Defence Veterans end hunger strike, to continue stir

RSTV Bureau
New Delhi: Adviser of the ex-servicemen's front Major-General (retd) Satbir Singh with ex-servicemen Colonel (retd) Pushpendra Singh, Hawaldar (retd) Ashok Kumar and Hawaldar (retd) Major Singh celebrate after breaking their fast to withdraw hunger strike following government's decision to implement 'One Rank One Pension' (OROP) scheme, at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Sunday. PTI Photo

New Delhi: Adviser of the ex-servicemen’s front Major-General (retd) Satbir Singh with ex-servicemen Colonel (retd) Pushpendra Singh, Hawaldar (retd) Ashok Kumar and Hawaldar (retd) Major Singh celebrate after breaking their fast to withdraw hunger strike following government’s decision to implement ‘One Rank One Pension’ (OROP) scheme, at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Sunday. PTI Photo

Agitating ex-servicemen on Sunday called off their indefinite hunger strike after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement that One Rank-One Pension will cover all those who took premature retirement but decided to continue their protest till all their demands were met.

Welcoming the Prime Minister’s clarification on extension of OROP to those who retired prematurely, a major sticking point in resolving the stand-off between the government and defence veterans, leader of agitating ex-servicemen Major General (Retd) Satbir Singh said revision of pension after a gap of five years, as announced on Saturday, was unacceptable and stressed on an yearly review.

Singh warned that ex-servicemen will be “forced” to resume their “hunger strike till death” if there was no satisfactory resolution of the pending issues by the government.

The government’s decision to appoint a one-member judicial commission to examine various aspects of the OROP has also been rejected by the agitators as they demanded a five-member commitee comprising three ex-servicemen, one serving member from the armed forces and a representative from the Ministry of Defence.

Addressing a press conference at Jantar Mantar, the venue of their nearly three-month-long stir, Singh said the committee should function directly under the Defence Minister and submit its report within one month.

“We have called off the hunger strike but protest will continue till all our major demands are met,” Singh said, adding a massive ‘Gaurav rally’ will be organised in New Delhi on September 12 for “quick resolution” of the pending issues.

“We are confident that in the next 15 days or a month the government will issue a letter about OROP implementation. If the government does not follow any point of view or if it goes against our satisfaction, then we will resume our hunger strike till death,” he said.

He thanked the Prime Minister for “clarifying” the government’s position on the premature retirement issue as there was confusion over whether a large number of ex-servicemen would be deprived of the OROP benefits.

Elaborating on the sticking points, Singh said “It was agreed that we would be given top of the scale. Now they have given the average of the scale which is not acceptable.”

Thirteen ex-servicemen, who were on hunger strike, called it off at around 2:30 PM after requests from their leadership.

Singh said the protest will continue till “four specific points” raised by the ex-servicemen were not accepted by the government.

The veterans, who have been pressing for one rank-one pension (OROP) for four decades, yesterday won a partial victory with the government announcing that it would implement it.

Close to 26 lakh retired servicemen and over six lakh war widows stand to be immediate beneficiaries of the scheme.