Yes, the veterans are feeling let down by a leader whom they trusted. As the sun finally sets on 2014, they will remember the year for broken promises by an arrogant regime.
The recent remark by the Defence Minister that the veterans would get 80 percent satisfaction on 'One Rank One Pay' (OROP) has taken them aback. It was a shocking and a deplorable statement, to say the least.
To soldiers, it was a sheer breach of faith. They wondered if their trust in BJP was misplaced.
OROP has ceased to be a question of financial compensation. It has become an article of faith with immense emotive connotations. It symbolizes non-fulfillment of a government's solemn commitment to its ex-soldiers and is considered symptomatic of the moral deprivation of the worst kind.
The veterans feel used and abandoned by a two-faced political party.
The NDA government could not have handled the issue in a more graceless and absurd manner. Whereas prompt sanction of OROP would have assured continuous support, sheer ineptness of its decision makers has made the government lose the goodwill of such a large segment of the society in such a short time.
The veterans are at a loss to understand as to why a government should grudge a few hundred crores to its soldiers when it readily writes off thousands of crores of rupees as 'Non Performing Assets' of the public sector banks. They wonder whether the Prime Minister is a party to this reneging of a solemn promise made to the soldiers or he is being taken for a ride by his ill-advised Defence Minister and the bureaucracy.
A number of questions are agitating the minds of the veterans –
A) Did they err in believing Narendra Modi when he promised OROP before elections? Were those assurances only to gather votes and never meant to be fulfilled? Have they been taken for a ride? Why was he not honest enough to ask the veterans to scale their expectations down while seeking votes? He promised OROP and not 80% OROP.
B) Should a Prime Minister be trusted for his public commitment made from the ramparts of the Red Fort? Does the Prime Minister of a country make grand promises without knowing financial implications? Should the citizens of the country assume that every promise made by their Prime Minister should be discounted by 20%? Is that the quotient of his earnestness and trustworthiness?
c) The projected saving by reducing OROP by 20% would amount to a few hundred crores. Would that paltry amount justify a Prime Minister going back on his words and losing his credibility?
d) Does the Prime Minister realise that shabby and apathetic treatment meted out to ex-servicemen by an insincere government can never motivate a serving soldier as he sees himself as an ex-serviceman of the future?
Since assuming office in May 2014, the Prime Minister has been repeatedly asserting that OROP has been sanctioned. However, no orders have been issued so far. The government has been unable to work out the modalities in the last seven months – indeed an astonishing example of the much hyped 'good governance'. Slogan like 'achhe din' sound so phony and hollow.
Compare the attitude of Modi, Jaitley and Parrikar with what President Obama said to the veterans at the Phoenix Convention Center on 17 August 2009, "You have fulfilled your responsibilities. And now a grateful nation must fulfill ours. And so long as I am President of the United States, America will always fulfill its responsibilities to you", he declared.
Obama termed America's commitment to its veterans as sacred bonds and a sacred trust Americans are honour bound to uphold. He meant 100% and not 80%. Is there any wonder that America has been the undisputed world power whereas every foreign invader succeeding in enslaving India?
The critical question that is agitating the minds of all the veterans – is the volte face on OROP being done with the knowledge and concurrence of Modi? As the veterans continue to have faith in him, they prefer not to believe such a premise.
The only other plausible reason could be that some elements (both political and bureaucratic) that are inimical to Modi's standing are conspiring to dent his reputation by making him lose his credibility. It appears to be a convincing explanation to most veterans.
It is time that Narendra Modi takes the matter in his own hands and acts. It was he who promised OROP and the onus is totally on him to deliver.
Finally, every leader will do well to remember that credibility is a meta-virtue. Once lost, it can never be regained and the leader forfeits the right to command respect.
Major General Mrinal Suman, AVSM, VSM, PhD, commanded an Engineer Regiment on the Siachen Glacier, the most hostile battlefield in the world. A highly qualified officer (B Tech, MA (Public Administration), MSc (Defence Studies) and a Doctorate in Public Administration) he was also the Task Force Commander at Pokhran and was responsible for designing and sinking shafts for the nuclear tests of May 1998.
Note:The views expressed in the article are of the author’s and not of Sify.com.