Military veterans, who are on a relay hunger strike to protest the delay in implementation of one rank one pension (OROP), have refused to move out of Jantar Mantar after Delhi civic authorities tried to clear all demonstrators from the heart of the Capital ahead of Independence Day citing security reasons, reports said on Friday.
The former servicemen, a group of 50, have been protesting since the last two months to call attention to the issue and have been living out of two tents at Jantar Mantar. Officials have now removed one of the tents, reports said.
"We were told yesterday (Thursday) to remove all permanent structures from Jantar Mantar. While the reason right now is security, from now on, no permanent structure will be allowed at Jantar Mantar even for protests," NDMC deputy director RK Chabra was quoted as saying by NDTV.
Four former service chiefs have also written to President Pranab Mukherjee, asking him to "urgently intervene" in the OROP controversy saying the delay in rolling out of the scheme is a danger to political and military ethos of the country.
Alleging lack of political will, the open letter urged the President to intervene as the Supreme Commander of the forces.
In the letter General SF Rodrigues (Retd), Admiral L Ramdas (Retd), Admiral Arun Prakash (Retd) and Admiral Sureesh Mehta (Retd) said that the denial of OROP is merely the last straw that has exhausted the veterans' patience.
Referring to the on-going protests by ex-servicemen at Jantar Mantar, the letter said anything which denigrates or humiliates the veteran also hurts the self-esteem of the serving soldier - because he sees himself as tomorrow's veteran.
"Thus, the recent developments have not only triggered a process of politicization of the Indian military, but also served to inflict grave damage on its morale and self-esteem," they said in the letter.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi may announce the implementation of the much-delayed scheme for retired armed forces personnel on August 15, the day India celebrates its 68th Independence Day.
With the implementation of OROP, which will benefit about 2,500,000 people, personnel who retired over the years will draw the same pension as officers and soldiers of the same rank who retire now. They will also be entitled to a year's back pay in pensions at the new rate.
The NDA government has been facing sharp criticism from associations of retired military personnel and the main opposition Congress for not implementing the OROP scheme.
Its implementation was one of the major poll promises made by the Bharatiya Janata Party in the run-up to the general elections last year. However, more than a year has passed since he assumed power in May last year the scheme continues to elude ex-servicemen.
The military veterans say they will wait till August 15 and if the government does not honour their demands they will step up their protests by staging more hunger strikes around the country. Social activist Anna Hazare, who is a former army man, has already announced that he will launch an indefinite fast on October 2 in Delhi over the land mill and to press for OROP.
(With agency inputs)