Ex-servicemen from across Punjab gathered at a massive rally in Jalandhar on Sunday to demand the “undiluted implementation” of one rank one pension (OROP) and threatened to intensify their agitation.
Addressing an estimated 7,000 retired defence personnel, Major General Satbir Singh (retd), who spearheaded the recent OROP hunger strike at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar, said: “The government did not implement the demands recommended by the Koshiyari committee. The OROP announced by it is diluted. If the government does not implement the original OROP in letter and spirit, we will intensify our protest”.
The rally got a huge response despite the tension and protests across Punjab due to the recent incidents of sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib.
“The government is underestimating our voting power. We will stand against it in the 2017 election (in Punjab), if they don’t listen to our demands,” said Maj Gen Satbir Singh, the chairperson of the United Ex-Servicemen Front of India, who was the chief guest.
“Politicians and the bureaucratic system are responsible for the condition of the veterans. The defence fraternity is suffering due to their bias against us,” he said.
‘Government backtracking on original promise’
Ex-servicemen at the rally complained that the government had diluted provisions of the OROP scheme and accused it of backtracking from its earlier stand of implementing it.
On intensifying the protest, they said similar rallies would be held in Chennai and Bangalore besides venues in Andhra Pradesh in November and December. A dharna will be held again at Jantar Mantar in the national capital in December.
“We are very happy with the response to today’s rally. We look forward more ex-servicemen joining the cause,” said Col Balbir Singh (retd), president of the Ex-servicemen Welfare Association in Jalandhar.
Some of the veterans even accused the government of backstabbing them. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi has only been giving speeches on peace and harmony. He is ignoring the army that is the biggest pillar of national security,” said Colonel Teja Singh (retd), a veteran. “Our fight is not just for financial security but for the dignity of the armed forces, which consecutive governments have tried to bring down,” he added.
The veterans disagreed with the government’s decision to revise pension of ex-servicemen after five years instead of annually as sought. They also opposed a one-man judicial committee, as the government has decided, to work on the details of OROP. They reiterated that all ex-servicemen should get the benefit even if they had taken voluntary retirement.
The state-level rally was attended by veterans from Amritsar, Pathankot, Dera Baba Nanak, Sangrur, Adampur and Hoshiarpur. However, supporters from Beas could not make it to the rally due to road blockades in the area.