Ten former Chiefs of the three armed forces have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the issue of One Rank One Pension (OROP), even as two ex-servicemen began their indefinite hunger strike at Jantar Mantar. The group of ex-servicemen have been on 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 letter to the Prime Minister by the ex-Chiefs of staff has come barely a week after four former Chiefs wrote to their ‘Supreme Commander’ President Pranab Mukherjee urging for his intervention.
Strongly condemning the police and civic authorities for attempting to evict the striking veterans last week, the former Chiefs in their letter to PM Modi said, “indiscretion on the part of the Police has seriously impacted the pride and morale of all ranks of the three Services and the Veterans… these veterans are the same soldiers, who have displayed unflinching loyalty towards the Constitution and the Nation during their service and still remain motivated to die for a noble cause”.
“These veterans have been on a peaceful demonstration at this venue and have been trying to make the Government hear their voice since 12 June 2015. We unequivocally condemn the action by the Police and urge the Government to investigate and take immediate action,” they added in their open letter.
In their open letter to the Prime Ministers, the former Chiefs strongly urging him to resolve the issue of OROP “urgently”.
“We were also hopeful that the announcement of the implementation of the OROP would be made to the Nation on Independence Day. Regrettably this has not happened,” read the open letter of ten former defense Chiefs addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“We have full faith in our Political Leadership but their inability to clinch the issue leaves us dismayed,” the open letter added.
Seven former Army chiefs – General VN Sharma, General Shankar Roy Choudhary, General S Padmanabhan, General NC Vij, General JJ Singh, General Deepak Kapoor and General Bikram Singh – two former Air Force chiefs – Air Chief Marshal NC Suri and Air Chief Marshal SP Tyagi – and a former Navy chief, Admiral Madhvendera Singh have signed the letter.
While at Jantar Mantar in the capital, stepping up agitation, two former soldiers launched fast-unto-death demanding an early implementation of OROP.
“Col (Retd) Pushpender Singh and Haviladar (Retd) Major Singh have undertaken fast unto death from today,” Col Anil Kaul (Retd), media advisor to the United Front of Ex-Servicemen Movement, told the press as the agitation at Jantar Mantar entered 64th day on Monday.
Several striking soldiers, veteran officers and even their family members have already expressed their disappointment with PM Modi not giving any specific time frame on the implementation of the scheme, though he had once again lent an assurance saying “we will have good news on basis of the ongoing talks” in his Independence Day address on Saturday.
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)