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Sunday, 6 September 2015

From Today's Papers - 06 Sep 2015

Govt presents no-please-all OROP
Arrears to be paid in 4 half-yearly instalments; veterans want premature retirees included
KV Prasad

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 5
The Centre’s decision today to fulfil ex-servicemen’s long-pending demand for one rank, one pension (OROP) received a less than enthusiastic acceptance from veterans who refused to end their agitation over disputing aspects, including exclusion of premature retirees.

Conceding to the nearly four-decade parity claim, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar emphasised: "Despite the huge financial burden, given its commitment to the welfare of ex-servicemen, the government has taken a decision to implement the OROP....Prime Minister Modi has fulfilled his commitment and approved OROP for Armed Forces personnel. The Ministry of Defence will soon issue a detailed government order.”

The government’s decision to roll out the welfare measure from July 1, 2014, with 2013 as the base year for fixing the first pension under it was greeted by the ex-servicemen as a satisfactory step but put question marks on six other elements of the scheme. Having expressed unhappiness over elements of the scheme, the ex-servicemen met the Defence Minister later this evening and returned satisfied after the government expressed intention to revisit the exclusion clause. As for the continuation of the form of protest, the decision would be taken tomorrow. Earlier, Major General Satbir Singh (retired) of the Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement had said at Jantar Mantar where veterans are holding protests and hunger strikes for the past 80 days: “The government accepted just one of our demands and rejected six.” The agitation should continue was the prevailing mood.

The Defence Minister said the annual expenditure for OROP would be between Rs 8,000 crore and Rs 10,000 crore; pension will be re-fixed for all retiring on the same rank and with the same length of service as the average of minimum and maximum pension in 2013. Those drawing pensions above the average will be protected, he emphasised. The arrears bill, estimated to be between Rs 10,000 crore and Rs 12,000 crore, will be paid in four half-yearly instalments but all widows will get the arrears in one instalment; in future, the pension would be re-fixed every five years and personnel who voluntarily retire will not be covered under the OROP, he said adding that those who opted out due to injuries would be protected.

The Minister said since OROP was a complex issue, a thorough examination of interests of retirees of different periods and different ranks was needed. The inter-service issues of the three Forces also require consideration. This is not an administrative matter alone. Therefore, it has also been decided that a one-member judicial committee would be constituted that would give its report in six months.

Since 46 per cent personnel opt for premature retirement, the ex-servicemen want clarification on their exclusion; expressed disappointment over announcement of single-member judicial commission demanding it be expanded to five with three of the fraternity as members and reduction in report timeline from six months to one; and rejected five-year pension review insisting it be done every two years.

The ruling BJP and the opposition Congress began to spar, with BJP chief Amit Shah accusing the Congress of having reduced ex-servicemen pension in 1973 from 70 per cent to 50 per cent of the salary. "The demand for OROP has been hanging fire since...the previous Congress government in its last moments made an allocation of Rs 500 crore for it and this was a joke,” he said.

The Congress fielded former Defence Minister AK Antony who characterised key component of OROP as “betrayal” to the cause of ex-servicemen, accused the government of doing politics over the scheme and "substantially diluting" its provisions.
Ex-servicemen’s core _panel meets today _to decide on protest
Syed Ali Ahmed

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 5
The government is likely to come out with a "clarification" on the applicability of the one rank, one pension (OROP) to those who opted for premature retirement.

Ex-servicemen said this after meeting Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Saturday night, hours after the government announced the implementation of the scheme that was rejected by veterans on account of five-year revision of pension and whether it would cover those who took pre-mature retirement.

Major General Satbir Singh (retd) said he was "satisfied" with Parrikar’s statement. “…There are other issues that are yet to be addressed but the major one is premature retirement (PMR) that unnecessarily got put in. It was not required to be part of the note. We do not know how it cropped up," he said.

Major General Singh, who earlier refused to budge till all demands were met, also hinted at a rethink on whether to continue with the protest. "We will take a decision on the agitation after talking to the core group tomorrow morning. For now, the clarification has been taken from the Defence Minister. If the voluntary retirement scheme is not applicable to the armed forces, there is no question of retrospective," he said.

In the afternoon, ex-servicemen welcomed the Defence Minister’s announcement of implementing the OROP saying they disagreed on excluding prematurely retired ex-servicemen from the scheme, five-year equalisation of pension and one-man judicial commission. Major General Singh said when defence officers and soldiers take pre-mature retirement and get pension, why they should not be given OROP. 

