RETIRED INDIAN ARMED FORCES PERSONNEL MOVEMENT
Date: 09 Jan 2009
Views / Suggestions About Our Ongoing Movement / Agitation
I have been closely following the progress of our ongoing movement through various e-mails received by me. I wish to offer some of my views and a few suggestions to make our movement more aggressive , though keeping it non-violent as at present, so that it makes strong impact on all concerned ( including general public, who presently have only faint idea about it ) regarding the anamolies about which our struggle is going on, not- with-standing the ones already resolved.
May I call the current movement , with due permission, a campaign as we normally call in military parlance, which sounds more military and respectable to me.
To begin with, I wish to tender my unqualified & unreserved appreciation for our team of senior veterans who are leading the campaign whole heartedly against all odds & handicaps, physical, logistical and financial. I am absolutely certain that our campaign is in the hands of wise, experienced and competent senior veterans and hey are doing their utmost, not-with-standing the aforesaid handicaps, to make it a success. However, I still feel that a lot more can be done by tying loose ends to streamline the campaign.
I may sound pessimistic in my views but let me state unambiguously that I am not so in my hope of the outcome. In fact I am convinced at my heart that we shall certainly achieve our objectives, if we continue doggedly with full gusto. I am positive that “ HUM HONGE KAMYAB EK DIN “.
As it appears at present our beleaguered campaign is going on in slow motion.
There are ominous signs of calm ( what I mean is that the agitation is not being highlighted by News papers & the TV media & hence the authorities are not taking it seriously and there is no hue & cry from the politicians and the general public in support of our cause ), inspite of the best efforts of our veteran leaders and the regional cells, who are leaving no stone unturned. It is really admirable that the campaign has been carrying on for so many days. It is also a good sign that so many new members have signed in. However, it is obvious from the number of ESM on hunger strike & who attended the rallies we have organized so far, the impact on our target audience has not been a resounding show. In our country, unless large numbers ( say, a few hundred on hunger strike and 50,000 to 100,000 or more in rallies ) take part in such events, no one ( I mean Govt. Authorities, Media & politicians ) takes cognizance of the agitation as also the impact on the general public is minimal. Also an agitation bereft of loud & noisy sloganeering does not draw desired attention. Needless to say that sloganeering in our case has to be decent and should not be of violent brands, the likes of which are generally done by the political parties.
After the initial euphoria and the enthusiasm, our campaign appears to be loosing steam somewhat, not because of lack of organization, initiative, drive and determination ( which is apparent from the goings on ) but because of certain factors beyond the control of our leading lights, like our ESM are spread over far flung areas in our country and either most of them are not aware of the anamolies & the ongoing campaign to get these anamolies resolved or they are unable to join in the campaign due to being far away from the capital city, where the campaign is going on. Inspite of all this it creditable for ESM Apex Association and on the part of our Regional ESM Cells , who have been contributing with Jathhas for the hunger strike on regular basis in rotation.
At times I feel skeptical regarding the future of our campaign. I concede that I do not have first hand perspective of the situation at Jantar Mantar. My feelings & views are based on e-mails received from various sources. Much to my dismay PBOR ESM are not showing up in large numbers to make our campaign a massive show of strength in order to draw concern of all . As the time passes, the disillusionment with Govt attitude is resulting in frustration and to me triumph at present appears to be a distant dream. I do not mean to induldge in scaremongering but I just want to caution that we have to improve upon the numbers in order to bring pressure upon the Govt. It will be a sad day if one day we find that there are not many ESM to sit for the hunger strike. It will be a black day in the history of ESM movement and no one then will pay heed to our agitation/demands.
The largesse doled out by the 6th CPC and the recent half baked awards by the Govt. to certain ranks / appointments, is presumably a bait to keep them quiet with a view to create a rift between various ranks & hence divide the ESM movement vertically ( using the principal “Divide and Rule” ) so as to put a spoke in the ongoing campaign thus making our campaign ineffective. The paradox created by the 6th CPC, the Group of Secretaries, the Group of Ministers and finally by the PM is regrettable & unforgivable. The paranoid & shortsighted Govt / bureaucracy have flawed perception of our Armed Forces and hence are unable to fathom our rightful entitlements. By thwarting our genuine pension dues the Govt is not only doing injustice to us but also they have forced us to resort to methods that have always been shunned by the ESM. It has left no option with us but to take to the present course of agitation. So, we have to nurture and pep up our campaign to a very high pitch to draw sincere attention of powers that be and bring them around to resolve the anamolies created by them.
