The ex-servicemen’s agitation here over delay in implementation of the ‘One Rank, One Pension’ scheme continued for the 67th day on Thursday with three veterans on fast unto death refusing to give up their protest.
The indefinite hunger strike by Colonel Pushpender Singh (retd) and Major Singh, a retired Havildar, continued for the fourth day on Thursday. It was also the third day for Havildar Ashok Chauhan (retd).
On Thursday, the three were medically examined and declared fit.
The fast has continued despite a section of the veterans urging the three to give it up till August 26, expecting talks with the government.
The veterans were seeking a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and were also urged by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar to wait till August 24 before stepping up the agitation.
However, a majority of the protesting veterans were not ready to wait.
While initially the veterans had planned to “symbolically” burn their gallantry medals, the idea was dropped later and a statement said no such activity will take place.
“We will not burn the medals,” Col Anil Kaul (retd), a spokesperson of the Indian United Ex-Servicemen Front, told IANS.
“A wrong piece of information regarding burning of medals is hereby refuted. No such activity will take place,” he said.
The veterans, before beginning their agitation at Jantar Mantar here, sent around 22,000 medals back to the president.
On Thursday, along with the three on indefinite fast, 30 volunteers from Punjab and Jhajjar took part in the relay fast.
The protesting veterans also received widespread support from civil society organisations as well as individuals, including the Delhi Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (DSGPC).
On Sunday, the ex-servicemen will light candles at Amar Jawan Jyoti at India Gate as a tribute to the martyrs of the 1965 India-Pakistan war.
“This activity is not linked to OROP. This is a way of paying homage to the martyrs of the ’65 Indo-Pak War, ahead of government-organised functions for the same,” a statement said.
It, however, added that the ex-servicemen have already announced they will boycott the government celebrations.
“There will be no symbols of protest during the candle light march of any type,” said the statement.
The ex-servicemen are demanding that there should be no change in the definition of OROP, the date of implementation should remain as April 1, 2014, and the base year must remain 2013-14.
That means that all past pensioners would be brought at par with pension as existing on March 31, 2014.
There are around 24 lakh retired servicemen in India and around 6.5 lakh widows who will benefit if OROP is implemented.
Currently, the pension for retired personnel is based on the pay commission recommendations of the time when he or she retires. So, a major general who retired in 1996 draws a lower pension than a lieutenant colonel who retired after 1996.