By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 10th Nov 15
Ex-servicemen (ESM) leading the “One Rank, One Pension” (OROP) agitation have rejected the government’s notification, issued on Saturday, implementing the OROP award and spelling out its terms.
The award, which involves a pay out of Rs 8,000-10,000 crore to 2.5 million ex-servicemen, ignores five out of seven demands that ESM leaders had spelt out and only partially meets the other two.
Satbir Singh, retired major general who heads the United Ex-Servicemen League (UESL) says, “Ex-servicemen strongly reject the government’s notification and will intensify their agitation for a just award. Instead of One Rank, One Pension, the government has implemented One Rank, Many Pensions.”
On September 5, after Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar announced details of the proposed award, ESM leaders had met him to propose amendments to the award. But Satbir Singh and other leaders say the government “completely and arrogantly ignored” their suggestions while issuing the notification.
ESM leaders are now planned to extend the agitation from Jantar Mantar, in New Delhi, into a countrywide movement. “The first major rally we will organise is in Ambala on November 15”, says Singh.
Based on its success, we will have another rally in Delhi on December 13. That will be followed by rallies in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and southern India.
The OROP agitation plans to increase its visibility, reaching out to even non-military audiences by featuring celebrity children of army, navy and air force personnel, including actors Gul Panag and Priya Gill.
Gul Panag, whose father is a retired lieutenant general, confirms to Business Standard that she is ready rally to draw attention to the OROP cause. “I am happy to support them in whatever way they want”, she said.
The OROP agitation has also implemented a public funding model, in which ex-servicemen groups --- based on course and unit affiliations --- are collecting donations for the UESL.
Business Standard examined the fund collection of a sample ESM group, based on unit affiliation, which had collected Rs 150,000. The army alone has more than 800 such unit groups.
“We are entirely self-sufficient in funds, based on ESM contributions”, confirms Singh.
Meanwhile, celebrities are also helping to gather funds. Sunita Garware, and ESM’s daughter and the wife of a Pune-based industrialist, set the ball rolling with a cheque of Rs 5 lakhs. Others will follow, says Singh.
A social media and digital media campaign is also on the cards. Support is being mustered through missed calls to a particular number (3.5 million calls already made) and text messages to another number. This support will be demonstrated to the government, says Singh.
Within the ESM community, younger elements are arguing for intensifying the agitation from a peaceful dharna at Jantar Mantar to more intrusive and visible rallies, marches and “raasta roko” and “rail roko” agitations.
Asked whether he is concerned the agitation could spin out of control, Singh responded, “I hope it will not come to that. I am confident the government will address our concerns”.