The fact that quite a large number of Senior Veterans have been showing interest in our ongoing hunger strike by visiting Jantar Mantar and becoming members to show solidarity with our campaign is a laudable significant development. These visits & their pep talk to ESM sitting on hunger strike is matter of great inspiration for all of us. Also some of them took initiative to write to the President/PM/RM or tried to meet them to apprise them of our anamolies has helped in raising our spirits & morale. It is, though, not enough according to my views. Where are our so many former senior veterans of the stature of Army Cdrs , Vice Chiefs & Chiefs and their equivalent Ranks of the IN & IAF ? They have been conscipous by their silence. Barring a few like Adm Arun Parkash and Gen VP Malik, most of them have been keeping low profile for reasons I need not put in print here. They should all have come forward on their own and led us from the front. A high profile rally can be of great advantage. They could have taken a number of steps, which you are all aware and which would have gone in favour of our campaign. For instance the least they could even now do is to pool their wisdom and present fully documented memorandum to the President & the PM or go as a big delegation to them & explain the predicament of the ESM veterans, impressing upon them about the consequences of ignoring our demand.
The attitude of the Media is by now well known to all of us and has left us all confounded. The reasons for the big print media of the capital keeping distance from our campaign and giving a total go by are discernible. Presumably they have been gagged by the Bureaucrats, who hold a potent weapon of Govt Ads, with which they have always been keeping them in their fists. If they find that a particular news paper is publishing something which is not palatable to them, they deny them the Govt Ads, thus depriving them of huge revenue. So, the print media has no option but to toe the line of the Govt / bureaucrats. However, I fail to understand as to why TV media has not done any significant reporting about our campaign. The TV channels have been more or less unsympathetic. Probably they have not found our campaign large enough worth reporting. So, we have to develop fast track strategy to socialize with them, befriend them and seek their cooperation in this regard.
The proposal regarding filing of the case in the Supreme Court, as I understand, has been shelved till Mar 2009. Does it mean that our hunger strike campaign will continue till then, if our core anamolies / demands are not resolved by then ? If so,
our campaign at current pace is likely to result in a stalemate, without any significant dent in the attitude of the Govt, unless we resort to the strategy of dramatizing our campaign by infusing it with large number of ESM veterans to sit for the hunger strike and organize a huge rally next time, say with 50,000 to 100,000 ESM & their families taking part in it with huge banners & posters, thus making it a massive show of strength, it is not likely to create any serious concerns amongst the powers-that-be. It is no doubt a daunting task, though not an impossible one, to muster so many ESM & families. A rally which is NOT massive is of no consequence and the Govt will keep on dodging our issues. Only a massive rally can leave an unfathomable imprint on all concerned and if it is massive, the entire medial will automatically come around and do the reporting on their own. Would a rally on 25th or 26th Jan or 30th Jan be appropriate and desirable ? It has its plus points as well as negative aspects. Please give it a thought.
If the intention of delaying institution of case in the Supreme Court to Mar 09 is to bring pressure on the Govt ( read Congress Party) just before the Parliamentary elections due in Apr / May 09, it may not meet our expectations since the ESM are not yet an organized political party to cause any ripples or dent in the battle of politics. Efforts made by our Apex Assn at Gurgaon, Mohalli Cell and some other veterans to put pressure through politicians, have not brought the desired results so far. Besides most of the ESM are spread in small numbers in various villages and hence are not a cohesive group to tilt the scales as vote bank in favour of any political party. Also traditionally in villages, the political parties are chosen & votes are cast on brotherhood basis in unison and few ESM in the village can not swing the pattern of voting. Therefore, Govt ( read Congress Party ) is not likely to show anxiety about ESM vote bank and hence may not soften its attitude towards us. As regards BJP Party, what action did they take to clear the long pending case of OROP when the NDA Govt was in power? We could, of course continue to put pressure on the political parties through our leading & illustrious veterans to include our OROP & other core demands in their manifestos for the ensuing Parliamentary elections and fight for our cause during the next session of the parliament. At best what we should do is that a delegation of our Senior Veterans should take our case to LK Advani, the leader of the Opposition in the LOk Sabha, and request him to highlight our plight during the ensuing Session. Consequently delaying the filing of case to Mar 09 may not give us any added advantage, unless there are any other compelling legal reasons for delaying it, which I am not aware of. Thus, we may consider filing the case in early Feb 09. Meanwhile we may start the process of engaging the lawyer, give him required facts & figures for preparing our case and seek his views about the possible outcome. Please give it a thought.
