OROP row: War veteran feel let down, again in Modi Resume

New Delhi, Aradhna Wal: The recent government celebrations commemorating the 1965 India-Pakistan war were made unique this year by the marked absence of many of the war veterans. Those who witnessed, participated in and fought for India’s victory, boycotted all government invitations in support of the ongoing one rank one pension (OROP), centered at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi but spread across the country.

Though Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted his respect to those who had fought the war, the veterans were to be found at Jantar Mantar in solidarity with other ex-servicemen on hunger strikes, rather than at India Gate. Wing Commander (retd) Vinod Nebb, who was 22 when he served during the war, said to dna, “Would you rather go to a party or to see a friend in ICU?” A Vir Chakra winner, the third highest gallantry award in the country, he said that this was just cause that the protesters were fighting for.

“However, we have been let down by the bureaucracy time and again and this is no different,” he added, putting the responsibility for the failure of implementing OROP on both the political and the bureaucratic class.
“This trend can be seen from 1951 when Baldev Singh was defence minister. The military has always been shortchanged.”

Nebb joined the service to undo the damage of the 1962 war, which he says the military had been sent in completely underprepared for. Posted in the 7th squadron, named Hunter, in Halwara for air defence duties, he says it was sheer luck he was there the night of the fight when he took down a Pakistani F86 Sabre aircraft. He was filling in for someone else on combat air patrol.

Towards sunset, on September 6, the air defense commander from Ambala alerted his squadron of a possible heavy attack and asked for all to be airborne. Tailing his leader he saw the Sabre aircrafts coming in from the Ludhiana side.

Nebb started firing too, all four guns blazing with 80 rounds per second, 30 calibre ammunition. The Sabre he went after, took hit after hit but kept flying.

Getting closer and closer to the Sabre aircraft, he saw its left wing detach and then it explode, a large portion came hurtling towards Nebb which he escaped by pulling a vicious maneuver to the right.

This piece of daredevilry that brought down the Sabre won him the Vir Chakra. Many of his friends and peers were not so lucky. “There are so many stories. One chap got his leg blown off and got taken POW. We had written him off,” recounts Nebb.

These veterans were the ones who now feel poorly treated by the administration and are forced to miss events commemorating their achievements.

Sources at Jantar Mantar said that Havildar Major Singh, who has been fasting for 14 days, had to be forcibly taken to the hospital when he collapsed on Saturday morning. By evening he was back in Jantar Mantar. They added that nothing positive had come out of the talks, though there was hope of meeting the PM on Saturday night.

However, an expert who had assisted the negotiators said that the outcome is highly unpredictable, as emotions are running far too high and conversations are on the basis of rhetoric and half truths. The expert said that though the protesters were right in demanding the implementation from April 2014, where the government was faltering, they were unreasonable in asking for the 3 per cent annual increment. This apparently was not feasible and not done anywhere in the world. More flexibility has to be shown by both parties if any solution can be reached.