OROP not enough
That the government has finally accepted the four-decade-old demand for one rank, one pension should come as a relief even though it is not entirely to the satisfaction of ex-soldiers. With Prime Minister Modi clarifying on Sunday that the armed forces personnel retiring prematurely and those disabled would be covered under the OROP, a major irritant has been removed. Many loose ends were left untied in the hurried acceptance of the OROP demand. The Modi government had its political compulsions to make the announcement before the code of conduct prevented it from reaping political dividends in the Bihar elections. The RSS pressure also had its effect.
The agitating soldiers wisely decided to end the hunger strike. They say they will continue to agitate over pending issues, particularly the levelling of pension once in five years against their demand for annual revision. These issues can be taken up with the proposed judicial committee. Also, Defence Minister Parrikar has said that the formal order may take "15 to 20 days". This means the government has left the door open for changes in the OROP scheme. The Modi government could not afford to be seen as succumbing to pressure from protesters by accepting all their demands, no matter how legitimate. The agitation also highlighted what a few former defence chiefs said in their letter to the President: a steady decline in status of the military and attempts to make the military subservient to the bureaucracy. This perception, right or wrong, must be addressed.
Saturdayís announcement was a unilateral decision of the Modi government after back-channel initiatives indicated that there was no meeting ground between what the ex-servicemen were demanding and what the government was willing to concede. With the agitation ex-servicemen must have realised that they are an important electoral constituency which every political party likes to court. Though it was an unhappy sight to see disciplined defence personnel going on hunger strike, they used their strength for their benefit with help from media. The ex-servicemen should now revert to their traditional distance from political partisans.