Friday, November 4, 2011

Veterans Rally to Protest Government Apathy

Veterans to rally, return medals to protest Centre's apathy
Respected Sir/Ma'am,
The following report -- released by the United News of India news agency on November 3, 2011 -- is for your kind perusal.
With regards

Veterans to rally, return medals to protest Centre's apathy
Bhopal, Nov 3 (UNI) Veterans of the Indian Armed Forces will stage a Vishal Rally at New Delhi's Jantar Mantar on November 12, under the banner of the Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement (IESM), to peacefully protest against the Centre's apathy and negative attitude towards genuine demands.
"The event will commence at 1000 hrs and conclude at 1500 hrs. Thereafter, a delegation will leave for Rashtrapati Bhavan to return medals and submit a memorandum signed in blood to President Pratibha Devisingh Patil (who is the Supreme Commander of the Indian Armed Forces)," IESM Vice-Chairman Major-General (Retd) Satbir Singh, Sena Medal said in a release. IESM Chairman Lieutenant-Gen (Retd) Raj Kadyan, Param Vishisht Seva Medal, Ati Vishisht Seva Medal, VSM; has already written to the President to grant audience. The veterans have decided that in case the President herself does not accept the medals and the memorandum, they will bring these back.
Despite the veterans' peaceful protest movement throughout the country for the past over 40 months, deposit of over 22,000 Gallantry and Distinguished Service medals besides memoranda signed in their blood by over 1.50 lakh veterans to the Supreme Commander and numerous letters and meetings with the Prime Minister, the Defence Minister and other authorities, the Centre has not accepted their demands, the main one being 'One Rank One Pension' (OROP).

Widows of Ex Servicemen discriminated
"It seems that the Centre yields only to non-peaceful agitations. The veterans are getting restless and their patience is running out. Before some misguided and volatile elements resort to unacceptable methods, the Government should grant the justified demands," Maj-Gen Singh felt.The veterans, their families and supporters have resolved to intensify their protest movement across the country to highlight the grave injustice that the Centre is meting out to them by disregard to services rendered by the erstwhile soldiers.
The graver injustice has been done to the defence widows, who are in receipt of family pensions, by excluding them from the ambit of enhancement of pensions of Junior Commissioned Officers and Other Ranks carried out in March last year. Thus the weakest and the most needy segment of pensioners was left out.
The discrimination against the widows caused great consternation among the ESM community. The case was taken up with the Prime Minister by the IESM for extending the enhancement of pension to the widows; the same has not been carried out so far.
"The Centre's indifferent attitude towards the Armed Forces is unexplainable especially keeping in mind the hostile environment prevailing on our borders both at land and sea. A nation to survive in such an environment has to keep its forces well-equipped, well-trained, motivated and contented. It needs to be understood that veterans are the extension of service personnel. Any injustice to veterans also affects the serving soldiers who are future veterans. These aspects need to the holistically addressed," Maj-Gen Singh noted

Court Orders not implemented
Out of the cases filed in the Armed Forces Tribunal, over 90 per cent were won by defence personnel in the past year, but the Government is yet to implement the verdicts. The recommendatory Armed Forces Grievances Redressal Commission -- ordered by the Supreme Court -- which was to be effective from January 15, 2011 has been dispensed with. The apex court passed this judgement after deliberating on the treatment being meted out to the defence personnel by the Centre.
A petition filed by Rajya Sabha Member Rajeev Chandrasekhar (Independent) was being heard by the Upper House's Petition Committee that is not even being mentioned by the Government while replying to questions regarding non-grant of OROP.
"They continue to quote the two-years-old Committee of Secretaries," the veteran explained. The Centre paid "scant heed" to recommendations of the all-party Standing Committee on Defence comprising 31 parliamentarians strongly recommending OROP thrice in the past year.
The manner in which the Government treats recommendations of parliamentary committees and gives credence to the Report of the Committee of Secretaries, who are "biased" against the Armed Forces, speaks of the Centre's "apathy".

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