension of civilian employees from 30 per cent to 50 per cent.
To justify this, the mandarins of the Ministry of Defence, for the first time, came out with the concept of one-rank-one-pension. It was stated that the Government would soon start the one-rank-one-pension scheme for the Armed Forces to compensate for the loss that would accrue from this reduction.
Here again, the forces were cheated by the bureaucrats who always loved to play with the sentiments of the soldiers to ensure the civilian supremacy over the Armed Forces. The ostrich-like approach of the political leadership who has had no or minimal concern for the Armed Forces, encouraged the bureaucrats.

(The author is a Jammu-based political commentator and security and strategic analyst)

Monday, June 29, 2015

Important Caution to Military Veterans and Service HQ handling OROP with Government

A letter from Brig Mahalingam and further followed by a letter from Lt Gen SK Bahri PVSM to the Defence Minister,

Dear All,

Military Pension is a concept devised by the bureaucracy with some intent. The concept must be viewed with caution by the leaders of the Veteran’s community presently engaged with the Government on the issue of OROP. 

As it seems, the nomenclature of the proposal suggests that the Government is likely to lay down a Pension Band like the present Pay Band. The point that is likely to be missed out is, equating the pension of the Veterans of the past with the pensions of soldiers retiring from service today with equivalent rank and service. As a result the Pension Band is likely to be much below the Pension applicable to personnel of the same rank and length of service retiring today.  The implication would be, even if the pension band, say for a Brigadier retiring with 25 years of service is Rs 2000 per month with an increase of Rs 25 for every 6 months increase in service, it would fit in with the definition of OROP. In other words, the Pension Bands may be delinked from Last Pay Drawn. 

The bureaucracy may be banking on cashing on this interpretation to circumvent OROP. Once announced the Government will go whole hog to mislead the general public to claim that the Veteran’s demands have been fully met as the pension from then on would be same for persons of the same rank with same service irrespective of their date of retirement. .
It appears to me that instigated claims of CAPFs demanding OROP, the JCOs and OR getting less increase due to OROP etc. are being generated to create friction amongst ranks and files of the army as well as the Veteran’s community. It would also enable the Government to create a belief amongst the civil population that OROP indeed is a complicated process. On this very pretext of allegedly being able to examine the issue of OROP comprehensively to include CAPF and other Police Forces, the issue may be palmed off to 7th CPC. The larger aims and approach of the Government (read bureaucracy) explains the delay in implementing OROP. 

If you study this carefully, it may be a sinister plan something similar to the 3rd CPC. This will reduce the pension of the present retirees delinked from their Last Pay Drawn. In the long run, the pensions of the Defence Community will be hit very hard. 

The purpose of writing this mail is to caution those handling the issue including the Service HQ of the likely pit falls. Even after the Government makes the announcements, the experts from the Veteran’s community and the Service Headquarters need to study the letter carefully before claiming success or expressing happiness over the issue. We should remember how the Rank Pay was skirted even after the Government letter was issued. 

Incidentally, along with OROP, we need to insist that a rep from each service and the Veteran’s community need to be included in the committee working out the details of the scheme. It is time the Service HQ and the Veteran’s community also insists that similar representation is accepted in the 7th CPC before it is too late to mend things.

I sincerely hope and pray that my assessment is totally wrong and misconceived. I would be happy if the Government proves me wrong by implementing OROP, the way it was conceived and perceived.

Brigadier V Mahalingam (Retired)

Dear Mr Defence Minister,

Reference the trailing mail from Brig Mahalingam.

A few days ago a team, including me, from IESM met the FM due to the kind courtesy of Gen VK Singh. Col Rajyavardhan Rathore was also present. During this meeting the FM came up with the suggestion of a base pension for each rank and an additional amount for each year of service, in lieu of OROP. We asked him as to how and who will fix the base pensions, to which he said that the 7th CPC could do it. He also offered that he would accept a retd Lt Gen as a member in the CPC. We insisted that this should not be done, as firstly, pensions as per the Koshyari Committee be paid from 1/4/14 till the award of 7th CPC is announced. Thereafter, the salaries of the serving personnel may be fixed by the 7th CPC and consequently our pensions will follow as per rules. We would however, like that the 7th CPC restores the differential of pension as existing prior to 3rd CPC, which affects the largest number of ESM. The increase of civilian pensions without a corresponding increase in our pensions was patently unjustified and against all norms of justice.

