High drama was witnessed in the city’s Railway Colony area on Friday as four ex-servicemen climbed atop an overhead water tank and threatened to jump, as a deadlock between the central government and veterans over the One Rank, One Pension scheme continues.
Harbhal Singh, Pargat Singh, Gurdial Singh and Kartar Singh, all residents of Tarn Taran district, remained on the tank for 16 hours, prompting the police to deploy more than two dozen policemen at the spot.
In a scene reminiscent of the Bollywood blockbuster Sholay, the four ex-servicemen, who had climbed the tank at 2 am, warned that they would jump at 6pm as frantic civil and police officials spent hours trying to persuade them to come down.
The veterans came down only after officials told them their “charter of demands” had been sent to the defence ministry and that the defence minister will be holding talks with the ex-servicemen community in the next two weeks.
The four ex-servicemen are members of the Voice of Ex-Servicemen Society, which has been demanding equal pension benefits for defence personnel irrespective of the rank.
The ex-servicemen society comprises retired junior commissioned officers and non-commissioned officers from across the country. Its national coordinator and secretary general, Bir Bahadur Singh, said the society has been demanding that pension benefits, including the disability and widow pension, be given equally to all personnel of one rank.
The society’s demands also include transparency in grant of bravery medals, besides allotment of security agency licenses and release of sepoys lodged in Pakistani jails.
Bahadur Singh also blamed the high ranking ex-servicemen of having “hijacked” the One Rank, One Pension slogan.
Punjab has more than three lakh ex-servicemen, mostly junior personnel such as sepoys, lance nayaks, havildars, seamen and airmen from the army, the navy and the air force.
“The OROP slogan was originally given by junior personnel who struggle in service and even after retirement to make both ends meet,” Bahadur Singh said.
“85% of the junior rank employees in the forces retire after 17-20 years of service, and their survival later becomes an issue.”