A group of retired military personnel, which has been at the forefront in the demand for implementing One Rank-One Pension (OROP), on Thursday threw their weight behind the Congress in all-poll bound states.
In a joint press conference in New Delhi with the Congress, Major General Satbir Singh of the Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement (IESM) said ex-servicemen will be supporting the party for it has assured them of fighting for their demands.
The group has been agitating at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar for the past 571 days over the implementation of OROP, 7th pay commission and other issues related to ex-servicemen.
So far, the Congress has fielded a battery of leaders, including Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh and his Uttarakhand counterpart Harish Rawat, to launch a stinging attack on the BJP-led NDA government over OROP and other issues.
In a bid to woo the retired soldiers ahead of the assembly elections in Punjab, the Congress included a 21-point agenda for the ex-servicemen in its manifesto.
“There will be a dedicated ex-servicemen (ESM) cell in the chief minister’s office,” said Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh. “We will also create department of Guardians of Governance at village, panchayat and block levels to monitor expenditure of funds and implementation of government schemes for retired military personnel,” he said.
Attacking Prime Minister Narendra Modi and defence minister Manohar Parrikar, Amarinder said the leaders had not only put the OROP demand on the back-burner but also “cheated” the armed forces of their “rightful due” as a result of its revised ranking system that widened the disparity between civil and military officers. He also hit out at the NDA government for ignoring the interests of defence forces in the 7th pay commission.
Virbhadra said it was “shameful that soldiers were agitating and the government was oblivious” to their cause, while Rawat claimed that the PM had “diluted and diverted” the OROP issue.
Though OROP was implemented in September 2015, ex-servicemen said the scheme didn’t address all the concerns raised. In November, a 70-year-old retired soldier, Subedar Ram Kishan Grewal committed suicide over the issue. Grewal, who was leading the protest of Haryana’s retired servicemen, had attempted to meet Parrikar with a petition before taking the drastic step.
A week after, Grewal’s arrears had been credited to his account.