Retired military personnel across the country went on a relay hunger strike on Monday to increase pressure on the NDA government to announce a timeframe for implementing the “one rank, one pension” (OROP) scheme.
The hunger strike in 20 cities is part of a nationwide protest launched on Sunday. They also organised a series of ‘mahasangram’ rallies in cities around the country.
In Delhi, more than 50 ex-servicemen joined the hunger strike at Jantar Mantar at 9 am. They said their only demand was the date on which they would get OROP.
The OROP scheme is aimed at ensuring that defence personnel, who retire at the same rank and with the same length of service, will get equal pension, irrespective of when they were discharged.
Maj Gen (retired) Satbir Singh, chairman of the IESM, which is spearheading the protests, said the hunger strike will spread all over the country.
Former soldiers protest
After 24 hours, the personnel on hunger strike will be replaced by another batch to continue the protest.“And this will be continued until military personnel get the date for the implementation of the one rank, one pensions scheme."
"And their protest is not against the government or any party, they just want their right,” Singh told the media.The IESM will also hold a rally in Bihar ahead of assembly elections in the state.
The polls in Bihar are likely to be held in September or October. Besides Bihar, the retired personnel believe they have a strong following in Punjab, where assembly elections are due next year.
Defence minister Manohar Parrikar has said that the OROP scheme is in its final stage and the finance ministry too will soon clear it, but the retired personnel insisted that the government should announce a timeline.
Referring to Parrikar’s remarks on Sunday that respect for the army is waning because India had not fought a war for “40-50 years”, Singh pointed out that more than 500 soldiers were killed and hundreds more were injured or disabled during the 1999 Kargil conflict.
“The military is always ready to serve the country,” he said.
The retired personnel said the issue of OROP had been dragging for 40 years and the government had always taken them for granted.
They said they had been forced to come on to the roads to demand OROP. The IESM decided to launch its protest after a meeting with the defence minister to discuss the OROP issue ended inconclusively.
The NDA government has said several times it is committed to the OROP scheme but Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the defence minister have not set a timeframe for rolling it out.
Modi has sought more time from the ex-servicemen, saying his government is trying to frame a definition of OROP that is acceptable to all stakeholders.