“According to the service rule, an officer can take premature retirement after serving the force for 20 years and a jawan for 15 years and thereafter is entitled to pension benefit,” he said. On the government’s decision to equalise pension after every five years, ex-servicemen said it should be reduced to one year. “If the government is short of funds, it can be reduced to two years,” he said.

On this, the government announced to constitute a one-member judicial commission under a retired judge that would submit its report in six months, which was again not accepted by ex-servicemen.

Major General Singh said the committee should comprise five members — three ex-servicemen, one serving defence officer and one member of the Defence Ministry. “The committee should be under the Defence Ministry and the time to submit the report should be just one month,” he said.
Jaggi Brar, stay strong, miss you
4 Brar brothers and their brother-in-law were on duty during the war. Fifty years after losing youngest member, their tribute to Flying Officer Jagdev Brar
My 22-year-old brother Jaggi (Flying Officer Jagdev Singh Brar) flew over Sargodha (Pakistan) on September 7, 1965, in a sortie that took off from Halwara (near Ludhiana). He, along with four other Hunter pilots, successfully bombed the target. On their way back, Jaggi (nicknamed Small Ben in the squadron) along with Squadron Leader Bhagwati peeled off from the formation to engage the pursuing enemy fighter aircraft.

Unconfirmed news reports said that Jaggi’s aircraft was probably hit in a midair dogfight with a Pakistani fighter aircraft. There were also unconfirmed reports of his bailout. He was then officially declared as “Missing in Action”. He never came back.

In September, 1965, my eldest brother was the Superintendent of Police at Amritsar. Another brother was serving as Captain in 1 Dogra in the thick of battle somewhere between Amritsar and Lahore. My brother-in-law was serving as a Major and I was a Captain at that time. My father (Ajaib Singh Brar) and mother (Balwant Kaur) were having a tough time with four sons and the son-in-law in uniform on national duty.

In mid-1965, while on leave, I rode my elder brother’s Royal Enfield Bullet from Jalandhar to Halwara to meet Jaggi. I waited for almost half an hour before I saw Jaggi, fully drenched in sweat with a badminton racket in hand. He was a good badminton player. He also liked tennis and table tennis. He was beaming from ear to ear when we embraced. We exchanged family news and chatted while taking tea. I left after this brief meeting, least realising that this would be the last time we were meeting.

Our family took the loss of Jaggi in its stride without asking the government for any special compensation or favours, though it was not difficult to do so at that time.

We still remember Jaggi fondly. Well-behaved and pleasant, he was the darling of the Brar clan and popular among his colleagues in the Air Force too. Air Marshal Inamdar (his course-mate of 1963) is still in touch with the family and misses him as a dear friend, like many others. Perhaps people like Jaggi are also in great demand in heaven!

Fifty years after that fateful day of September 7, we miss Jaggi dearly and wonder if he straightaway bailed out to heaven from his Hunter aircraft that day.

We lost Jaggi in 1965, but he lives on in our hearts. There are many other Jaggis who are lost by the country while serving  with dedication, but their dying wish and message to the nation would be: “Look after my family after me.”

We miss you, Jaggi — your brothers Surinder, Amarjit, Surjit, Sukhdev, Harpal and sister Davinder. Stay strong, man, wherever you are.

(Commissioned in EME, the writer retired in 1994)

19 then, a real honour to serve

Capt Vinod Chaudhri (Retd)
I joined the Army at the young age of 19. I was just F.Sc pass (I got a law degree after my Army career).
After initial training for a few months, I was straightaway inducted in the warfront of Chhamb-Jaurian-Akhnoor. It was the hottest warfront till September 6, 1965 — when the Lahore and Sialkot sectors were opened and the major component of enemy forces was withdrawn from Akhnoor sector and redeployed there.

The Pakistani troops outnumbered us by four times in the Akhnoor sector and I consider myself lucky to have fought against the enemy in my AMX light tank of 20 Lancers.

On August 31-September 1, when our three tanks were on way to Chhamb-Jaurian, we had to face heavy air-straffing and the camouflage net of the tank caught fire. My possessions got burnt. In spite of heavy fire, we moved on and reached the destination with the tanks intact.

Capt Shankar Roychowdhury (later to become Army Chief) and Maj Bhaskar Roy were leading the squadron. It steadfastly held the positions and that is how we earned the nickname: “Saviours of Akhnoor.”

Incidentally, I and my two brothers  were deployed in the same front. I was in Armoured, while my brothers were in Artillery and Ordnance.

After September 6, I was ordered to move as a troop commander to Samba sector under the command of Col Hussain of 9 Grenadiers. I stepped out of the tank and injured my knee but that didn’t stop me from staying on in the battlefront. On September 23, the ceasefire was ordered.