Secondly, as the FM had offered to include an officer from the Services, I feel we should push for it even though it is late. The advantage would be that we could be warned by him of any underhand deals being done by the bureaucrats, to our disadvantage. We should also insist that we be not classified as shudras and be equated with the Class A services. You being the appointed guardian of the Defence Forces have a duty towards them, which you have been executing very well so far. So please continue.

Thirdly, the demand of CAPF is a red herring intended to muddy the waters, so that the government can put hurdles in resolving the issue of OROP.

With warm regards.

Satish Bahri

Lt Gen SK Bahri PVSM

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Lt Gen Ata Hasnain on OROP for those who still refuse to understand its need

Hats off to Gen Ata Hasnain! Best possible brief on OROP. I wish it reaches Shri Arun Jaitley & the PM. 

Lt. Gen (retd) Syed Ata Hasnain is the former Corps Commander of the Srinagar based 15 Corps, and is currently associated with Vivekanand International Foundation and the Delhi Policy Group, two major strategic think tanks of Delhi.

One Rank One Pension (OROP) – From A Veteran’s Heart.

As a second generation soldier Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain (Retd) pours out the emotions on OROP and why it is so essential for the Government to grant it.

I never expected that one day, like my father (also a retired service Army officer), I would be earning a pension for the services I rendered to the Army and Nation for 40 years. In all the years that he earned a pension and I earned a normal salary I never bothered about the details of pension. He was an honorable and honest man who worked hard to give his two sons a quality education sacrificing the comforts and luxuries which were due to him at his seniority and age.

He, however, did expect that his needs through his days as a retired veteran would be catered through appropriate pension; he had no major savings and no property to sell to make the ‘moolah’ which was necessary to afford luxuries. For him, dignity was the watchword and he maintained his carefully nurtured Indian Army public image.

With his friends and colleagues during bridge evenings at our house, he would often discuss One Rank One Pension (OROP), way back in the Eighties. I heard the term then but never investigated beyond that. In 1997 after the Fifth Pay Commission I heard him complain for the first time. The complaint was based on the fact that for him who had retired in the Seventies and those who did so in the Nineties the cost of living to maintain basic standards was the same. Yet he was receiving lesser by quite some margin. He was older and he was unhappy.

It occurred to me that his savings had been miniscule to cater for the cost of living around the turn of the Millennium while those veterans of the Nineties and beyond had much higher savings. So obviously he was suffering on two counts; lower pension than those of his rank and equivalent service and lower savings because of earlier retirement.

Obviously he deserved better if he had to maintain the same standard of living; he was more advanced in years than the recent retirees but that did not reduce his daily needs.
The ignominy really came in 2008 when the Sixth Pay Commission hit us all with its numerous anomalies; he now discovered that he was receiving fewer pensions than even the Colonels who were retiring after 01 Jan 2006. It meant that he was expected to further lower his standards; and his savings were now older by ten years.

That the ‘Maj Gen Vains case’ and the Supreme Court (SC) ruling did restore his pension to be marginally above Brigadiers but less than the Maj Generals who retired after 2006, was a grudging saving grace. However, the ignominy continued because the government did not implement the full SC ruling which actually amounted to OROP.

One of the first things he did in 2008 after I explained to him about the setting up of a new veteran forum was to tell me to send his contribution to the organization. I did that, to the Secretary and received a very gracious response. I kept the old man informed of most developments thereafter from Maj Navdeep Singh’s blog.  My father passed away three years ago disappointed that OROP did not materialize in his life-time.

