An army veteran on a fast-unto-death over the One Rank One Pension (OROP) issue, was on Monday rushed to hospital after his health deteriorated on the ninth day of the fast.
Col. Pushpender Singh (retd) was taken to the Army Research and Referral Hospital in south Delhi and was admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) after his medical report showed increased ketone levels. High levels of ketones are toxic to the body.
"The doctor who examined him on Monday, said his ketone level has increased and he needs to be immediately shifted. Col Singh was reluctant but we persuaded him to be moved to the hospital," said Major General Satbir Singh, Chairman of the Indian Ex-servicemen Movement.
Even as he was being taken to the hospital, another veteran Havildar Saheb Singh (Retd) took his place and began a fast-unto-death. Two others - Havildar Major Singh (Retd) and Havildar Ashok Chauhan (Retd) - are also on a similar protest.
"I will come back and continue my fast. I am not ready to go but the people here want me to to as they say high ketone level will affect brain functioning," Col Pushpender said adding that government should immediately implement the long pending issue of OROP so that the soldiers on hunger strike can end the protest.
Pushpender was initially supposed to be moved to the Rockland Hospital.
"Delhi administration and Delhi police personnel tried to hijack the ambulance and take him to RML hospital. We have taken him to Army Research and Referral Hospital in a private car. We have also requested Army Chief to ensure best treatment for him," Col Anil Kaul (Retd), media advisor to the United Front of Ex-Servicemen said.
Pushpender's daughter said, "The soldiers are angry now and the government should ensure that soldiers are given their rights and are not treated this way".
Ex-servicemen have been protesting for the implementation of OROP for over two months and are hoping to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi soon.
Four former service chiefs recently wrote to President Pranab Mukherjee, the supreme commander of the armed forces, asking him to "urgently intervene" in the OROP row.
Ten former Service chiefs have also written a joint letter to Modi seeking early implementation of OROP.
Close to 22 lakh ex-servicemen and over six lakh war widows stand to be the immediate beneficiaries of the scheme, which envisages a uniform pension for defence personnel who retire in the same rank with the same length of service, irrespective of their date of retirement.
Currently, the pension for retired personnel is based on the Pay Commission recommendations of the time when he or she retired. So, a Major General who retired in 1996 draws a lower pension than a Lieutenant Colonel who retired after 1996.