Of course, it is emotional and difficult to critique it when an ex-serviceman commits suicide. You come off callous, harsh and come under attack.
Except that soldiers fight; they do not take their own lives. I covered the 1971 war in uniform and come from the only family in the world where four real brothers made the rank of generals. So I do have some right to say suicide is wrong.
It is regrettable that Ram Kishan Grewal took his own life. One does not know his compulsions or his level of frustration and while thoughtless political capital will be made of this by politicians like Arvind Kejriwal (he never misses a chance), I didn’t see the Chief Minister go visit our troops on the frontline.
At least Modi spent Diwali with them.
In the case of OROP, even the diehards who stood in the sun for months outside Jantar Mantar will have to agree that their pensions have risen with the latest promise of a further hike, retrospective from 1 January, 2016 having come last week. And if one of these frail old men (some of them octogenarians) had died while spending weeks on strike at least they would have died fighting for their cause. Not taking their lives.
Indeed, there are four outstanding issues before the Anomaly committee that was formed, after the three chiefs sent a letter to the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister last month calling attention to the four points: the discrepancies in disability pay, the lack of recognition for JCOs by equating their military pay with soldiers they lead, the inequality in the pay brackets with Civvy street and the absence of non-functional upgrades which the IAS cadres enjoy.
None of these are major mountains to climb. In all fairness, the lot of the retired service officer has improved but the increments have been given in so niggardly a fashion and yes, 'incremental' in the disbursement that the fractured increases have lost their value. It is the gracelessness that has led to the sense of despair. Like crumbs thrown at the hungry. As much as they have been hit in the bottomline, the services have been made to feel secondary.
The current concern that the MoD is going about it unilaterally without involving the forces could well be because they are doing the ground work. After all, the initiative hasn’t shifted. The drafts can be rejected by the three chiefs as they did the 7th Pay Commission, only allowing it to be implemented after they were assured the four points that were unresolved would be taken up.
If you ask the service officers per se who have retired they will cavil about being treated as country cousins to the bureaucrats and the police in the order of things and their agitation has distilled to a basic call for equality nothing more, nothing less.
But they will also agree, albeit reluctantly, that things are not that bleak. They are better off.
While the difference between the bureaucrats and the men in uniform is still a burr under the saddle, committing suicide is not the answer, and even if the ex-servicemen take up the cause and bellow their approval in their hearts they will know this is not done, this is not the solution.
Public regret and public remorse will follow the death as is the norm but it would not edify the armed forces to take advantage of one former soldier’s act, sad as it is.