In this story the lesson is clearly evident, if anyone who hasn’t understood OROP wishes to be more aware. It simply means that for the same rank and same length of service the pension earned by a veteran has to be the same irrespective of the date of retirement.

The problem goes back to 1973; when the Third Pay Commission reduced the pension of JCOs and OR to 50 percent of last pay from the existing 70 percent and increased that of the civilian government employees from 30 to 50 percent. Obviously information on this was lacking among Army personnel for many years and there were few veteran organizations to fight this injustice.

They weren’t generally aware that the government had made promises to ensure that the compensation for early retirement would be in the form of OROP; the same would not be available to other government servants whose personnel all retired at the maximum government retirement age. Awareness on all this came with the proliferation of information through the internet and much credit must be taken by the various veteran organizations without fear or favor towards any particular one.

I for one do believe that the bureaucracy that has a historic contempt for servicemen, under the mistaken notion of civilian control over the armed forces being bureaucratic control and not political control, would go to any extent to ensure that the service personnel receive minimum privileges. This is so evident from the manner in which various legal cases pertaining to service privileges legally decided in favor of service personnel/veterans are regularly challenged in higher courts.

It really creates the ignominy of serving personnel axing their own feet for they too are future veterans and are forced to fight against their own future privileges. Protocol levels for Service officers also continued to drop every few years .

Return of medals, blood signed memorandums et al, as protests, did not get the political or bureaucratic authorities to bat an eyelid for at least five years. In fact, the veteran representatives who went to submit campaign medals did not even get the respect due to them or a meeting with the Supreme Commander. In the face of all this, maintaining the momentum of the agitation for OROP with requisite dignity has been challenging and the veterans deserve credit for the stamina and will.

However, the understanding of our countrymen with regard to OROP remains one of sympathy without being sufficiently informed; as if it is alms which are due to the veterans. There is a need for far greater dissemination of information to allow the public to perceive the reasons correctly and not imagine that these are favors that are being sought. The basic arguments remain –

OROP is not pay, it is rightful compensation for services already rendered. It was promised to the Services 40 years ago and then repeatedly ignored by every government.The legitimate symbolic protests were virtually treated with contempt by the previous government.Service pension has to be differently viewed in comparison to pension of other government servants because of the variable ages at which service personnel retire. Retirement is as early as the age of 34 with no assured second careers. Almost 87 percent of the personnel retire between the age of 34 and 48 preventing them from earning the maximum pension that they could have, had they retired like all other government servants at maximum retiring age.The scope for savings from earned pay is very greatly reduced due to restricted service rendered. Their total earnings are also accordingly lower. This is an issue which has not been sufficiently emphasized upon. Retired veterans from all government services depend/live on their pension and the interest earned from investment of their savings. Both are lesser than their other government counterparts in the case of retired Service veterans.There can be no comparison between veteran servicemen and retirees of Central Armed Police Forces. It is a misnomer that service conditions are similar. That apart, all CAPF personnel retire at the maximum government retirement age, currently 60, which entail that service rendered by  policemen is almost double that of servicemen affording full scope for maximum savings and earning the maximum pension of the rank achieved.

The Services are pyramidal organizations which means the chances to reach higher rank are severely restricted by vacancies unlike other government organizations where the employees have greater chances of promotion and at relatively younger age. They have in addition the privilege of Non Functional Up-gradation. The latter means that irrespective of rank achieved there is regular up-scaling of pay based upon years of service rendered. This does not exist for the three Services.

The Armed Forces cannot afford to have all personnel retiring at maximum age because of the peculiar need to retain a younger age profile. As the last resort of the nation for almost every crisis the efficiency of the Armed Forces have also to be several notches higher. The sacrifice that service personnel make in all the above deserves them a better pension than that which exists and keeps getting diminished in value as they get older.Regarding the political brouhaha the last UPA government continued to make a mockery of the issue by announcing different versions of OROP while in effect it was nothing but resolution of the pay band system and the pensions based upon it, thoroughly confused by the Sixth Pay Commission and then resolved over time.The Supreme Court on 17 Feb 2015 reminded the NDA government of the pending implementation of its six year old judgment and warned that if not implemented within three months   it would amount to contempt of court.

