OROP protest only deepens as veteran’s health sinks

RSTV Bureau
New Delhi: Ex-servicemen Colonel (ret.) Pushpendra Singh, Hav Ashok Kumar and Hav-Major Singh, who are on fast-unto-death over the One Rank One Pension issue at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Monday. ( PTI Photo )

New Delhi: The file photo of ex-servicemen Colonel (ret.) Pushpendra Singh (C), Hav Ashok Kumar (L) and Hav-Major Singh (R), who are on fast-unto-death over the One Rank One Pension issue at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. Havildar Major Singh continues on protest despite ill-health, while Col Pushpendra was hospitalised on Monday and Havildar Ashok was taken to army hospital on Tuesday. Photo – PTI

The on-going protest by the ex-servicemen demanding implementation of ‘One Rank One Pension’ (OROP) policy intensified even further on Tuesday after one veteran, on fast-unto-death since 9 days, refused to be hospitalised. There was a brief drama at the venue in Delhi’s Jantar Mantar after Havildar (Retd) Major Singh refused to be shifted out from the protest venue even as several veterans and their relatives pleaded with him to accept medical attention.

While, Havaldar Major Singh strongly asserted to continue his fast-unto-death, another striking veteran Havildar (Retd) Ashok Chauhan was rushed to the Army hospital after his health took a dip. The organisers are now strongly contemplating to also shift Havildar Major Singh to the hospital.

“Hav. Major Singh is likely to be evacuated today, though he is refusing to be taken to hospital,” Col Anil Kaul (Retd), media advisor to the United Front of Ex-Servicemen said.

Meanwhile, two more veterans, Maj (Retd) Tyar Chand and Nayak (Retd) Uday Singh, joined the fast-unto-death protest, which entered its ninth day today taking the total number of ex-soldiers on fast-unto-death to six.

This came a day after Col (Retd)Pushpendra Singh was taken to the Army Hospital after his medical report showed an increase in ketone level due to eight days of fast-unto-death.

“I will come back and continue my fast. I am not ready to go but the people here want me to to as they say high ketone level will affect brain functioning,” Col (Retd) Pushpender said while he was taken to the hospital. The veteran had once again asserted that the Central government should immediately implement the long pending issue of OROP so that the soldiers on hunger strike can end the protest.

“Col Singh was reluctant but we persuaded him to be moved to the hospital,” Major General Satbir Singh, Chairman of the Indian Ex-servicemen Movement had told the news agency on Monday.

As per the latest reports, Col Pushpender is said to stable.

OROP-India-Gate-2

New Delhi: A candle light vigil was held by the fasting ex-servicemen and their families at India Gate over the issue of OROP. Photo – PTI

Apart from the six on fast-unto-death, the group of ex-servicemen have been observing a relay hunger strike for more than two months over the delay in implementation of what is now turning into an emotive subject for several veteran soldiers.

The disappointment among the former soldiers rose further after the Prime Minister kept away from announcing the date of the implementation of the OROP during his Independence Day address. However, PM Modi assured the war veterans of his government accepting the policy of OROP “in principal”. Reacting to no announcement by the Prime Minister, the veterans began their fast-unto-death from 17th August.

Earlier, former chiefs of the three armed forces had even written to the President and Prime Minister seeking their intervention.

“We have full faith in our Political Leadership but their inability to clinch the issue leaves us dismayed,” read the open letter addressed to PM Modi by the ten former Chiefs of the three armed forces.

The letter to the Prime Minister by the ex-Chiefs of staff came barely a week after four former Chiefs wrote to their ‘Supreme Commander’ President Pranab Mukherjee urging for his intervention.

The policy of OROP, if implemented, will enable a uniform pension for the defence personnel retiring in the same rank with the same length of service, irrespective of their date of retirement. Close to 22 lakh ex-servicemen and over six lakh war widows stand to be the immediate beneficiaries of the scheme.

Currently, the pension for retired personnel is based on the Pay Commission recommendations of the time when he or she retired. So, a Major General who retired in 1996 draws a lower pension than a Lieutenant Colonel who retired after 1996.

(With inputs from the agencies)