I hung up my uniform in 1974, resumed my studies and now practise in the Punjab and Haryana High Court. Serving the nation remains the most abiding memory. It was an honour to have been given the chance.

Pak paratroopers, Halwara, blackout
Covering war: Recalling events that stood out

KS Chawla
On September 4, 1965, I accompanied a wedding party of a dear friend to Kotkapura in Faridkot district and the next day, while returning to Ludhiana, we saw military convoys moving towards the Ferozepur side. As we reached Ludhiana in the evening, there was a blackout. Pakistani bombers had made their first sorties over the Halwara airport.

The Pakistani planes dropped some paratroopers near the Halwara Air Force station, but they missed the intended landing target. They fell in the sugarcane fields and a teenager who was grazing cattle immediately pounced upon one of them and hit him with a bucket. He eventually died.

A media team from Ludhiana left for the villages around the Halwara Air Force station and had to take shelter in trenches dug up along the road, when the air raid sirens would go off,  before reaching Rajoana village, whose residents had nabbed the paratroopers.

In all, 18 paratroopers were caught by the villagers and the police, on patrol duty in the area under the supervision of Harjeet Singh Ahluwalia, the district police chief of Ludhiana. All the paratroopers were taken to the Jagraon police station and we met some of them in the lock-up. They had brand new parachutes and weapons with the marking of “made in USA”.

The target of the paratroopers was the Indian Oil Corporation depot from where the Halwara station planes were getting fuel. This oil depot was later targeted during militancy and the IOC had to shut it.

Pakistani bombers made a number of sorties over the Halwara air base but could not cause any harm because of the alertness of the Indian Air Force. The Pakistanis even dropped napalm bombs which fell in the periphery of the air base. At Sudhar village, a huge crater was caused by one such bomb.

Ludhiana had an ammunition depot of the Army then, but there was no air defence. Col Sewa Ram, who was from the air defence unit, was deputed to install anti-aircraft guns near Sherpur Chowk. A trial was conducted one night and as the guns went off, panic spread in Ludhiana that the town had been attacked. The police had to work very hard to convince the residents to return home and sleep.

The Halwara air base was fully strengthened when the 1971 war broke out.

During both the wars, there was a lot of enthusiasm among the residents to serve the Army personnel passing through special trains at the Ludhiana railway station. Huge canteens were set up at the railway station to serve the Armymen.
NDA’s scheme betrayal of ex-servicemen: Cong
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 5
Describing ‘one rank, one pension’ scheme announced by the government as a diluted form of UPA’s February 2014 proposal, the Congress today said the announcement was a betrayal of ex servicemen and was hugely disappointing.

“The OROP announced today is a great disappointment. It is substantially diluted from what we had approved in February last. We had approved the scheme for all ex-servicemen, including those who retire early. As many as 46% of the ex-servicemen retire prematurely. NDA’s scheme ignores all of them,” former Defence Minister and Congress leader AK Antony said today.

Antony said out of 13 lakh armed forces personnel, only about 1,000 retired at 60 years. “We had made no exceptions in our scheme. But the BJP has made exceptions besides playing politics on the issue by saying that the UPA gave only Rs 500 crore for the scheme. That was an interim budget provision,” said Antony.

The Congress backed the plan of veterans to continue their agitation questioning the provisions of equalisation every five years and those of constituting a one-man commission to look into the issue.

“The UPA had sorted out the equalisation issue. We had said personnel of same ranks retiring after same length of service will get the same pension irrespective of the year of retirement. Now they are proposing equalisation after every five years which we reject,” said former minister Kapil Sibal accusing the BJP of betraying the ex-servicemen. Ours was an automatic equalisation route, Sibal added.
Exclusion of voluntary retirees key sticking point
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 5
The Centre’s announcement to implement the much-awaited OROP formula for the armed forces has received a mixed reaction from the veteran community.

While the decision to adopt OROP has been hailed across the board, many veterans were of the opinion that their demands had not been fully met and there still were several lacunae left to sort out.

“The announcement is whole heartedly welcome and some of the decisions like paying arrears to widows in a single installment are highly appreciable,” Brig KS Kahlon (retd), president of the All-India Defence Brotherhood said. “However, issues like not granting OROP to voluntary retirees and fixing the revised pension on the average of the minimum and maximum of the pay band definitely need a rethink,” he added.