The following aspects of the current situation are relevant to take note of:-

The OROP issue finally came to prominence through the various symbolic acts of veteran servicemen which are within norms of dignified democratic protest. Yet it failed to move any political authority until the pre-election period in 2014. That is when the government of the day woke from slumber after Mr Rahul Gandhi saw the light in a meeting with veteran representatives. The hurried realization brought about an interim acceptance and allotment of Rs 500 Crores which was miniscule compared to the requirement.

The BJP made it a part of its poll plank and boldly announced the same in an ex-servicemen dominated pre-election rally at Rewari. These were the moments in the politicization of OROP. While the previous government is taking credit for having approved and announced OROP before it demitted office and earmarked a token amount in the budget of 2014-15, the current government is yet wrestling with detail. Approval of OROP has been accorded in various forms thus far except in the form of the final government letter which will become authority. The previous government can morally take no responsibility for deliverance because no final approval was ever received.

The current impasse came about because of the continuously differing figures of the quantum of compensation involved if OROP is implemented; from Rs 3000 crores to 13000 crores. Obviously data is a major problem and calculations even more. The NDA government allocated Rs 1000 crores as the interim figure while sanctioning OROP pending finalization of details. The veteran organizations have done their homework well and a figure of approximately Rs 8000 crores is the ball park figure being spoken of.With a 40 year wait behind them the veterans are obviously running out of patience and one of the major reasons for that is the pitiable pension many of the much older veterans and widows are receiving reducing them to virtual penury. Significant to mention here that many such veterans have expired and many more will in the course of the interminable wait.The issue has had a cascading rise in importance with all major media sources reminding the government of its promise and of the Supreme Court judgment. It is not insignificant that it has the personal attention of the Prime Minister with the Raksha Mantri monitoring it by the day. The contentious issue on which it is apparently stuck is the details involved with the finances.What the veteran community is peeved about are three issues. Firstly, the Prime Minister’s contention that OROP is more complicated than originally perceived because it has different definitions. This is being countered with the argument that there is a single and simple definition of OROP as originally understood by Parliament; it can be made as complicated as one wishes to by adding clauses and contingencies where none exist.

Secondly, it is being perceived that the bureaucracy is living up to its promise of complicating the issue to such an extent that it is once again shelved without decision. One may recall an oft repeated story in Services circles of a bureaucrat who stated abroad within earshot of a Defense Attache that OROP would be granted over his dead body.

Thirdly, there is considerable apprehension that the political authority in its naivety may fall for the recommendation that the best decision would be to hand over the issue for examination in detail by a body of experts who form the Seventh Pay Commission. This would actually be the last straw because to date the decisions of the Sixth Pay Commission are being contested and anomalies yet to be refined. Such a decision it is feared will send OROP into an interminable spiral.

The fourth and now perhaps most significant issue that is seizing the veteran organizations is the refusal of the government in earmarking a date by which the final go ahead will be given. A series of promises about potential approval and implementation made by various important functionaries, including the Army Chief, have failed to materialize creating the suspicion that the political authority is being misguided by the bureaucracy. The prime issue under suspicion is the possibility of drawing the CAPFs into the fray with similar demands which will then raise the cost of OROP.All the above is yet in the realm of apprehension. This comes about when a community of disciplined citizens is treated shabbily and a history of such treatment by the bureaucracy exists.

It will help to better perceive the issue and the constant attempts at placing obstacles in the way if one remembers that even in the case of disability pensions the authorities have contested in a higher court almost every case decided in favor of individuals.

The slow rate of approvals of disability pension almost appears a deliberate ploy to exasperate the veteran community and test its stamina and will. The parallel is now perceived to being applied to OROP.  Mercifully the Raksha Mantri is now grappling with the issue of disability court cases and giving it a full review.

