NEW DELHI: Over 2,000 ex-servicemen protesting against the government’s “diluted” one-pension-one rank scheme on Tuesday returned their medals in Delhi, Haryana, Punjab and other parts of the country, the organizations spearheading the movement claimed on Tuesday as they hit back at Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar for his “unlike soldiers behaviour” remark aimed at them.
Colonel (retd) Anil Kaul, spokesman of the protesters in Delhi, said 2,000 ex-servicemen’s medals were deposited at the district collector’s office.
“The veterans had threatened to leave the medals on the road if we didn’t accept it. Hence, we accepted those,” District Collector Sanjay Kumar told reporters.
In Chandigarh, Brigadier Kiran Krishan (retd), Convener for North Haryana of Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement (IESM), a constituent of United Front of Ex-Servicemen that had led the nation-wide protest for OROP at Jantar Mantar in Delhi, said that more than 150 war veterans returned over 150 medals which were handed over to the Additional Deputy Commissioner, Panchkula.
Kaul said ex-servicemen from Ambala, Chandigarh, Moga, Jalandhar and Gurdaspur returned their medals today while those from Mumbai, Pune, Vadodara and Bangalore will follow the suit.
“Our people from Mumbai, Pune, Vadodara and Bangalore will return their medals next. By the way, this is just the trailer,” he added.
“This Diwali will be a black one for us. We will mark it amid darkness at the India Gate where ex-servicemen will gather with their families.”
The veterans claimed over 20,000 of them have returned medals since their protest began in 2008 to press for OROP.
The veterans are particularly upset about the scheme not being extended to future premature retirees and the proposal to recalculate pensions every five years instead of annually. According to the notification, pensions will be fixed with 2013 as the base year and the plan will be implemented from July 1, 2014.
The scheme is aimed at guaranteeing equal pension to military personnel retiring at the same rank with the same length of service, regardless of the date of retirement.
Kaul reacted sharply to Parrikar’s statement that the war veterans’ protest against OROP notification is “unlike that of a soldier” and said the Parrikar’s behaviour “too doesn’t behove that of a Defence Minister.
While the veterans stepped up their movement, the government appeared in no mood to yield any more ground. Dismissing Parrikar’s remarks that the protesters were being “misguided” and that the OROP notification issued on Saturday has been his “achievement”, the agitators shot back at the BJP leader asking him to learn English to know meanings of the two words and asked him not to “lie” to his soldiers seeking their due rights.
“This government and I have worked very hard to fulfil the promise of OROP which no other government fulfilled over the past 40 years…almost 95 % of the veterans’ community is satisfied,” he said.
The government has decided to appoint a judicial committee to look into anomalies, if any, arising out of the implementation of the scheme.
Several veterans have been holding a sit-in at Jantar Mantar for over five months in support of their decades-old demand. The retired soldiers say the formula worked out by the Centre amounts to one rank, five pensions.
“He says our behaviour is unlike that of a soldier. But we feel Parrikar’s behaviour is unlike that of a Defence Minister. We have been seeking our due to rights for past 149 days. But government has found no time to listen to us.
“Hence, we have been impelled to agitate Mr Parrikar. Your notification is not what we have been talking about. Therefore, we are returning medals,” Kaul said.
According to the Centre’s calculations, the plan will require an annual payout of Rs 8,000 crore to Rs 10,000 crore. It will be effective from July 1, 2014, with arrears amounting to anywhere between Rs 10,000 crore and Rs 12,000 crore.