Sunday, September 13, 2015
Sainik Ekta Rally -12 September 2015 - A Report
Over the last three months, we, the constituents of United Front of Ex Servicemen (UFESM) have been diligently and honestly negotiating and talking with everyone from the side of the Government or the BJP.
Col Inderjeet Singh, Lt Gen BS Yadav and Maj Gen Satbir Singh, assisted by Gp Capt VK Gandhi, Brig Kartar Singh, Wg Cdr CK Sharma, Hon Lt K Pandey, Hon Capt JS Rathee and many others were always there to inform the Government of the facts of OROP.
During this period, all aspects of OROP have been discussed in great details with just about everyone other than the Prime Minister.
Despite all honest efforts, what the Government finally announced was nowhere near OROP as defined by the Parliaments of February 2014 and June 2014. Just a "One Time Increase" has been offered, with five-yearly reviews instead of the present ten-yearly ones.
Because of perceived apathy of the Government and after three months of continuous protests by UFESM at Jantar Mantar, it was decided to hold the Ekta/ Solidarity Rally on 12th September 2015.
For the three days preceding the Rally, it was reported that many messages by SMS, WhatsApp and Twitter were being sent out informing everyone that the Ekta Rally had been called off! Personal threats against Gen Satbir Singh were received. A heavy effort to malign individually everyone involved with the protests was set afoot. This was followed up by many TV channels using runners at the bottom of the screens, giving the same message.
UFESM countered these efforts of those inimical to the sanction of OROP by releasing advertisements in newspapers regarding the Ekta Rally. The contentions of UFESM are:
Whilst the Government has announced acceptance of the principle of OROP, there are serious drawbacks that the country needs to know to appreciate why the agitation has not been withdrawn.
OROP implies “Same Pension for same rank, for same number of years of service rendered, regardless of when retired and any future enhancements in rate of pension to be passed to Past Pensioners automatically.”
There are many contradictions in what has been announced by the Government and what actually comprises OROP:
1 VRS: The Government has created avoidable confusion by including ‘VRS’ in their announcement as VRS does not exist in the Defence Forces. However, those who have taken Pre-Mature Retirement must come under OROP.
2 BASE YEAR: After having agreed to FY 13-14, the Government has now gone to some never-heard concept of middle of calendar year!
3 ANNUAL EQUALISATION: This is the very core of OROP in order to ensure that no Senior ever gets less pension than a junior and cannot be ignored by making equalisation a five-yearly effort.
4 ONE-MAN COMMISSION: If the Govt were to agree to all the points put up by ESM, there would be no need for any Commission. However, if unavoidable, it must be a Committee of three ESM, one serving member with one person nominated by RM and the report must be submitted in one month and NOT six months.
5 AVERAGE OF PAY SCALES: The Defence Minister had earlier assured that pensions would be taken from “top of the pay scales” whereas now, the Government seems to have gone to an unknown concept!
6 OROP INDEPENDENT OF CPC: Whatever awards accrue from OROP must be totally protected from anything that Central Pay Commissions may give to Central Government employees.
7 OROP CONCEPT ‘IN PERPETUITY’: Everything that is given to Defence Forces pensioners are given in perpetuity for all times to come.
The changes proposed by the Government will not save any significant amount of money for the Nation but will definitely dilute and distort the definition of OROP which the Ex Servicemen have been seeking for the last 40 years.
We are pleased to report that the Ekta Rally was a huge, thundering success! Starting from Friday evening onwards, many buses and vehicles of ESM had started coming into Delhi. Many arrived by train or public buses, too. Whilst many made their own arrangements for stay, many others were put up at Gurudwaras by UFESM. On a conservative estimate, there were at least 200 vehicles that had come from Rajasthan, UP, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Uttaranchal etc etc.
A serious effort was made by the Government to stop many of the buses with ESM at various entry points of Delhi.
And yet, the attendance at Jantar Mantar has been reported by conservatives as about 20,000 to 25,000. Whereas, those who were there for the cause say that the rolling number of people who have attended the Ekta Rally was 50,000!
There has now been a total blackout of the reports on the Rally in all media. Whilst virtually all channels had their OB Vans on the stand-bye, none of the cameras were rolling. There is not even a mention of the Rally in this morning';s newspapers.
Those who were at Jantar Mantar speak in awe of the sea of humanity that was there, all around. As far as the eye could see, there were the ESM and their families, everywhere. Every time a question was asked, you could see tens of thousands of arms waving in the air in agreement!
It has been decided that the protest Relay Hunger Strike will continue at Jantar Mantar till the Government agrees to give what OROP is actually about.
It is requested that every Ex Serviceman who gets this message to please convey it not only to all your ESM contacts and friends, but also to all your civilian friends. We HAVE to fight the misinformation campaign and negative publicity that the Government is doing with all our efforts to ensure that Ex Servicemen are given due justice and equity for which this struggle is!
Wg Cdr CK Sharma