Given all the facts above the public can well perceive the need for early decision. An argument which goes in favor of quicker decision making is the parallel of waiver of farmer loans in 2012. Rs 60,000 crores were earmarked for this and the decision was taken as part of the processing of the annual budget.

The data on this could not have been less complicated than OROP yet if the finance bureaucracy in particular could work out details and earmark a sum seven times higher there is no reason why OROP should languish so long.

The last aspect which needs highlighting is that the veteran organizations have considerable belief in the Prime Minister and the Raksha Mantri but very little in the bureaucracy under them. It is the trust deficit between the Services and the bureaucracy which does the nation little good. The veterans believe firmly that the calculations of the outgo and the essential rules is not rocket science and that the delay is only to somehow scuttle OROP in the only acceptable form to the veterans replacing it with some complicated formulae which will take quite some time to comprehend.
Till date ten years after implementation the Sixth Pay Commission’s confusing provisions are yet to apply to many a veteran and widow in far flung rural areas where the pension disbursing authority has no idea about interpretation of complex rules. The Army for one constantly sends teams of soldiers and clerks to resolve these issues in cooperation with local veteran organizations.

The unfortunate thing is that the delay in OROP is leading to division of opinion among veterans on the methodology of pressurizing the government and keeping OROP at center stage until it is achieved in entirety; no compromises on the latter from any quarter. There is a call for direct action if a date of implementation is not announced while there are others who believe that the traditional dignity of the armed forces cannot be sacrificed. The latter calls for trust in the Prime Minister and his promise; action should only be contemplated if even he fails the veterans.

The compromise solution of keeping the pressure through regular media contact and continuously educating the public appears a more prudent one. Either way OROP has reached a stage of emotions that it will be difficult to scuttle.

The education of the public which still has much respect for the uniform is a must to bring in a national emotional footprint on thisIt is unlikely that we could ever come to a stage such as that faced by the ‘Bonus Army’ in the US in the 1930s when World War I veterans were fired upon while virtually ‘gheraoing’ the Capitol Hill for the release of their dues. It was considered one of the worst decisions by a President in American history.

(The writer is a former GOC of the Srinagar based 15 Corps and Military Secretary of the Indian Army. He is currently associated with Vivekanand International Foundation and Delhi Policy Group)

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The inspiring story of India's blade runner : Major D.P Singh - The Bravest among Brave Soldiers of India

Some write ups on this soldier with indomitable spirit, contributed from various sources

He was blown apart by a mortar and left for dead on a Kargil battlefield. Now, he’s running marathons

Major D.P. Singh runs in the Delhi Marathon with the Indian flag.

A mass of bleeding tissue, broken bones and intestines ripped out. That was Major Devender Pal Singh when fellow soldiers carried him to the field hospital. A mortar bomb had landed close to him on a Himalayan battlefield, during the 1999 Kargil War on the India-Pakistan border. The army surgeon declared him dead on arrival and sent his wrecked body to a makeshift mortuary. But 25-year-old Major Singh was not ready to die.

The story of how he beat death sounds incredible when you see him today, full of vitality. Now known as the ‘Indian Blade Runner’, he has been running marathons for 16 years.

It was at the mortuary on the mountains that another doctor from the army hospital spotted life in him. The chances of survival for anybody caught within eight yards of a mortar bomb are close to nil. He was embedded with shrapnels, Wafer thin, bedridden and disabled, the Major drew upon the survival instincts and courage that had spurred him to dive to the ground when the bomb landed about a yard and a half from him. Quick thinking had saved his life, but he would now have to learn to live anew.

“This was the start of my second life,” he told YourStory on the sidelines of the India Inclusion Summit in Bangalore. So what if life would never be the same again? It never is anyway. He decided not to think of his battered body as a disability. He looked upon it as a challenge, instead.

He stayed in hospital for almost a year. Hardly anyone believed he would ever walk again. But he thought, “Why just walk? I want to run.”

Major DP Singh’s transformation into the Indian Blade Runner didn’t happen overnight. He was never a runner before the amputation. But, “I wanted to run to inspire myself to go beyond my injuries,” as told in YourStory.