“Reviewing the pension after fives years is a dilution of the very concept of OROP, besides a lot of riders and conditions being attached to the implementation of the concept,” said Sqdn Leader Mohinder Singh Virk. “There also seem to be some incorrect calculations in working out the financial implications as from next year onwards, the financial liability is stated to be just Rs 79-80 crore. It would be definitely easy for the government to increase a little amount each year instead of effecting a hefty increase after five years, which in any case they are bound to do,” he said.

Premature retirees being left out of the ambit of OROP is the biggest sore point with the veterans. Over 40 percent of servicemen opt for premature retirement due to various personal or service reasons. “I feel premature retirees should definitely be included in OROP. It is not that they would have served till 60 years had they not sought early release. I am sure the Defence Minister would iron out this anomaly in due course,” Maj Navdeep Singh, a High Court lawyer dealing with service and pensionary matters and member of the Commission convened by the government to minimise litigation against defence personnel and veterans by the MoD, said.

Wholeheartedly hailing the decision to implement OROP, the All-India Ex-servicemen Welfare Association here urged the veterans to accept the formula announced by the government which, it claimed, was beneficial for all the old pensioners. “We should gladly accept whatever is given and continued our struggle to gain more and more. The association will further take up the points with the government as well as the commission formed for the remaining demands if any pertaining to OROP,” a statement issued by the association said.
OROP with riders unjust, says Capt
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 5
Congress Deputy Leader in the Lok Sabha Capt Amarinder Singh today said the belated announcement of one rank, one pension by the NDA government was “only a half-hearted attempt”.

He supported the reservations expressed by the ex-servicemen about the decision, saying if the government’s intentions were sincere it should have addressed the issue reasonably while taking into consideration the genuine demands of the veterans.

Capt Amarinder questioned the logic behind denying OROP to those who seek voluntary retirement. “This is the most unreasonable clause,” he remarked, asking, “Why deny someone the OROP benefit when he is already eligible for the pension?”

The former CM also supported the veterans’ demand for expanding the strength of the one-man judicial commission, appointed for removing anomalies in the OROP, to five with three veterans as its members. He observed otherwise it appeared to be an attempt at delaying the matters.
Soldier hurt as Pak twice violates truce in Poonch
Ravi Krishnan Khajuria

Tribune News Service

Jammu, September 5
A soldier was injured as the Pakistan army twice violated the truce deal by firing on forward posts in the Hamirpur and Krishna Ghati (KG) sectors along the Line of Control (LoC) in Poonch district on the intervening night of September 4 and 5.

“There were unprovoked ceasefire violations by Pakistan soldiers along the LoC in the Hamirpur sector. Forward areas witnessed unprovoked firing by the Pakistan army between 9.50 pm and 10.15 pm,” said a Defence spokesperson.

They opened fire in the KG sector around 7.45 am in which a soldier sustained minor stone splinter injury, he added. At both places, the Pakistan army opened Pika gunfire. “We responded in equal measure,” he added.

The injured soldier has been identified as Sepoy Parvinder Singh of 22 Sikh Regiment. However, an intelligence source said the incident happened around 8.30 am today when Sepoy Parvinder Singh sustained the injury after troops of 655 Mujahid Regiment opened fire. He was evacuated to 425 Military Hospital in Poonch.

With two violations, the number of such violations has gone up to six in September.

Nine civilians and two BSF personnel were killed and nearly 40 others injured in intense firing and shelling by Pakistani troops on the LoC and the international border in August.

There have been 59 violations of the truce deal by Pakistan in August and over 262 ceasefire violations in the year so far.

BSF looks forward to DG-level talks with Pak

Jammu: Despite a spike in truce violations and incidents of sniper fire along the international border and LoC, the BSF eagerly looks forward to DG-level talks with Pak Rangers in the larger interest of peace for the border populace. While issues of the entire western border with Pakistan will come under discussion, repeated violation of ceasefire agreement, sniper fire and shelling of border villages by Pakistan and frequent infiltration attempts by terrorists are likely to be high on the Indian agenda. After the NSA-level talks on August 23 between two nuke rivals, the DG-level talks are scheduled to be held in New Delhi from September 9 to 13. TNS
Two former Army chiefs sound note of caution over various OROP provisions
Former Army chief General Deepak Kapoor termed the announcement as a "substantial step" taken by the Narendra Modi government but said other issues which were worrying the veterans are a "cause of concern".

"The Modi government has taken a substantial step in terms of finally declaring OROP. In principal, accepting this entire concept, they have to be lauded.

"But a number of other issues which are worrying the veterans are a cause of concern. It would have been better if those issues too could have been addressed. For the sources to say that about 98 per cent of aspirations have been met, may not be fully correct," he said.
Ex-servicemen, pressing for OROP for nearly four decades, today won a partial victory with the government announcing that it would implement it.

