Major General (retd) Bhuwan Chandra Khanduri has been championing the cause of soldiers for a long time. As Chairman of the Defence Committee he played a key role in preparing the ground for OROP. He shares his views on various issues concerning the OROP and the army with Suryaprakash Semwal, associate editor of Panchjanya. Excerpts:
- How do you look at the recent decision on OROP?
It is a historic decision taken by a strong leader and also a big achievement for the soldiers. It has enhanced the respect and dignity of the soldiers, who fight for sovereignty and integrity of the nation.
- This issue was hanging in balance for over four decades. Will you explain its background?
Well, the soldiers received due respect even during the British period. But the Congress never looked them as a respected citizen. It was the Congress regime, which did huge injustice to the soldiers. The fight for disparity in pension, health and other facilities got momentum in 1991 from Boat Club, Delhi. Earlier, the soldiers submitted scores of memorandums to different authorities and also the political parties. In 1991, Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee and Shri LK Advani effectively put up the matter before the then Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao. The BJP has fought on this issue both inside and outside the Parliament. Although, it became part of the election manifestos of various political parties for some time, the Congress insulted the soldiers time and again.
- Even after formal announcement and also statement by the PM, some soldiers still have apprehensions and some of them have continued agitation at Jantar Mantar. Why this?
This is a fact that bureaucracy has been a big hurdle in implementation of many of the good schemes. The drafts prepared by them are mostly confusing and lack clarity. Since the PM was directly handling this matter and the PMO was keeping a close watch, they could not hang it for long. As an ex-serviceman, I take it as a wonderful decision which could have been taken only by an able administrator like Shri Modi.
- Some people say this decision will benefit more to the officers than the Junior Commission Officers and ORs. What do you think?
It is wrong. These misconceptions are being created by those who basically did not want the OROP to be accepted. The soldiers have full faith in Prime Minister Shri Modi and they are not confused. The Government ordinance is just a formality. What the PM has said will be implemented.
- Some people fear that similar demand now may come from other sections also. What do you think?
Every citizen knows that a solider leaves behind his family and house to protect the nation. He cannot even seek VRS at his own will. Only the Army Chief can serve till the age of 60. Others are retired much before. There is huge difference in the service of soldiers and general Government employees.