INDIAN VETERANS RETURN MEDALS IN DISGUST TO THEIR COWARDLY SUPREME COMMANDER
Date: 09 Feb 2009
Ex-servicemen return medals to President
BS Reporter / New Delhi February 09, 2009, 0:57 IST
An ex-serviceman, who once served in the Dogra Regiment and retired as a Subedar of the Indian Army, walked up to a “collection box” placed at the capital’s Jantar Mantar, and deposited his prized possessions — his military medals. And he was not alone. Around 250 soldiers, including officers, deposited their military medals as a mark of protest against pension anomalies. The medals, were returned to President Pratibha Patil, the commander-in-chief of the Indian armed forces, at Rashtrapati Bhavan today.
Gathering under the aegis of the Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement (IESM), the ex-servicemen are disillusioned since their demand for “one-rank, one-pension” (OROP) has not been implemented by the government. The ex-soldiers’ demand under the OROP is: “Two individuals retiring after equal length of service and from the same rank must get equal pension.”
The Pay Commission’s recommendations for a hike in pension for retiring armed forces personnel did not have retrospective effect. The IESM said that a Havildar who retired before January 1, 2006 would receive Rs 5,239 as pension, but a Havildar retiring in 2006 or thereafter would receive Rs 8,030. Similarly, a Brigadier’s pension would be Rs 26,150 or Rs 31,170 depending on whether he retired before or during/after 2006.
The disparity manifests not just between pensioners of the same rank, but between pensioners of different ranks. For example, a Havildar, who is of a higher rank than a Sepoy, would draw Rs 5,008 pension if he retired before 1996. His pension would be 37 per cent lesser than the pension of a Sepoy (Rs 6,860) who retired in 2006.
Wing Commander (retired) C K Sharma, who was overseeing the collection of the returned medals, said the IESM had been holding a hunger strike since December 16, 2008, but the government had been indifferent to its views.
Speakers who addressed the hundreds of soldiers at the IESM rally today, said ex-servicemen had been given a raw deal, considering that the OROP's equivalent principle was applicable to parliamentarians, members of the state legislators and judges. Civil servants with designations of secretaries, special secretaries and other senior posts were also beneficiaries under the provision of 'fixed salaries', said an IESM statement.
Political parties have taken note of the demands made by ex-servicemen, but it has remained in the election manifestos only. The Congress, too, listed OROP in its manifesto for the 2004 elections, but the United Progressive Alliance government has not addressed this issue, said a retired Army officer. Highlighting the plight of jawans, he said a recommendation that jawans, who usually retire in their mid-30s, could be given lateral entry into the paramilitary forces or the police has also been rejected by the Centre.
More than 300 retired soldiers of varying ranks Sunday marched to Rashtrapati Bhavan and returned medals won in combat and for distinguished service as they sought equal pension for each rank. Earlier in the day, they had gathered at the Jantar Mantar observatory in the heart of New delhi to protest, which some even termed as a black day for the Indian armed forces.
President Pratibha Patil did not personally receive the medals, which were collected by some of her officials. The soldiers, who also included three-star generals, marched under the banner of the Indian Ex-servicemen's Movement (IEM).
The main demand of the protesters is that irrespective of the date on which a soldier retires, he or she should get the same pension.
An army sepoy who retired before 1996 gets a monthly pension of Rs.3,670. But one who retired between 1996 and December 2005 gets Rs.4,680. A sepoy who retired after January 2006 gets Rs.8,700.
Effectively then, an army havildar, who retired earlier, gets pension money that is less than that of a sepoy retiring after January 2006 though the havildar enjoys a higher rank. The mismatch applies to all ranks.
'Most IAS (Indian Administrative Service) officers, judges, governors, MPs and even the president enjoy this right (of one rank one pension),' pointed out one retired soldier.