New Delhi: Despite government overtures, three ex-servicemen on a fast unto death on the 'One Rank One Pension' issue refused on Wednesday to end their protest. Ex-servicemen are likely to hold more protests even as they wait for a meeting with the prime minister, their spokesmen said.
"We have requested Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar to help us meet the prime minister," said Major General Satbir Singh (retd), chairman, Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement.
While ex-servicemen, whose agitation continued for the 66th day on Wednesday, initially agreed not to scale up their agitation before August 26, Col. Anil Kaul (retd), spokesperson of the Indian United Ex-Servicemen Front, told IANS that the protestors did not agree to this and might go ahead with their plans for more protests.
The veterans planned a candlelight march to the India Gate on Sunday, but decided to reschedule it as it coincided with the visit of Pakistan's National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz.
"We are trying to convince the veterans to wait till August 23 at least; I hope the prime minister gives us an appointment before that," Kaul said.
Parrikar too asked the veterans to wait till August 24, as he was scheduled to meet Modi on August 23.
"The veterans do not want to wait. There will be more protests," Kaul said.
The indefinite hunger strike by retired Colonel Pushpender Singh and former havildar Major Singh continued for third day on Wednesday while it was the second day of the fast unto death for retired havildar Ashok Chauhan.
The ex-servicemen had a meeting with Principal Secretary in the Prime Minister's Office, Nripendra Misra, on Tuesday after Army Chief General Dalbir Singh called Maj. Gen. Satbir Singh (retd) on Tuesday night and convinced him for the meeting. The meeting remained inconclusive.
A statement by the ex-servicemen's front said they had urged the three veterans to give up their fast unto death, but they insisted on continuing it.
"We urged retired Col. Pushpinder Singh, retired havildar Major Singh and retired havildar Ashok Chauhan to give up the fast unto death till August 26," a statement said on Wednesday.
"The United Front of Ex-Servicemen (UFESM) again requested the three ex-servicemen to discontinue their fast unto death till August 26. They were even requested that if the government response on August 26 would not be satisfactory, the UFESM advisory council would not stop them from resuming their fast unto death," the statement said.
"But they were determined and did not agree to UFESM advisory council's request. All three are observing the fast unto death on their own will and have not been pressured or influenced in any way by any members present at the Jantar Mantar," it added.
According to statement, the medical parameters of the three fasting veterans were stable.
The statement also said that ex-servicemen told Misra on Tuesday that if the government was serious about their interests, it would have initiated action on the other two promises made in the BJP manifesto - a martyrs' memorial and establishment of a veterans' commission to be chaired and manned by ex-servicemen.
"Misra was taken by surprise and immediately called the defence ministry secretary and asked to be briefed soon on both the issues. The meeting ended without any assurance from both sides," the statement said.
Ex-servicemen are demanding 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 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.