Veteran Subedar Ram Kishan Grewal, aged 70 years, unhappy at government not providing OROP to Veterans, committed suicide in Delhi on November 2, 2016, by consuming poison.
OROP has been the focus of intense agitation over many months at Jantar Mantar in 2015, and government has prevaricated and dodged the core issue, with PM Narendra Modi, RM Manohar Parrikar and FM Arun Jaitley making different, often conflicting, always confusing statements on OROP. It all began with BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Mr.Narendra Modi’s promise of OROP during with his election speech to Veterans at Rewari on 15 Sep 2013, with recently retired army chief General V.K.Singh by his side. On Diwali 2014, as PM, Mr.Modi stood at Siachen glacier among serving soldiers and proclaimed, “It was in my destiny that One Rank One Pension has been fulfilled”. But in May 2015, he suddenly proclaimed that OROP needed to be properly defined.
PM Modi is quoted as saying in one of his speeches in Punjab, “Humne kissanon ka pet kaat kar, Ex-Servicemen ko OROP diya”, something that could only divide the Jawan from the Kissan, undoing PM Lal Bahadur Shastri’s rousing slogan “Jai Jawan! Jai Kissan!”. A few days ago, on Diwali this year, a TV program showed PM Modi talking to ITBP and army personnel in Sumdo, Himachal Pradesh, saying that he had fulfilled the OROP promise made to ex-servicemen on the issue that had not been resolved for 40 years, and the first instalment of nearly Rs.5,500 crore had been paid for implementing the OROP scheme. He said implementing OROP was his “dream” which has “been fulfilled”. It is extremely surprising that he did not know that what had been “granted” as OROP was actually OR5P, which had been objected to by Veterans who had taken the matter to Court.
Starting with OROP, multiple issues like 6CPC and 7CPC anomalies, keeping the military out of successive CPCs and outside the purview of the Anomalies Committee, pay parity with IAS/IPS, NFU, downgradation of military ranks vis a vis civilian officials, reducing disability pension, and lower hazard allowance than IAS/IPS, have agitated, angered and dismayed serving and retired officers and men alike.
RM Manohar Parrikar reviewed a military Guard of Honour while wearing chappals and bush shirt, and “honoured” slain soldiers at Amar Jawan Jyoti likewise shoddily dressed. Most recently, following the army’s 29 September cross-LoC strike at Pakistani militant launch pads, RM Manohar Parrikar said that it was he who made the army realize its own power, thereby questioning even the army’s professional competence. Veterans and serving soldiers alike view all these issues and the statements and attitude of top politicians taken together, as an attack on the “izzat” of India’s military.
It is true that earlier Congress and UPA governments, and one full-term NDA government, had not granted OROP, but it must be seen that the present NDA government granting OR5P was after prolonged veterans’ country-wide agitations with its core at Jantar Mantar under the aegis of Indian Ex-Servicemen’s Movement (IESM). The Delhi Police (under the Union Home Minister) lathi charge attack on peacefully agitating veterans at Jantar Mantar on 14 August 2015 did much to disenchant Veterans with the ruling BJP-led NDA dispensation.
Non-implementation of OROP is said to be the proximate cause for Veteran Subedar Grewal’s suicide, and it is understood that he had actively participated in the OROP agitation at Jantar Mantar. Therefore, he could not have been unaware of the other connected issues mentioned above. The actual circumstances of his suicide will doubtless be investigated in detail, but amid his family’s sorrow, and the manhandling and arrest of his son Jaswant by Delhi Police, the tasteless and offensive remark by former army chief retired General V.K.Singh (presently a minister in the NDA goverment) that Veteran Subedar Grewal must have been of unsound mind to commit suicide, is shocking. It demonstrates a callousness towards the military which is typical of the bureaucrat-politician nexus.
Late Veteran Subedar Grewal would not know that the reason for his suicide (OROP) has been smothered by the politicization of his suicide because crucial elections are on the horizon. It is possible that the mourning family of a person who has died gets some solace when important personages call to express condolences and offer help, and it has long been “standard practice” for politicians of all hues to call on bereaved families. It is also true that such personages mix their genuine personal concern with their political agendas.
In the present case, top functionaries of the Congress Party and Aam Admi Party have tried to meet the family of Subedar Grewal, but have been prevented from doing so by the Delhi Police on orders from the Union Home Ministry. This has successfully shifted public attention away from the cause of Veteran Grewal’s suicide and the issues that are bothering serving and retired soldiers, all of which point a finger at PM Modi’s government. News now focuses on BJP justifying the actions of the Delhi Police in arresting opposition politicians who were insisting on visiting the bereaved family, and about opposition politicians accusing the BJP government of not caring for soldiers, when they themselves did precisely the same when in power. Politicians of all hues could teach a thing or two to Aesop’s crocodile on shedding tears. After the current political dust settles, it remains to be seen whether Veteran Grewal’s suicide in demand of OROP was in vain.
Major General S.G. Vombatkere, VSM, retired as Additional DG Discipline & Vigilance in Army HQ AG’s Branch. He is a member of the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) and People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL). With over 520 published papers in national and international journals and seminars, his area of interest is strategic and development-related issues. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org