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Has OROP politicized Indian Armed Forces?

September 8, 2015

I don’t think so. Not come across a single Jawan/Serving Officer in actual life. Oh I did a couple of years back – a friend’s relative who worked as army man. He came home to pick up something the friend sent from abroad and said he hailed from a small village near Vellore or somewhere that was popular for sending its sons to serve the nation. He was on leave to get married and said he had worked in border areas like Assam & Kashmir. It was a hair-raising experience for me to come face-to-face with a real-life soldier for the first time. For my part I extended my hospitality by providing him food and thanked him and said we all respected his profession after confessing he was the one and only serving army guy I ever interacted with! In my 40s! Otherwise we see some ex-servicemen working in safety engineering in India & Middle-East as security personnel mostly, apart from those in security checks in airports!

My interest in armed forces was roused when I played Chess online for over an year with a flirty army officer. Afterwards we parted ways by mutual consent as 99% of the matches were won by me. It was a one-sided affair but it helped improve my ratings! I can recall his frustration over army pay package. One hears about Defence housing scam etc from time to time, but in reality, the man’s anger came through to me because he believed he had made a mistake in his life by choosing the defence profession. He did not yet own a home but admittedly led a posh lifestyle in army quarters/bungalows. He was openly jealous about other working professionals in various fields earning handsome – especially my husband! Seemed to have a grudge on NRIs who worked abroad and earned in foreign currency! (Not just armymen, all my countrymen are unreasonably livid with NRIs who get 100% tax exemption. They think money grows on trees for us. Lead NRI life one month of your life to know what it really means. The grass is always greener on the other side). (If NRI income, valuable foreign exchange earner for India, must be taxable, then the vast Indian diaspora you see across the globe will evaporate in matter of minutes).

Couldn’t blame him though. Imagine an NDA candidate with A+ kind of scores not rooting for IITs and NITS but heading for the armed forces colleges. Some of these guys did it because their fathers were army personnel. It was prestigious for them atleast in late ’80s. That was before the dawn of the computer age. World changed with the ’90s but remained the same for our services men. I was speechless when such an intelligent man confessed he regretted his choice of profession. Then I knew something was terribly wrong with us and we had to do something about it as a society, as a nation. We were taking our armed forces for granted and were starting to be ungrateful. We were ignorant basically and we dwelt in our own petty worlds of blissful existence where our collective conscience did not pain when our soldiers got martyred as we slept soundly through the gun fires.


What is OROP (ONE RANK ONE PENSION):,_One_Pension


I wish wherever the officer is now, he is happy with OROP finally. Money should not be a matter for consideration when it comes to dispensing rewards/compensation to these gallant guys. I asked for the man’s pay scale and was shocked that he was making so less. I trust he told me the truth. A sharp man with similar experience and track record in any other field would be making thrice minimum or perhaps much more in regular civilian life. Not only army personnel, even our police forces are drawing pathetic wages. They are the guardians of our society. They make sure our law & order machinery runs smooth. So must some of them seek bribes under the table contrary to their noble profession? Tamil Nadu pays one of the lowest salaries to police personnel. And mine is supposedly a fair place to live in. A supposedly better-off part. Now there are some improved police housing quarters we notice in the city which are anyway accessible only to the creamy few. Most are below standard and in crumbling stage. CM Jayalalitha J has brought in some visible improvements in police service in recent past so the department fares better. But some years back I learned a policeman on beat with 10 years of active service received an annual emoluments of a mere 60,000 bucks in all. Or what you call C-to-C in generic terms. How can you live on this kind of money, educate your children. Now I no more think worse of traffic constables etc. Even a day labourer in Chennai makes a minimum wage of 500 rupees. If you engage an electrician to wire a ceiling fan or a plumber to fix a leaking faucet, you have to shell out in hundreds whether it is a 2 minute job or 2 hour job. Labour is expensive in southern states. Carpenters make a killing. All skilled hands and semi-skilled make good these days. South mainly imports Biharis for the reason they are cheap. Construction industry down south now employs only Biharis whereas the hotel business recruits north-easterners only like the beauty salons. Unregulated sectors of employment.

In one of my rare parlour visits, I met with a north eastern girl, 22 years of age. Its 2 years since she visited Manipur, her hometown she said. What a deadend in life. After marriage, she wondered if at all that happens, she is not certain what shall become of her.  She needs the money and so says she is looking for a north eastern boy working in the city too. What was her pay. 6000 bucks per month with rent-free accommodation provided by her employer. I thought of the policeman then – not much of difference between a Tamil policeman and a North Eastern beautician working in the city for a salon! Dignity of labour? Equality & Justice?! Atleast the girl enjoys air-conditioned comforts!

Of late there is a drop in recruitment of army officers because India is not getting youth willing to join the services, reason being insufficient pay. Other lucrative professions like that of software industry etc are attracting our youngsters who are extremely ambitious and materialistic. Motivation is lacking for young people today to join our armed forces in service of the nation. You see constantly how Indian Army , Navy & Airforce are regularly placing advertisements in the press/media inviting applications for officers posts which still go/remain vacant/unfilled. It is a sad spectacle that they (the services) have to advertise themselves like this yet there should be less no. of takers.