With a view to resuscitate our ongoing campaign, we must resort to –
a. organize state & distt level cells and make them functional immediately;
b. high publicity in regional languages news papers, to which our ESM veterans staying in villages have access generally;
c. socialize & befriend TV media and motivate them to support our cause by extensive reporting;
d. tap the inexhaustible reserve of PBOR ESM staying in villages ,first educate them about the anamolies ( ie explain to them the difference in the pension between pre-96 and post-96 / post-06 retirees and other anamolies, since most of them are unable to comprehend this on their own) for which we have launceh this campaign only then they will get motivated to take part in it in large nos. to make it sustainable;
e. rope in ESM veterans like Col Bainsla ( who is very well familiar with the psyche of village folks ) of Rajasthan Gujjar Movement fame; and
f. pressurize senior political parties ( like BJP, BSP, SP, Akali Dal, DMK, AIDM, CPI (M), RJD & Lok Dal ) to take up our case during the forthcoming session of the Parliament for Vote on Account and include our demands like OROP in their manifesto in for the next General Elections to the Parilament.
Publicity through regional / local vernacular news papers would not be too expensive. The Ads explaining the core anamolies, the object of our campaign and urging ESM to become members & take part in our campaign, could be composed centrally in English & Hindi languages and sample ads forwarded to State cells for translation into regional language and issue of Ads in regional / local vernacular news papers under their arrangements.
Presently there appears to be a dis-connect between us and the PBOR ESM who are staying in far flung areas, in some cases reachable with great difficulty. Leaflets in English & Hindi languages containing salient anamolies in brief , indicating their effect on our pension / re-settlement / lateral entry into other services etc and urging the ESM to become members & take part in our ongoing campaign, should be printed centrally and issued to all State cells for translation into regional languages and further distribution. The distribution could be done to the ESM through Polyclinics & CSD outlets and at rallies or at the site of hunger strike at Jantar Mantar etc when they visit these. Such ESM could be requested to distribute further these leaflets to their known contacts. The core issues could also be explained through large posters / bill boards and speeches at rallies too. The idea is to educate the PBOR ESM and then only they will get motivated to join in our movement. We must tap this in-exhaustible source of ESM to build up a massive reserve of members taking part in our ongoing agitation.
A paper containing salient outstanding anamolies supported by facts & figures in brief & crisp language could be drafted centrally in consultation with our senior veterans and the State Cells and given to Heads of various leading political parties available in Delhi by hand by a team of our senior veterans after obtaining an appointment with them in advance. These heads of parties could be suitably briefed by this team about our anamolies and they be requested to force the Govt for a discussion in the Parliament in ensuing session and pressurize the Govt to resolve these outstanding issues immediately. The least we should do is that a delegation of about 15 to 20 Senior High Profile Veterans should meet LK Advani, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, explain our anamolies to him with facts & figures and request him to fight for our cause in Lok Sabha during the ensuing Session of the Parliament. Like wise the State Cells be requested to hand over this paper to those heads of parties who are not available in Delhi . Our issues have remained woefully neglected by the political parties and a stage has now reached that unless the issue is politicized with high pitch, the Govt is not likely to pay serious attention to our issues,
We have to proceed swiftly to keep the movement active till our anamolies are resolved. There should be no looking back now. By taking our campaign to its logical end to achieve our objectives, we shall be setting a precedent unknown in the history of ESM movement, for our future generations of ESM. Well, if we do succeed in our aim, our veterans who are leading the campaign will be considered as saviours in the annals of ESM movement.
If I have inadvetantly used any undesirable, inappropriate or derogatory language anywhere in my views, I wish to be pardoned for that.
God bless all.
Bhupal Singh, Maj ( Veteran ),