Anger among retired soldiers over their unfulfilled longstanding demand for one rank, one pension (OROP) once again took palpable form on Sunday with ex-servicemen from across the nation returning 2,000 medals at a rally held at Jantar Mantar. The medals were returned to President Pratibha Patil by Sunday afternoon.
Though ex-servicemen have held three such mass demonstrations since February, the one organised on Sunday may have, in all likelihood, left the UPA government anxious as soldiers announced their decision to support the BJP during the coming elections.
The ex-servicemen hope projecting themselves as a strong vote bank of 25 lakh voters nationwide may help drive home their point this elections.
The defence pensioners in the country are at loggerheads with the government because they want defence personnel of same rank and same length of service to get the pension, irrespective of the date of retirement. The Sixth Pay Commission, however, has created four classes within a class —pre-1996, post-1996 to December 2005, post-January 2006 to September 2008 and post-October 2008.
“Our school of thought demands us to be apolitical, but the government’s apathetic attitude towards our needs has forced us to take this stand. This is the last resort. I have issued an advisory to vote for the BJP today as it has clearly included the ‘one rank one pension’ issue in its manifesto and their prime ministerial candidate has supported our demand,” said Lt Gen. Raj Kadyan, chairman Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement (IESM).
The inclination to vote BJP to power seemed even more pronounced with Vijay Kumar Malhotra making an appearance at the rally. Kadyan, however, denied inviting him.
“Why shouldn’t we vote for the BJP? They’ve promised us action. If they fail, we’ll ensure they get the same treatment that the ex-servicemen will meet out to the congress during the coming elections,” said Col SS Rajan, who brought 132 medals from Karnataka to be returned to the President.