A 70-year-old retired soldier from Haryana committed suicide in the Capital on early Wednesday, hours after he and other veterans unsuccessfully tried to handover a petition for the defence minister on one rank one pension (Orop) scheme, his friends said.
Subedar Ram Kishan Grewal, who was leading a protest by former Haryana servicemen against Orop, reportedly reached Delhi on Monday. He was carrying a letter that listed their demands and was to be submitted to defence minister Manohar Parrikar.
“I am sacrificing my life for my country, my motherland and my country’s brave soldiers,” he wrote in the suicide note penned right below the letter.
Though Orop was announced in September 2015 but ex-servicemen say it has failed to address their concerns. The scheme promises equal pension to military personnel retiring in the same rank with the same length of service, regardless of the date of retirement.
The delegation claimed that they tried to meet Parrikar on Monday as well as Tuesday but couldn’t. “They (the ministry) did not let us enter. We requested that we will not take much time as we just need to give an application but we were not heard. No one was ready to listen which upset Grewal,” his friend Jagdish Rai told HT.
The men returned to Jantar Mantar around 1pm on Tuesday to discuss their next move. Grewal told him to arrange for food and went for a walk, Rai said. “When I left, he consumed sulphas,” Rai said. Garewal was rushed to RML hospital at around 2pm. He died Wednesday morning. Sulphas is a pesticide and used to preserve rice.
Police suspect that Grewal had planned the suicide as he was carrying sulphas tablets with him.
“To get Orop cleared was his mission. Despite the government implementing it, none of us could get any benefit. He always said that it was our right. He fought for us soldiers. When the government refused to listen, he had no choice but to kill himself,” Rai said.
He promised he would not return home till “the work” was done, Grewal’s son Jaswant said. “I do not know if he bought poison from here and went. Just a few minutes before he died, he called home to check if my mother had eaten food and if we were fine,” he said.
He called us & informed he is committing suicide as the Govt has failed to fulfil their demands related to OROP: Son of Ram Kishan Garehwal pic.twitter.com/37WwsnBOao— ANI (@ANI_news) November 2, 2016
The police have initiated an inquest proceeding and the post mortem is being conducted. Grewal would be cremated in Bamla and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal will attend his funeral.
“Both farmers and soldiers are committing suicide in Modi Raj. That means the Prime Minister is lying that OROP has been implemented. Why would Ram Kishan ji have committed suicide if OROP was being implemented?” Kejriwal tweeted.
The suicide comes two days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the government had paid nearly R5,500 crore towards Orop, fulfilling the promise he made to ex-servicemen. He was speaking in Himachal Pradesh’s Kinnaur district, where he celebrated Diwali with soldiers.
Ex-servicemen, who have continued to protest at Jantar Mantar, say four of their main demands have not been met. Last week, a government-appointed judicial panel to look into the anomalies in Orop submitted its report to Parrikar. The report is yet to be made public.