One more ex-serviceman joined his two colleagues in their indefinite fast-unto-death demanding the implementation of One Rank One Pension (OROP). 24 hours after Col (Retd) Pushpender Singh and Havildar (Retd) Major Singh began their fast-unto-death pressing for the long pending demands, Havildar (Retd) Ashok Chauhan joined the two on Tuesday afternoon at Jantar Mantar in the national capital.
“Havildar Ashok Chauhan has also gone on fast-unto-death in support of OROP. Those at Jantar Mantar have tried to dissuade him, but he is not relenting,” Col (Retd) Anil Kaul, media advisor to United Front of Ex-Servicemen (UFESM), said on the second day of the hunger strike.
The decision by another ex-soldier came on the day when Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) intervened with Prime Minister’s Principal Secretary Nripendra Misra holding a meeting with their representatives.
“We have requested three things. The first is that definition of OROP will remain the same. We have also sought an assured date for implementation of OROP and the date of effect will remain April 1, 2014 as was decided by the government,” said Lt Gen (Retd) Balbir Singh after their meeting with Nripendra Misra.
The PMO also “requested” the striking veterans to dissuade the three ex-soldiers to call off their fast-unto-death.
“We told him that it was an individual decision and members are trying to pursue them to call of their fast,” said Col (Retd) Anil Kaul of the United Front of Ex-Servicemen (UFESM).
Apart from the three 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.
United Front of Ex-Servicemen (UFESM), the body representing ex-soldier’s protest at Jantar Mantar also spoke of receiving an “advice” from the Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar to put off their stir, at least temporarily.
“He advised to postpone fast-unto-death till August 24 as he would meet with the Prime Minister on August 23 and would attempt to get the solution to this vexed problem,” their statement read.
Though the three have been asked by their colleagues at Jantar Mantar to call off the fast-unto-death but the “total neglect” on the part of the government led them to take this decision, the press statement by UFESM read further.
Just on Monday, ten former Chiefs of the three armed forces had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the issue of One Rank One Pension (OROP) seeking his intervention.
“We have full faith in our Political Leadership but their inability to clinch the issue leaves us dismayed,” the open letter addressed to PM Modi read.
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)