Running with his prosthetic leg wasn’t just hard, it was excruciatingly painful. “I refused to crawl. Every time I fell, I took it as a test of perseverance. That way, it is easier to try again,” he recollected. His first prosthetic limb was better suited for sprints than long distance running. Nevertheless, however agonising it was, the Major was already running marathons when prosthetics specialists at Hanger Clinic in Oklahoma City chanced upon a video clip of him. They invited him over to fit him with a better prosthetic that allowed him the greater flexibility needed for long distance running.

Today, at 39, the Indian Blade Runner has run close to 20 marathons. When he runs, he doesn’t hide his artificial leg. Onlookers often drop their jaws and stare. That doesn’t bother him.

He is also a motivational speaker, inspiring amputees across India. He manages a support group called The Challenging Ones.

“I started this support group to inspire others in a similar predicament. Sports can help build confidence and help overcome the disability,” he said. “People like me are generally called physically challenged. But I believe we are ‘challengers’. The trauma of losing a part of your body is huge. Your family and friends cannot imagine life after amputation. The initial stage where the person realises that s/he has lost a limb is the most difficult. Peer support is crucial.”

His aim is to help amputees find life again. “Make the Challengers break all shackles of dependency and overcome fears of lack of mobility to live as they did earlier. There is no limit,” he says.

This Republic Day, YourStory salutes his indomitable spirit. Check-out his interview with YourStory below.

Journey from ICU to marathon- Major D.P. Singh 
(Delhi marathon Runner)

After completing my Commando course with an injured knee in 1998, I was on leave to undergo knee surgery for ACL tear. In Mar 99, I joined unit and straight away went on PP6 in Munawar Tawi area of 10 Div. I was still undergoing physiotherapy which I could never complete for the prescribed duration courtesy Op Vijay.

It started in the month of May and things got very hot in 10 Div area too. On the fateful day of 15th July 99, I came under firing of mortar and got severely injured. Profusely bleeding all over the body when I reached hospital I was declared dead by the surgical specialist. As the luck would have another doctor, Anesthetic, was present there at that moment, who had a look at me and could revive me.

Since then, till Nov 2009, it took me ten full years to regain my ability back for which I was famous among my coursemates in IMA as I use to be the first one to sleep in the outdoor classes and come back in first five, when sent on round the temple to sit and relax while others were still running.

It all started with my craze of going for Rally sports. During my army days also I was passionate about rally sports but could never get chance to explore that area much as I was denied entry into such adventures owing to my medical condition. Once out, I began to explore it more, however as its an expensive sport, I needed money and sponsors. It was the hunt for sponsors which forced me to prove my worth as an individual first, as whomsoever I met in this regard, frowned on me because of my physical status. During that period I came across the advertisement of Airtel Delhi Half Marathon to be held in Nov 09 and I enrolled for it.

Month of October in Delhi is neither cold nor hot, in a way, ideal to get up early and go for jogging. First day, I donned the jogging suit and went out on road,started with a normal walk for about 2 kms. Long way to cover in next 14 days but there was some spirit, spirit of proving my worth again, spirit of doing something worth after a long. And thus every day I started getting up early and started going for regular jogs.

Within few days, I was able to hop run for about 4 to 5 kms. Sweating out like this after about 9 yrs was a feeling of elation. The max upto which I went during practice session was mere 9 kms. I wanted to do about 14 to 15 kms but in between there were various challenges like, coming back late from office and not able to complete the sleep to get up early, upset stomach or some other commitments in which I went out of Delhi. Controlling stomach was biggest challenge as due to injury twice my stomach underwent laprotomy in order to remove the intestinal adhesion. But after consulting a doctor I had a medicine to ease out this trouble.

As I was not able to complete the mark of 14 km in practise so, I was not sure whether I should attempt the run or not, there was some element of confusion. But I guess its normal to have such doubt before any test because this only makes you give your best.

