Politicising a veteran's suicide over OROP

Last Updated: Sat, Nov 05, 2016 13:35 hrs
Politicising a veteran's suicide over OROP

Three days ago, ex-serviceman Ram Krishan Grewal’s funeral took place at Bumla village in Haryana amidst a media frenzy and in the presence of political leaders including Congress’s Rahul Gandhi and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. Grewal, 70, retired as a subedar from the Indian Army, committed suicide over the delay in disbursement of his pension under the One Rank One Pension Scheme

The Hindustan Times report provides some background , about the One Rank One Pension , which was announced in September last year which Promises equal pension to military personnel retiring in the same rank with the same length of service, regardless of the date of retirement. The article points out to important points of contention including the disqualification of almost 40% of ex-servicemen who took voluntary retirement. Major General Satbir Singh also said -

What has been implemented is not OROP but one-time increase in pensions. If the anomalies are not removed, senior defence personnel will start drawing less pension than their juniors, a system unacceptable constitutionally, fairly and justifiably

On the circumstances surrounding the suicide, India Today reports that Grewal retired from the army in 2004 as a subedar and has since led several initiatives in his native village including building schools and other infrastructure projects. He also took an active part in the OROP agitation, leading the delegation of ex-servicemen from Haryana at protests in Jantar Mantar in Delhi.

He and three other veterans came to Delhi from Haryana to apparently submit a memo to the Defence Ministry, claiming that despite OROP's implementation, ex-servicemen were not receiving the increased pension of their due arrears as promised. Reports say that he had an application for defence minister Manohar Parrikar, stating his demands for OROP. At its bottom, he is said to have penned his intentions to commit suicide: "I am sacrificing my life for my country, my motherland and my country's brave soldiers".

After failing to meet the Defense Minister, Grewal consumed pesticide in the lawns behind the office of the Ministry of External Affiars.

Since the suicide, political parties have clamoured to denounce the BJP. Rahul Gandhi called asked the Prime Minister to stop lying by calling the current scheme, One Rank One Pension, as it is merely pension enhancement.

NDTV carried a short article by Derek o Brian, Trinamool Congress leader who was sent to be at the funeral. He writes about his experience driving to Bumla village, 125 kms from Delhi and spending time with Grewal’s family. Condemning statement of BJP Minister

They were shocked when General Foot-in-Mouth - the BJP-led government's most insensitive minister who puts his foot into his mouth at least once every two months - dismissed the suicide by questioning the mental balance and sanity of Grewal. It was this attitude that hurt.

Arvind Kejriwal who was also present at the funeral announced an ex-gratia of Rs.1 crore to Grewal’s family. Earlier both Kejriwal and deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia were detained by the Delhi police for attempting to meet the family, as was Rahul Gandhi.

Sreemoy Talukdar writes in The First Post about the politicisation of Grewal’s death and questions the BJP’s use of nationalism as the ideological plank. Pointing out that it was Indira Gandhi who repealed OROP back in the day, and that the current Prime Minister has done more for the scheme than any other in the past Takuldar opines

Modi, who had recently celebrated Diwali with jawans while proclaiming that he has kept his promise over Orop, would now firmly be in the defensive. Having done more than any other prime minister in implementing Orop, he would be hard-pressed to explain satisfactorily the death of a subedar whose suicide note makes it clear that disgruntlement over the pension led him to take the extreme step. And having lionised the army and raising questions against making any criticism of their actions, the BJP has robbed itself of any manoeuvring space. 

Union Minister, General V.K Singh who hails from the same area as Grewal came under severe criticism for his remarks questioning the mental health of the veteran. Even Grewal’s sons said that their father admired Singh for having risen in the army ranks and for his service, and that they were outraged at his comments.

The BJP has certainly been on the defensive, but has also hit out at the Congress for failing to act on OROP. Finance Minister Arun Jaitely said that that in cases where there are delays in dispensing the pension, they will be resolved in two months time. He also said that more than Rs.1000 crores has been earmarked for the scheme and 1 lakh people have already been paid. On Grewal’s issue specifically, Jaitely said that the delay in his pension was due to procedural issue at the bank and there was a problem in calculating his service. He also called upon the leaders of the opposition to behave responsibly and to not use the suicide for political gain.

Meanwhile protests over implementation of the scheme continue.

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