OROP row: Over 2,000 war veterans return medals, say government cheated them

New Delhi: Over 2,000 ex-servicemen protesting against the government's "diluted" one-pension-one rank scheme today returned their medals in Delhi, Haryana and Punjab, the organizations spearheading the movement claimed today as they hit back at Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar for his "unlike soldiers behaviour" remark aimed at them.

Colonel (retd) Anil Kaul, spokesman of the protesters in Delhi, said 2,000 ex-servicemen's medals were deposited at the district collector's office.

"The veterans had threatened to leave the medals on the road if we didn't accept it. Hence, we accepted those," District Collector Sanjay Kumar told reporters.

In Chandigarh, Brigadier Kiran Krishan (retd), Convener for North Haryana of Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement (IESM), a constituent of United Front of Ex-Servicemen that had led the nation-wide protest for OROP at Jantar Mantar in Delhi, said that more than 150 war veterans returned over 150 medals which were handed over to the Additional Deputy Commissioner, Panchkula.

Kaul said ex-servicemen from Ambala, Chandigarh, Moga, Jalandhar and Gurdaspur returned their medals today while those from Mumbai, Pune, Vadodara and Bangalore will follow suit.

"Our people from Mumbai, Pune, Vadodara and Bangalore will return their medals next. By the way, this is just the trailer," he added. 

Kaul reacted sharply to Parrikar's statement that the war veterans' protest against OROP notification is "unlike that of a soldier" and said the Parrikar's behaviour "too doesn't behove that of a Defence Minister.

Dismissing Parrikar's remarks that the protesters were being "misguided" and that the OROP notification issued on Saturday has been his "achievement", the agitators shot back at the BJP leader asking him to learn English to know meanings of the two words and asked him not to "lie" to his soldiers seeking their due rights.

"He says our behaviour is unlike that of a soldier. But we feel Parrikar's behaviour is unlike that of a Defence Minister. We have been seeking our due to rights for past 149 days. But government has found no time to listen to us. 

"Hence, we have been impelled to agitate Mr Parrikar. Your notification is not what we have been talking about. Therefore, we are returning medals," Kaul said.

The retired military personnel have said that the government has betrayed them in the name of making changes in the OROP scheme.

"OROP scheme was cleared by parliament. Then why were the changes made in the scheme? Why did they put conditions?" former Group Captain V.K. Gandhi, general secretary of Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement, said.

"We returned 20,000 medals during 2009, 2010 and 2011. But at that time the then government had said they were working on the OROP scheme. But the present government is cheating us. They reduced the scheme to 'One Rank Five Pension' scheme," Gandhi added.

The veterans have listed seven changes made by the government which include annual equalisation, 2013-14 financial years as the base year for calculating pension, and taking the highest pension scale of 2013 as the base for calculation and not the average as announced by the government.

The new scheme also states that it will be reviewed once in five years and not annually.

Gandhi said the veterans demanded reconsideration on the changes made by the government in implementation of the OROP scheme.

Earlier, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said ex-servicemen protesting against the OROP notification were misguided. 

He said while everyone had a right to make a demand in a democracy, not all demands can be fulfilled.

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