Maj Gen Satbir Singh, SM, who spearheads the UFESM (United Front of Ex Service Men) campaign for OROP (One Rank One Pension), whilst speaking at the OROP Rally at Azad Maidan, Mumbai, on Saturday, 31 Oct 11, exhorted the faujis to observe Black Diwali this year by not lighting any lamps or indulging in any celebration. He said that the unfulfilled promise on OROP by the government has ruled out any joy of Diwali.
Yes, it is true that Narendra Modi’s government reneged on its election promises that it would implement OROP within 100 days of coming to power. Yes, it is true that the attitude of the government towards OROP after coming to power in May 2014 has been substantially different from the promissory attitude before that. Yes, it is true that the PM and his FM have even started questioning the very definition of OROP when Koshiyari Committee 2011 definition of the OROP has been universally accepted “by all stakeholders” including parliament, government, Ex Service Men and their organisations. Yes, it is true that the announcement by Shri Manohar Parrikar, the RM, on 5th Sep 15 has been a slap in the face of agitators since it is a much diluted OROP than what was approved by the two parliaments. Yes, it is true, that even this truncated OROP has not been notified. And yes, it is true that the veterans won’t be in any mood to celebrate Diwali.
The somber mood is also dictated by the fact that it has been 42 long years since OROP was done away by the government in 1973. Curiously, these 42 years are exactly three times the period of exile of Lord Ramchandra. We celebrate Diwali or Deepawali in remembrance of people of Ayodhaya who lit lamps rejoicing the return from exile of our Lord Ram. No such luck for the veterans; they are still exiled from OROP.
But, for the justification for Kaali or Black Diwali, I am not merely thinking of the exiled veterans. I am also thinking of the average countrymen. During the despondent times under the last UPA govt, they voted for a change, strong leadership, developmental agenda and straightforward approach towards significant issues. Now, after 17 months of the new government’s inauguration, we seem to be getting back to despondency. Think of the following:
1. Dithering by Manmohan Singh and party has been replaced by arrogance by NaMo and party especially by Arun Jaitley.
2. Developmental agenda has been replaced by non issues such as beef-ban, equating Shah Rukh Khan with a known terrorist Syed Hafeez, “those who vote against BJP in Bihar should go to Pakistan”, and Hindu chauvinism and relentless justification for ushering in the period of intolerance by going on the offensive with the facts that Hindus have been the most tolerant of people in the world.
3. Strong leadership and straightforward approach have been substituted by guile and chicanery as in the response towards parliament approved OROP.
We appear to be back to square one making the countrymen choose between the devil and the deep sea.
Black Diwali is particularly for us faujis. But, the rest of the countrymen cannot have a reason to rejoice.
All cats are grey in dark; NaMo proved that.
Lets take up some of these issues in slightly greater detail:
- PM Manmohan Singh never had the manoeuvring space due to the fact that the entire UPA commanded only 229 seats in a the Lok Sabha with a strength of 545 and the INC had only 206 seats. It was, therefore, easy for the pressure groups to derail the developmental agenda on specious pretexts and because of vested interests. In contrast, BJP by itself in the 16th Lok Sabha constituted on 26 May 2014 has 282 of the 545 seats. Indeed, there is no leader of opposition as the Indian Parliament rules say that a party must have at least 10 percent of seats to be called opposition. Congress has only 44 seats. Instead of arrogance being the style of governance, the NDA could have, by now, put the country firmly on the path of development. Nay, even the black money in Swiss banks to be exposed and brought back to the country, as per the election promise of Modi, has been given a go by; making the people speculate that there is perhaps a quid-pro-qua as perhaps was there in denying the nation the full exposure of Bofors deal when NDA was last in power under Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
- Nearly five years back, on our 62nd Republic Day, I wrote a piece titled ‘How Proud Should We Be Of The Indian Republic At 62?’ I had brought out that UN figures show that 80 percent of our population lives below US $ 2 a day. Forty-five percent of our population lives Below Poverty Line (BPL; a term used to describe those who have less than the UN stipulated $1.25 a day). In all human growth indices we are near the bottom, certainly much below the 100 mark. And yet, dividing the people along communal lines has been a priority with almost all of our political parties rather than focusing on developmental issues so as to eradicate poverty. Take this government, which has squarely been given the mandate by the people on the developmental issue. And yet, its focus has been elsewhere: Banning beef and such other issues. Following the tenet of ‘borrowing from Peter to pay Paul’ and conscious of the fact that in the more than one-fourth of its tenure it has done nothing much to address poverty and other developmental issues, it has come up with a ludicrous argument that giving veterans their right of OROP (which has been passed by two parliaments and hence the government having no power to deny it) would rob the poor. All our political parties have learnt from the British the art of Divide and Rule; and the present NDA is no exception.
- The Bihar elections are so important and prestigious for BJP that everything else has been made subservient to it including OROP, communal harmony and even principles of ethics and decency. BJP came up with such ridiculous arguments as “those who do not vote for BJP deserve to be ousted to Pakistan” and that Shah Rukh Khan talks like Hafiz Saeed, the terrorist and the mastermind of 26/11 who enjoys covert and overt support from Pakistan state. What arrogance, that voting against BJP is to be considered anti-national!
- All right-minded Indians know that the UPA in general and Congress in particular, under its banner of pseudo-secularism, played the communal card rather dangerously (Also read: ‘Is Communal Disharmony A Challenge To India’s March To Greatness?’) However, the NDA under BJP appears to be doing exactly the same in another manner so as to garner votes by dividing communities. This portends ill for the nation; if the nation can very well do without the pseudo-secularism of Congress, it can also do without the other extreme of return to Hindu chauvinism. Two wrongs can never make a right. It is high time we abandon the idea of dividing communities along religious lines and use the unifying force of humanitarianism and developmental agenda.
I have brought out only some of the significant issues. There is thus no reason for the the countrymen in general and faujis in particular to celebrate Diwali. There is nothing to rejoice about. It is indeed, return to despondency, which we saw during the last UPA regime. But, at that time, at least there was a hope that a Narendra Modi, in shining armour, would emerge to take us out of the morass. Most of such hopes have been shattered.
As if to add to the mood, yesterday, the country was witness to a most horrible video of police brutally beating up a boy and girl inside a police station. Whilst the police beat up the boy mercilessly, the girl’s screams could be heard for miles and yet they continued. The country must now quickly contemplate whether the citizens should permit the authorities to control everything from food habits to religion to socializing to morality. Should the average Indian citizen live under terror not from across the border but from our own people whom we voted to improve our lot?
I don’t know about you; but, this Diwali, many of us shall sit with bowed head in darkness, to match the somber mood of the country, and pray to our Lord Ram, to ensure that our leaders return to the agendas they promised and were voted to power for.
Lets see if our prayers are answered.
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