The Ex-servicemen Joint Action Front (Sanjha Morcha), from Punjab, claimed that it was blind war veteran Havildar Kaka Singh (retd), 80, whose condition moved Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi into supporting ex-servicemen organisations' demand to support one rank one pension (OROP).
On February 14, the ex-servicemen from Punjab under Col RS Boparai (retd) and Col CJS Khera (retd), president and general secretary of Sanjha Morcha respectively, went to meet Rahul Gandhi to press the long-pending demand of ex-servicemen for OROP.
Resident of Zirakpur, havildar Kaka Singh (retd), from Bengal Sappers, who was 100% blind due to heavy shelling in the Khemkaran sector during the 1965 Indo-Pak war, also accompanied the delegation.
Kaka Singh also took active part in the 1962 Indo-China war. During 1965, he was posted to 368 Field Company of 51 Engineer Regiment. After the war was over, he was medically boarded out and at that time the central and Punjab governments had announced a 'war jagir' of 30 acre of land, but till date, as claimed by Sanjha Morcha, not a penny was given to him.
"Rahul Gandhi was touched on hearing that Kaka Singh was completely blind and for the last 50 years had got no benefit despite promises. He survives on his meagre pension of Rs 9,000 per month; his initial pension was Rs 67 per month when he retired in 1965 after 10 years of service," said Col Khera, adding that Gandhi got emotional on hearing that and promised that he would support ex-servicemen.
"This seems to have paved way for his intervention in acceptance of OROP and the grant included in the recent budget," said Col Khera.
The parliamentary standing committee had said in favour of OROP on December 19, 2011, "The committee observes that one rank one pension was in vogue till 1973 when the Third Central Pay Commission took ex-parte decision against the one rank one pension formula. If this formula was working satisfactorily for more than 26 years after the country's independence, what was the harm in continuing with the formula? The terms and conditions of armed forces are tougher and harsher than the civilian government employees. There are restrictions of fundamental rights to the armed forces. Risk to life of a soldier is always higher as they work under severe strain and sense of insecurity with undefined and unlimited working hours. Transfers and dislocation along with bleak career prospects are other disadvantages attached with the armed forces. Their family life is also non-comparable with that of civilian government employees."
Justice Ghanshyam Prasad of the Chandigarh Bench of the AFT, in a judgment on OROP in Babu Lal Dhiman vs Union of India, in 2010, had said, "It is quite clear that the state cannot lay down different criteria for grant of pension for same rank of officers and personnel below officer rank (PBOR) on the basis of the cut-off date of retirement. All pensioners irrespective of the date of retirement are entitled to same pension…" It also said that the grant of unequal pay in the same rank is violation of Article 14 (equality before law) of the Constitution.
All India Ex-servicemen Welfare Association had filed the petition.