Asia Calling, New Delhi - Here at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, hundreds of army veterans are singing ‘equal pension to all.. give us justice…’ The protest had been going on for the past two months – some of them went on hunger strike.
V.K.Gandhi from United Front of ex-servicemen says they were demanding what they call as ‘one rank one pension’. “The same number of years should get the same pension, irrespective of their date of retirement. That means, a military commander who retire in the year 1976 after 24 years will get the same pension with the one who retires in 2014.”
The protest gain a lot of support from the public, including the daughter of current minister. Mrinalini explains why she joins the crowd. “My grandfather was also in the army, my father was an ex-serviceman, and my husband is a serving personnel. One day my son will also join the force. So I think that brings me here,” she said, adding that citizens must give respect to veterans.
The India government has finally approved a new pension scheme that the military veterans have been fighting for in 42 years. Under the scheme of One Rank One Pension (OROP), the pension money will be revised every five years, regardless when they retired. Government is preparing budget between 1.2-1.5 billion US$.
But the government only approved OROP - one out of five demands from veterans. Government rejected other demands like veteran commission with 5 members, and frequency of the scheme revision.
Satbir Singh, the vice chairman of ex-servicemen movement, says the veterans are not completely happy with government version of OROP.
Unless OROP scheme applied to all soldiers - including pre-mature retirement or PMR - they will continue their protest. “If the PMR is decided in our favor, then our hunger strike will be lifted. Our agitation would continue till such time other contentious three issues are resolved,” he stated.
Singh says they will keep urging the government until all their demands are met. “We have returned 22 thousand medals to the Government through President. He refuses to accept, I have another ten thousand medals. This is a disrespect shown to the medals given by him,” he said.