New Delhi: Angry over the delay in implementation of 'One Rank One Pension', ex-servicemen on Sunday launched a protest at Jantar Mantar here. Signing a petition with blood they prepared to return gallantry medals to the president.
The veterans will now start a hunger strike from Monday, led by Colonel M.B. Ahluwalia (retd). At least 50 others were expected to join the hunger strike, while hundreds were set to participate in the protest action.
A delegation of the protesting ex-servicemen went to Rashtrapati Bhavan to meet President Pranab Mukherjee, who is the supreme commander of the country's armed forces -- but failed to meet him.
"We went to the Rashtrapati Bhavan with the petition, but we were informed that the president is in Shimla," Sujata Singh, daughter of 1965 war veteran Brig. Umrao Singh (retd) who was also part of the 11-member delegation that went to Rashtrapati Bhavan, told IANS.
The delegation handed over the petition, and around 1,500 gallantry medals to a Rashtrapati Bhavan official.
"We have returned around 22,000 medals in the past, but the president refused to accept them," Major Vijay Sharma (retd) told IANS.
Colonel U.B. Singh (retd), a veteran of the 1971 war, said it was not a protest against the government but an expression of their views.
"We are not protesting against the government... We are just expressing our views," he said.
According to the United Ex-Servicemen of India, an umbrella group formed by the ex-servicemen, the protest was held at 55-odd centres across the country.
The centres included Jammu, Jalandhar, Ambala, Thiruvananthapuram, Madurai, Mumbai, Visakhapatnam, Hyderabad, Secunderabad, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Bhopal, Bhubaneswar, Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara, Pune, Nashik, Nagpur, Bhopal, Meerut, Chennai, Jaipur, Nagaur, Alwar and Kota, among others.
The veterans said they were also geared to go on a relay hunger strike starting Monday. With 'One Rank One Pension', defence personnel who retired in the past would be able to draw the same pension as officers and soldiers of the same rank retiring now.
One Rank, One Pension (OROP) policy is expected to benefit 25 lakh ex-servicemen and widows of defence personnel.