Defence minister Manohar Parrikar said OROP, that implies uniform pension for armed forces personnel retiring in the same rank with a same length of service, would be implemented from July 1, 2014 on the basis of calendar year 2013.

Gen (retd) Malik noted that earlier the government was offering the base year as 2006 and there were other conditions which were not acceptable to ex-servicemen and said that he had hoped that the dispute will be resolved "amicably and gracefully" by both sides and there would be peace.

"Unfortunately, I do not agree with the kind of methodology which has been adopted in announcing this and the manner in which it has been announced, there is a lack of clarity and transparency which should have been avoided," he said.
Malik said it "intrigues" him as to why premature retirees have not been included in the OROP.

"The first thing which really intrigues me is the premature retirees not being in OROP. Officer start retiring after 20 years and most of them take premature retirement when they realise that they are unable to go up in the armed forces.

"If they have already finished their pensionable service, why should not they be in the ambit of OROP?" he asked.

Malik also questioned the logic behind the defence minister's meeting with ex-servicemen yesterday when the announcement was made through a "script".
"Yesterday there was a leak from defence ministry and even I knew what government was going to offer. After that the defence minister called the people who were on agitation to his office.

"He heard them and yet when the announcement was made, it was read out from a script which probably might have been prepared two days earlier. Where was the need to call these people hear them and yet do nothing about it," Malik said.

The retired general said that the demand for OROP had been accepted by all political parties, Parliament and the present government has announced it over and over again and there was a hope that the agitation on the street will stop.

"But that has not happened. The methodology that has been adopted could have been much more better. It could have inspired much more trust between each other. A clarification should have been given. That has been missing," he said.
Malik also did not agree with the government's announcement of setting up a one man judicial commission to look into the issue.

"I do not agree with one man commission. We must have a proper commission or a committee in which you have experienced people who have served in the Army.

"Otherwise, as I said this elementary question of premature retirement it is totally alimentary. We do not want such mistake to occur. Not one man commission but a 4-5 man commission in which you have representative from armed forces," he said.
J&K: Army jawan lays down his life after killing 10 terrorists in 11 days
Lance Naik Mohan Nath Goswami was also part of the operation that had captured alive Lashkar-e-Toiba militant Sajjad Ahmad alias Abu Ubaidullah, resident of Muzzafargarh, Pakistan.
- See more at:
Creating a unique history of valour and dedication to duty, one of the Special Forces Commandos of the Indian Army, Lance Naik Mohan Nath Goswami, killed ten terrorists in a short span of 11 days before making supreme sacrifice in continued fight against terror in Kashmir Valley on Thursday.

Lance Naik Goswami was killed at Hafruda forests in Kupwara district in fierce fire fight with terrorists, but not before the elimination of four of them. “A true soldier, he breathed his last in action,’’ said a defence ministry spokesperson Colonel S D Goswami at the Northern Command headquarters in Udhampur. Hailing from Indira Nagar village in Haldwani tehsil of Nainital, he is survived by his wife and a seven-year-old daughter.

Part of numerous successful counter terrorist operations in the state, Lance Naik Goswami had been actively involved in three such operations in which ten terrorists were killed and one captured alive in the last 11 days.

Giving details, the spokesperson said that in the first operation, three Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists hailing from Pakistan were killed in Khurmur, Handwara on August 23.

He again volunteered for a second back-to-back operation in which three more Lashkar terrorists were killed and another Sajjad Ahmad alias Abu Ubed Ullah captured alive during the two day-long fierce fire fight in Rafiabad after a fierce fire fight on August 26-27. The apprehension of Sajjad Ahmad alias Abu Ubed Ullah, a resident of Muzzafargarh, proved to be a shot in the arm to establish Pakistan’s complicity in abetting terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir, the defence ministry spokesperson said.

Lance Naik Goswami, once again, volunteered to be part of an ongoing operation launched in the dense Hafruda forest near Kupwara, Kashmir. This proved to be his last operation but not before elimination of four terrorists in a heavy gun battle, the spokesperson pointed out.

He had volunteers to join Indian Army’s elite para commandos unit in 2002 and “went on to gain the reputation of being one of the toughest soldiers of his unit, no small feat in an outfit that boasts of being one among the best in the world’’, the spokesperson said. His mortal remains were flown by an IAF aircraft to Bareilly, from where they will be taken by an Army helicopter to Pant Nagar and onward to his native place where he will be cremated with full military honours, he added.

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