By Lt Col CR Sundar, psc MSc (Defence Studies)
In the past the greatest changes in our country were wrought by Sepoy uprisings. Three such uprisings brought about immense transformations. All three of them came about as a culmination of discontent among the ranks of the armed forces caused by the callous attitude of the rulers of the day. They resulted in bloodshed and in their own way weakened the rulers and paved the way for their exit.
Vellore Sepoy Mutiny 1806.
This took place at Vellore Fort in July 1806. The reason was the long existing hated practice of flogging as a punishment which existed within Indian Regiments.
In its aftermath flogging as a punishment was abolished in India.
Indian Sepoy Mutiny 1857.
Whereas tallow and lard-greased cartridges were the trigger to the mutiny there existed long pending grievances over the issue of promotions based on seniority. Also they kept increasing the number of European officers in Indian battalions. This led to slow progress in promotions and very few Indians could rise to get a commission. Even those that did could reach commissioned rank only when they were too old to be effective.
The rebellion wiped out the East India Company and the last vestiges of the Moghul rule. It marked the beginning of a new rule.
Navy Ratings Mutiny 1946.
Leading Signalman MS Khan and Petty Officer Telegraphist Madan Singh took the lead and formed the Naval Central Strike Committee. The strike call given by them found immediate response in all the naval ports of India.
Though the loss of life was minimal the mutiny made the British colonial rulers aware that India has reached a ‘point of no return’ in her struggle for independence.
OROP Jawans Mutiny 20??.
The Government of India has not yet realized the Jawans, the Sepoys of today, know that for long they have been given a bad bargain under the pretext of keeping the age profile young.
Let us take the case of two lads aged about 20 years in 1975. One joins the Indian Army as a Sepoy and the other joins a civil government service. In 1990 at the age of 35 and a service of 15 years the sepoy would have been sent on a pension averaging about Rs. 3,000 per month. The government employee would retire in 2015 at the age of 60 years.
In the 25 years between 1990 and 2015 the military pensioner would have earned Rs. 9 lakhs as pension whereas the government servant would have earned close to Rs. 1.25 crores as salary and perks and would retire with a much larger pension.
Therefore the minimum that can be done is to accept OROP. “The principal of OROP implies that uniform pensions be paid to Armed Forces personnel retiring in the same rank with the same length of service irrespective of the date of their date of retirement and any further enhancement in the rates of pension to be automatically passed on to the past pensioner”. It will help the retired ExServiceman get at least 30% of what his civilian counterpart gets.
Those jawans serving today know that they would be subject to the same misfortune suffered by their fathers. Retirees are struggling today for justice. It will not be long before serving soldiers rise in mutiny against this injustice. Though that would be a sad day it appears inevitable.
The government may consider the following questions deeply.
1. Today we have enemies at our door steps. Can we afford a mutiny in the armed forces?
2. During the British rule mutinies were crushed by ruthless summary justice. The same cannot happen today.
3. Even if the mutiny is crushed OROP, or something better will have to be accepted. Why not accept it before we reach a ‘point of no return’?