Ex-servicemen want to meet PM, may step up protests

New Delhi, Sep 4 (IANS) Ex-servicemen seeking the implementation of OROP on Friday sought a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and vowed to intensify their agitation if their demands were not met.

Leaders of retired soldiers holding a dragging protest in the heart of the capital said they had written five times to the prime minister but there had been no response.

“We have written five times to the prime minister seeking a direct meeting,” Major General Satbir Singh (retired) told the media. “We would like to meet him.”

Earlier, saying the government was planning to make a unilateral announcement of One Rank One Pension, he said the ex-servicemen would not allow the authorities to dilute the OROP’s provisions.

Addressing retired soldiers at the Jantar Mantar protest venue, Satbir Singh said they were fighting against “injustice” and were not against any government or political party.

He pointed out that unlike civil servants, only one percent of military personnel serve up to the age of 60 and that 85 percent retire before the age of 40.

“We will intensify our agitation if OROP is not in conformity with what we are asking,” he said, adding that they were, however, willing to make minor concessions.

“If any announcement (by the government) is against our interests, we will oppose it,” he added.

Satbir Singh described the Jantar Mantar protest site in the heart of the national capital as a “Sainik parliament”.

As he spoke, hundreds of former soldiers repeatedly raised slogans like “Bharat Mata ki Jai” and “Sainik Ekta Zindabad!”

Ex-servicemen began their protest here demanding implementation of OROP in June. Some have been on indefinite fast since August 17. Relay hunger strikes in solidarity are being observed in some 60 cities.

Meanwhile, informed sources said the government was likely to make public the OROP scheme despite differences on key issues with ex-servicemen.

A draft of the scheme was ready and was likely to be made public soon, the sources said, adding the government had taken 2013 as the base year to determine pension. The date of implementation would be July 2014.

The sources said an agreement had been reached between the government and veterans on both issues.

But the government would review pensions only once in five years, which is not acceptable to the veterans.

The ex-servicemen had agreed to go for revision once in two years, even as they said it would mean that 11 percent of the seniors who have retired would get lower pension than their juniors for a year.

A key demand of the ex-servicemen is that juniors should not get higher pension that seniors at any time.

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