From fighting for his country to fighting for a day-to-day existence — Sepoy Suleman Khan never fathomed life would come to this point.
Living on a monthly pension of Rs 2,600 after serving in the Army for over two decades arouses a sense of indignation in him. Selling peanuts for a living adds to the humiliation.
Khan and several other ex-servicemen like him are no longer willing to endure the “government's apathy” towards their financial plight.
He and five other ex-servicemen, Major Ishwar Singh Jakhar, Captain OM Parkash, Subedar Major SR Dhaiya, Naik Rekh Raj and Naik RK Yadav, have taken to an extreme method to have their voices heard — fast-unto-death.
On Saturday, over 500 ex-servicemen gathered at Jantar Mantar road to express solidarity with them and mount pressure on the government to implement the ‘one rank one pension’ (OROP) principle.
With pay commissions increasing the salaries of armed forces personnel every 10 years, the gap between the pensions received by those who retired before the implementation of the commissions and those after implementation has widened. The OROP principle intends to resolve the disparity of pensionary benefits between pensioners of the same rank.
The government rejected this long-standing demand this month.
Major General Satbir Singh, vice chairman of the Indian Ex-servicemen Movement, said: “Who would like to join the defence when over 95 per cent of them will be compulsorily retired between the ages of 35 to 42 and will be going through four to five pay commissions in their lifetime? Downgradation will force them to live a life of penury.”
“I have served during the 1962 and the 1971 wars. My family and I currently live in a jhuggi (slum dwelling) in Madanpur Khadar and supporting them on a measly pension of Rs 2,600 makes life difficult,” said Khan, who was on his 12th day without any food on Saturday.