Centre to blame if anything happens to fasting veterans: Ex-servicemen

New Delhi, Jan 19 (IANS) With two former soldiers and wife of one ex-serviceman sitting on indefinite hunger strike at Jantar Mantar on the OROP issue, protesting veterans on Thursday said the government will be responsible if anything happened to those on fast.

Sudesh Goel, wife of retired Major Ajmer Singh, Havildar Mahendra Kurmar and Havildar Major Singh began the indefinite hunger strike on January 15, Brigadier J.S. Sandhu (retd) told IANS.

Havildar Major Singh had also observed an indefinite fast from August 17 to September 6 in 2015, when the indefinite hunger strike over the One Rank One Pension issue had ended.

“They have been sitting on the fast since January 15; if anything happens to anyone the government will be responsible,” Sandhu said.

While the health parameters of the hunger strikers are fine as of now, but symptoms of weakness are appearing, he said.

“Today is the fifth day; anything can happen. The woman is showing some weakness,” he said.

Sandhu accused the government of back-stabbing the veterans on the OROP issue.

“Every time we talk to them, they stab us in the back. They have given an incomplete OROP, and said the anomalies will be studied by a committee. But where is the report?” he said.

“The protest at the Jantar Mantar in New Delhi has entered 582nd day. Groups from across the country are sitting on relay hunger strike since November 1, after a gap of six months. The government continues to mislead the nation through its campaign that the actual OROP had been implemented,” said Major General Satbir Singh (retd), Adviser of the United Front of Ex-Servicemen and Chairman of the Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement (IESM).

The ex-servicemen first started the relay hunger strike at the Jantar Mantar on June 15, 2015. On August 17, 2015, two veterans started an indefinite fast, and they were joined by more ex-soldiers in the following days.

The government meanwhile announced the scheme on September 5, 2015, which took 2013 as the base year to calculate pensions. The date of implementation was fixed at July 1, 2014. The period for review was five years.

On September 6, 2015, the indefinite hunger strike ended, but protests continued along with relay hunger strikes. A one-man judicial committee was also formed under the chairmanship of Justice L. Narasimha Reddy, a retired Chief Justice of Patna High Court. The report was submitted to the Defence Ministry on October 26, 2016, but has not yet been made public.

Finally on April 29, 2016, the relay hunger strike at Jantar Mantar was called off after 320 days, but it was resumed on November 1 and has been continuing since.

The major sticking point for the protesting group of veterans is time period set for revision of pensions. While the government’s OROP has provision for revision every five years, veterans have demanded annual rationalisation of pensions.

The second major demand is regarding fixation of pensions at the top of the scale against the current fixation of mean average.

The present OROP scheme has a mechanism of fixing pensions by calculating average of highest and lowest pensions for a rank, with protection for those with higher pensions.

The third demand is to make April 1, 2014, as the implementation date and not July 1, 2014, at present.

The government has said it has taken July 1 as the date of implementation as it came in power in May 2014.

The fourth demand is for fixing the 2013-14 fiscal as the base year for implementation, and not on the basis of calendar year as it is at present.