Ex-servicemen’s hunger strike continues

Staff Reporter

In support of their demand for “One Rank, One Pension”

NEW DELHI: A relay hunger strike under the banner of Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement (IESM) in support of their long-standing demand for grant of “One Rank, One Pension” entered its fifth day at Jantar Mantar here on Saturday. Two of the participants -- Jawan Suleman Khan and Naik Rekh Raj -- are on fast unto death at the protest venue.

Supported by 300 organisations of ex-Servicemen across the country, the indefinite hunger strike began on December 16, coinciding with the Vijay Diwas. Eleven ex-Servicemen, including retired officers, take part in the strike every day.

Besides, immediate implementation of “One Rank, One Pension”, their other major demands include constitution of an ex-Servicemen commission with necessary statutory powers and provision of giving them representation on all committees.

“Our demand for ