OPINION

Resolve the OROP agitation

It is rather strange that even as the government and the veterans of the armed forces are engaged in a conversation to sort out the remaining areas of disagreement on the implementation of the ‘One Rank One Pension’ principle, the issue should seem set to take a turn for the worse. There are suggestions that the veterans will now take their agitation to Bihar, a warning that was held out earlier as well, if their demands are not met. The threat of a deadline itself spells brinkmanship or a deadlock, possibly both. This is contrary to the perceived state-of-play. As recently as on Friday, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had remarked that some “small gaps” were all that remained to be sorted out. During his Independence Day speech, the Prime Minister had seemed to walk away from making an announcement on OROP, only saying that he had accepted it “in principle”. He said negotiations were moving forward, and that a decision would be reached soon. The Defence Minister followed up on it, pushing the time-frame for the delivery of the promise by saying the government had to do it during its current tenure, and “we will do it quite early”. Nonetheless, he let it slip in the same breath that there were “technical difficulties in [implementing] OROP”. In the interest of ensuring a quick resolution, it would be logical for the government to make a full disclosure of what these technical difficulties are, and also what the gaps that need to be filled are. It should also come forward and set a precise time-frame in which the gaps are likely to be filled. Only when these are properly and publicly identified will it be known whether any reasonable give-and-take is possible. Failure to clarify on these points will introduce suspicion over motives and inject distrust into the process, both among those involved in the negotiations and the larger audience.

It must be stated that the veterans, who in their time no doubt brought themselves glory defending the country’s borders, would be rendering themselves open to criticism and worse if they do not pause and think through their move to take the agitation to Bihar, ahead of the Assembly elections there. That would impart a distasteful political flavour to the agitation. There are sizeable segments of people both in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh who have been or are in the armed forces. Both sides have to show flexibility and come together to end this stand-off as quickly as possible. A prolonged agitation of this kind is in no one’s interest. That there is a rising trust deficit between the veterans and the government is clear; this should be addressed.

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