This is in good humour and should be read in that spirit only:
The year is 2023. In a solemn ceremony, veterans (those who are stll alive, that is) have gathered fondly at the venue of their fiercest and bitterest campaign field; not Kargil, not Poonchh or Khemkaran, not even at Siachen, but, at Jantar Mantar. They are celebrating the golden jubilee of their campaign to restore OROP that was taken away from them in 1973.
I am just about to touch seventy but there is still enthusiasm in covering mammoth events and rallies.
I overhear an old veteran telling another with immense satisfaction, “We were lucky that although we won the Kargil War in 1999, lost and wounded nearly 2000 soldiers and it was indeed a great victory, the government of India still didn’t punish us as they did after 1971 War.”
To this, one really old veteran, barely able to stand even with his walking stick, responds, “Indira Gandhi was different. Her way of rewarding the victors in war was to reduce their pensions. But, thankfully she didn’t follow in the footsteps of emperor Shahjehan who cut off the hands of the chief architect who made the Taj Mahal”.
Now, it is the turn of the first veteran to interject: “Yeah, she was a kind lady. No wonder the Congress refers to her as Priyadarshini (delightful to look at).”
They would have continued on and on like…like…well, like talking old soldiers but then Major General Satbir Singh, SM, OM, Retd., arrived at the venue. If you are wondering what OM is, it is an OROP Medal that the government introduced in the year 2016, just to keep the agitators in good humour. This medal, the government was proud of proclaiming, had been made after melting all the other medals that the veterans returned in end 2015, showing their displeasure at the government’s apathy towards veterans.
Soon after that babus, police and para-military personnel demanded OM to be given to them too. The government had tough time reasoning with them that they couldn’t have their cake and eat it too; or in other words, have OROP as well as OM. As always, babus, police and para military personnel were not convinced and demanded that the government should give them too adequate medals so that they too have something to return when they don’t get what they want.
General Satbir is old but his face still has that glow and his eyes still have the glint that only those have who believe in honest and straightforwardness and for the cause of their men more than for themselves.
The shouts of, “Sadda haq, itthe rakh” ( Our right, give it now) fill the air. It has been a great war-cry. JP Dutta, the veteran film-maker, in the year 2019 made a movie with this title. The movie had remake of a popular fauji song: ‘Sandeshe aate hain, hamen tadpaate hain’ to tell the plight of the veterans receiving messages from the Prime Minister Narendra Modi that finally the full OROP was just around the corner but the veterans still not seeing light across the tunnel.
It is 14th Aug 2023 and they find an extremely frail, 91 years old, Grenadier Vishambar Singh, stumbling across to the venue with a naked torso. General Satbir noticing him shirtless asks, “Vishambar ji aap shirt ghar bhool aaye, kyaa?” (Vishambar ji, you forgot your shirt at home, or what?)
Vishambhar replies, “Nahin saab ji; kal azaadi diwas hai. Aath saal pehle, aaj ke din, pulsiyon ne mil ke meri shirt faad di thi. Ab saab ji itane paise to nahin hai jo har saal nayi shirt banwaayun. Isliye ghar chhod ke aaya hoon.” (No, Sahib ji; tomorrow is the Independence Day. Eight years ago, the police tore my shirt (here). Now, Sahib ji, I don’t have enough money to buy a new shirt every year. That’s why I left it at home.)
Colonel Kaul whispers from behind General Satbir Singh, “Theek hai. But, we should be ashamed. Men are losing their shirts and sleep over OROP but the blasted OROP is nowhere in sight.”
General Satbir, “I have been told it is just around the corner now. They have nearly sorted out the VRS issue by coming up with a formula that decides your share of OROP depending upon your medical category, age, retirement age, rank and number of years left for superannuation. Of course, it would still be denied to you if you don’t follow the family planning norms. That’s the latest clause introduced by the babus“.
In the background, a reporter is heard talking to a Times of India reporter, “Massive rally by the veterans. I hope this time, at least; you are going to cover it”. The ToI reporter replies, “We have normally been giving it space next to the Obituary column as both are serious and dead issues. Let me see, if someone dies we shall give adequate cover to his body and to this grave issue”.
Just then a plush limousine slides to a halt in front of Jantar Mantar. A happy veteran alights in his worsted suit, gold tie-pin etc. All the other veterans are agog with envy and ask, “So, you actually got arrears of OROP, did you?”
“Nothing of that sort” the wealthy veteran replies, “I took General Satbir’s call for Black Diwali seriously. I invested, in the last eight years, money saved from lamps and crackers, in Narendra Modi’s Achhe Din Aa Rahen Hain Fund (Happy Days Are Coming Fund). The bourses gave me hundred to one on my betting correctly on the outcome of the promise and the fund. I also bought 100 shares of Mann Ki Baat Radio Services at 10 rupees a share. Each one is a lakh rupees a piece now.”
Ninety-one year old Vishambar starts crying uncontrollably. He lost his shirt for nothing.
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