Though I had prepared myself by buying new jogging shoes which will give me better grip and cushion to my left foot, toe and heel but toe and heel had given me piercing pain many a times while practice session and intolerable pain while doing the first marathon.

Early morning on the day of marathon, I got up at around 4, cleaned my bowl well and had my daily diet of (anjeer, kishmiss, khazoor and badaam) first thing in the morning. Mind was still confused whether to go for run or sleep again. For about five minutes I was confused, then suddenly I made up my mind to reach at starting point at least before the half marathon starts and let things to happen on its own. That was perhaps the moment of Rubicon, because after that not going ahead with run never struck me. I reached there on venue and wore my chest number. Public was amazed to see a one leg guy getting ready but that was giving me strength rather. While I was standing next to gate in the holding area, I met a 75 yrs old guy with his friend. He was an athlete of his times and was there to run half marathon. I touched his feet and he wished me good luck for the run. That was the moment when even the iota of doubt I had at the back of mind also got washed away.

And rest is history now, since 2009, I have completed three consecutive half marathons at Delhi and Mumbai both. Amazingly, improving time by 15 min in every run. My present prosthesis has over lived its life of 5 yrs by more than double and it is giving me trouble since last 3 yrs but some how I could manage my runs without getting bogged down by even this restraint. I am now trying to get a new prosthesis specially designed for running purpose with an aim to explore marathons outside India too. The fact that Limca book of records has published my attempt as maiden attempt in India and thus a record has given me a further push to take it forward. 

The inspiring story of Major D P Singh

Top of Form
Bottom of Form
Geetanjali Krishna

 On July 15, 1999, a young major was grievously injured in Kargil during Operation Vijay. Surgeons declared him dead in the army hospital; then managed to save him after amputating his leg. Today, that same soldier has run 12 half marathons, a feat as miraculous as it is inspirational.
Every time he crosses that finish line, Major D P Singh doesn't merely win a battle against his beleaguered body -- he sets new standards of bravery and endurance for people like us.
"When I learnt I'd lost my leg, I told myself that this would be yet another challenge in my life," says Singh.
He endured 10 painful years of recuperation thereafter.
"I just couldn't get used to the sympathetic glances I used to get from people. After a while, I was desperate to change that," he says. Although in his earlier days he'd been more into rally sports, Singh decided to take up running.

Another Version of

The inspiring story of India's blade runner Major D.P Singh

Overcoming adversity.

It was July 8th 1999. India was taking on Pakistan in the Kargil War. Major D.P. Singh fought bravely, but was severely injured by a mortar fired from other side of the border. He was declared dead at the Army hospital, but another doctor saved him. Singh’s legs were amputated in order to keep him alive. 

He did not let his disability affect him as he took up running and wanted to be a part of the Delhi Marathon in 2009. That was how long it took for Singh to recover from his injuries. 

“When I learnt I lost my leg, I told myself that this would be yet another challenge in my life. I just couldn’t get used to the sympathetic glances I used to get from people. After a while, I was desperate to change that,” Singh said.

The training

The training schedule of Singh has been gruelling. It takes him close to two hours just to get ready and wear the prosthesis. “So to run at 5 am, I wake up at 3”, he says.

He initially hopped on his good leg and dragged the prosthetic leg. After months of practice, he was able to hop-run for about five kilometers. Singh was happy with all the hard work he put in. “Sweating out like this after so long elated me. Although it was slow going, but I managed to run two half marathons like this,” he said. The amazing part about the run was that Singh improved his timing by 15 minutes in each attempt.

Singh got to know about the fibre blade prosthetic from South African blade runner Oscar Pistorius. He has entered the Limca book of records for being the first Indian to run a half marathon with a blade. 

Indian army helped a lot

He attributes his success to the discipline he received in the Indian army. “I owe it all to my upbringing as a Sikh and training in the Indian army, which has given me the ability to convert adversity into opportunity”.

His goal is to run a full marathon. “When I was injured, I received blood from countless people of different castes, creeds and states. With the blood of India running in my veins, I feel I can do everything”, he concludes.