By Giriraj Sawant & Domnic Rodrigues
Mumbai: India’s military might and defence strategies brought about victory in war and successful surgical strikes against terrorists in Pakistan, besides the recent successful faceoff against China over the Doklam issue. However, the militarymen seem to be fighting a losing battle for their rights within the country as the BJP prefers to “talk the walk” rather than “walk the talk” in giving the retired battle veterans what is rightfully due to them.
Having done much including risking their lives in facing up against India’s dreaded enemies on and beyond the country’s borders, today retired military personnel are facing a “stone wall” in getting land for residences and farming promised to them by the Indian Government.
The BJP Government in Maharashtra is a classic example of this problem where retired military people – from the Army, Navy Air Force and others — are running from pillar to post to obtain the “Promised Land” where they seek to spend the rest of their lives. The ruling BJP Government in Maharashtra seems to be dilly-dallying over the issue of allotting land to retired military staff, while the State bureaucracy admits that no decision in this regard can be taken without order to that effect from the BJP Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.
Lt Gen. (retd) Rajendra Nimbhorkar, head of the 15 Corps responsible for security of the LoC in the Jammu region, and who played a key role in the planning of the “surgical strikes,” was one of the few lucky ones who successfully managed to get his dream retirement land – though only after a “merry-go-round” chase of the concerned BJP ministers and some help from influential politicians.
Nimbhorkar had applied for such land in Pune (Maharashtra) and was assured of getting it by the then Maharashtra Revenue Minister Eknath Khadse. However, when Khadse quit the ministry and Nimbhorkar still did not get the land promised to him. Maharashtra BJP MLA Anil Gote who raised this issue in the State Legislative Assembly two years ago after that State Government released the land allotted to Nibhorkar.
However, not everybody is as fortunate as Nimbhorkar, whose case highlights the indifferent approach by the BJP-led Maharashtra Government in dealing with various issues that have hit the headlines but aroused little or no response from the powers-that-be. Only when these issues swell to the point of causing a problem for the ruling party do the BJP’s own MLAs get alerted to rouse their party persons from their slumber for providing solace to the affected people – as it proved in the case of Nimbhorkar.
However, such success has evaded ex-Armyman Hindurao Ingle — who had fought in the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war and had requested after retirement for his share of the ‘promised’ land from the BJP-run Maharashtra Government, which however did not bother about his application. Fed up with the apathetic attitude of the Maharashtra government, Ingle filed a petition in this regard in 2015 in the Mumbai High Court against the Government.
Ingle’s legal efforts bore fruit when, in February2018, the court ordered the Maharashtra Government to provide him the required land, while also imposing a penalty of Rs 50,000 on the Government to be paid to Ingle. However, 10 months later (December 2018), Ingle is back to square one with the Maharashtra Government doing nothing in response to the Mumbai High Court’s orders to provide Ingle the piece of land that he wants to call his retirement home.
While the Nimbhorkar and Ingle incidents have reflected badly on the BJP, which is ruling at the Centre and in Maharashtra, many more such military-related ‘skeletons are falling out of the closet.’
Harish Kapadia, on behalf of his father Lt. Nawang Kapadia (1975-2000), had written to the district collector of Sindhdurg regarding allotment of land for an “Army Martyr” (his father) and queried about the action/progress in this matter.
The Mumbai City Collector, in a letter dated August 9, 2018, had asked the Collector of Sindhdurg to allot this land under the Government Resolution (GR) dated December 30, 1971. However, when no reply was forthcoming from Sindhdurg, Kapadia wrote another letter dated November 3, 2018 to the Sindhdurg District Collector (with copy to the Collector of Mumbai, Chief Secretary, Revenue and Forests Department, Mantralaya, and the Zilla Sainik Welfare Officer, Mumbai) seeking to know what action had been taken in this regard.
Several years back, ex-Northern Army Commander and Param Vishist Seva Medalist Lt. Gen K T Parnaik, Group Captain S. Vidhate, Wing Commander Rajkumar Kesarkar and Lt. Gen Ravindra Thodage had asked for a land of 1,125 square metres under Survey no. 63/3 situated at Koregaon Park in Pune. Noting that the land belonged to the Maharashtra Government, they had therefore submitted a letter in this regard to the Collector of Pune. However, they have received no reply so far.
According to a GR dated July 20, 1972, military staff who have been awarded medals/honours should get free-of-cost (or at 50% cost) upto four hectares of land. While the foursome have applied for the selected land, the Maharashtra Government has passed the buck in this regard to their Finance Department with the query whether these people should be given the selected land on a free basis or whether they should pay the cost of the land according to the land ‘ready reckoner.’
A GR dated 15 May 1999 states that military awardees should be given land for residence or farming free upto Rs 25 lakhs, or priced according to the ready reckoner at 50% cost of the land.
Meanwhile, another issue that is causing a headache for the Central Government is ‘OROP’. Major General (retired) Satbir Singh, who is spearheading the campaign for the implementation of OROP under the banner of Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement (IESM), has accused the government of “breaching” their trust and “betraying” 6.45 lakh widows of war heroes, 24 lakh ex-servicemen and 15 lakh serving servicemen.
“Army jawans spend 70 percent of their service period in field areas far away from their families. As a result, they have to manage two establishments – their present one and the other in which their family lives. Even if we get postings in peace areas, only 15 percent can stay with their families because of the dearth of accommodation.”