NEW DELHI:A little high-handedness on the part of the Delhi Police on Friday gave an opportunity to Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, already in a protest-a-day mode, to wade into the 60-day-old agitation by the Armed Forces veterans at Jantar Mantar, on the long-pending One Rank One Pension demand.
As the eviction of ex-servicemen attempted by the Delhi Police to secure the protest venue on the eve of Independence boomeranged, Rahul reached there donning a white cap and sporting an unshaven look. Just to tell the government that it was a bit odd that those, who had once been engaged in the security of the nation, were now being found to be a security threat.
“The Prime Minister had promised that he will implement the OROP. It’s a very simple matter, the Prime Minister must give a date now, if he says that on this date the work will be done, then this entire agitation will be over,” Rahul said.
The Congress leader has been taking on the government on every issue. On Thursday, he had led a delegation to the President for the agitating FTII students. Though Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to make an announcement on the OROP demand in his Independence Day Address from Red Fort, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar cited “technicalities” that were holding up its implementation even as he added that the promise would be kept.
Sources in the know said that politicians should take care before championing an agitation or cause, OROP was “no simple decision”. A minimum of 25,000 men retire every year and the number of retirees grow exponentially, the financial burden of bringing all of them under OROP would be huge. “There has to be a cut-off of some sort. It can be a one-time settlement for those, who retired as JCOs (Junior Commissioned Officers),” they added.
However, it seems there’s been intelligence report suggesting that non-implementation of OROP would prove to be costly for the government, in the context of the elections in Bihar, a state that is home to large number of ex-servicemen.
Rahul, however, seems to have sauntered into the agitation more out of a sense of outrage over the police crackdown, than an informed view on the whole OROP demand. His comment “the Prime Minister made a promise over OROP and now he just has to say one line, that I will get the work done by this date”, appeared to be impromptu, born of an urge to show solidarity with the agitators, many among whom have been virtually living out of two tents for the past two months.
It wasn’t easy, Rahul had to face counter protests and slogans from some of the ex-servicemen who asked him not to politicise the issue. Retd Major General Mohan Singh, 74-year-old, said as much, “Rahul is welcome to visit our protest but we won’t allow the politicisation of the OROP issue. We will not allow any politician to share this stage.” Rahul, meanwhile, said that if there were “technicalities” involved which had been delaying the OROP implementation, the Prime Minister and the government should have thought it through, before making a poll promise.