It is also true that the young Indian population is more academic oriented than ever before in last 2 decades and is growing mature. Physical valour is no more something to be proud of. Not a single young man/woman that I know of in Chennai through all my life, who has given NDA or joined armed forces in selfless service of the nation. For the first time in many years, a college friend of my son expressed his desire to give NDA entrance for a career in the barracks .  However I have seen medical aspirants sit for AFMC exams!! Not because they wanted to serve in the armed forces but because they wanted medical seat at any rate!

the one I love the most:

Wage/Pension revisions for the armed forces is totally justified in my opinion. They deserve every single penny and it’s an inescapable fact that we must address their rumbling stomachs first before asking them to safeguard our nation. A half-filled belly shall have a half-heart when it may come to dispensing the duty expected of one. Well, it may or may not be so with Indian armed forces. What bill the govt will foot by way of OROP will be peanuts compared to what is stashed in Swiss banks by my countrymen. What is the volume of 2G scam. Vyapam. And even before that Bofors.

There is a reference about Pak afrmed forces. For one thing, our adversaries pay their armed forces well. Its a proud thing in our neighbouring country if you are enrolled in the services. You get privilege treatment in every sphere of life. One more thing is, lack of industrial activity and void in employment scene could be pressing their young men into services (if not terrorism). Not in India where everything is diversified. There may be underemployment in our nation, never unemployment. A 1000 choices and chances India offers life. Productive life. Armed forces never held the sheen for us the way it does with our neighbours even today. The dispensations are not matching or attractive either for young Indian men and women to opt for services as a planned career option.

We are now discussing OROP and regular army pay may not come into purview therefore at this point of time so I am limiting this post to mere pensions. With inflation soaring year after year, it is only fair that our armed forces are adequately compensated for the sacrifices and services they render that make India tick.

I hope my army officer chessmate finally got his own home. What is the annual bonus we get paid. Even if a percentage is slashed if the year is not good, I have seen how the men sulk and threaten their employers with resignation. Some cadres like army cooks & such designations etc get luckier as a friend pointed out with OROP- not all are fighting the terrorists and safeguarding our borders. Yet their time could come anytime. As it happened with Kargil. As it happens with frequent but unexpected terrorist insurgencies in Kashmir. Or as it does with natural calamities like floods every time in every Indian state. The armed forces have to be on alert all times and stay prepared even though it’s peace time operations they relish the most. Indian army is also sending troops to UN Peace Keeping Forces. Very recently we buried a jawan who annihilated 10 terrorists in 11 days before he was martyred. Is there a price to pay for his life. Can his family ever get him back.

Frankly speaking its not clear what will be the long term implications on implementing OROP (on our burgeoning economy). My write-up is amateur but I wanted to put forth what I think about OROP.

It is only healthy that more than one opinion persists. I have no army background, have never mixed with army people. We southerners are always accused of being selfish and not actively participating in social/community activities in the interests of our nation. Its true to an extent. But some of us also need to look after other businesses so that everyone can eat bread in peace. Ofcourse I must not base my judgement on one individual’s laments – that of my chess friend. I wish our border disputes are sorted out so our services personnel can breathe easy and relax. And that must happen without any infringement on India’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

We meet people from all walks of life in India/abroad. Nothing moves us as the plight of Kashmiri Pandits. One such a doctor who was chased out with family by militants from his home valley is still hopeful of returning to the Himalayan state someday. He and his folks are refugees even within India. We have to  only talk to this family to realize how important Indian armed forces are for our nation. We can see why Kashmir is worth defending with every last life of ours. This elderly gentleman talks about how in matter of days your neighbours can become murderers and burn down your home. He has lost trust in humanity. No way this man would want anything to do with Pakistan or China. An authentic, pedigree Hindu/Indian expelled from his own soil which is ethnic-cleansed every single day with extremism and violence which Indian army must fight with at all costs.

BJP govt at the center has been pushing for fresh/increased recruitment drive in the services, unheard of in decades. This is a healthy sign. An excellent initiative but something that comes with a bill to foot.

Why not nationalize even our police forces (like in Delhi) and fix them a fair wage structure with periodical wage revisions. We are talking about doing away with bribes but in India, it is the police personnel who are supposed guardians of the civilian society, who are most corrupt. One way of getting rid of corruption in the police dept is to raise their wages to decent levels and offer them incentives. Why should not our police forces be centralized. CRPF is hardly sufficient for a nation as large and diverse as India. An idea 🙂

Paramilitary forces, Special forces of India – every wing of Defence deserves high praise. During Mumbai 26/11, who came to the nation’s rescue. Who salvaged our self-respect. Even in last year’s Kashmir floods, the relief operations of our armed forces in hostile territory was commendable… The Nepal service, the Yemen pull-out of stranded Indians and other nationalities…. the list is endless….

From the dignified professionals they are, it is sad our armed forces have to fight for their just demands. The successive Congress governments had their chance to resolve the issue, after all they administered India for nearly half a century on our independence but slept over it. There was a window right after the wars when the claims were made for the first time. How and why was the issue politicized. It is extremely unfair that when the agitation must reach a climax in this current regime and the ruling government accedes to the demands, the victory should be hijacked by shameless and corrupt opposition. There are also malicious attempts to belittle the cause in Indian media. What we are awarding our defence forces by way of OROP by no means translates to perks. The demands make perfect sense. As  someone who cannot make the distinction between a colonel and an admiral and a marshall, I still wanted to add this post to my blog, the layman that I am.


From → Dilli Durbar

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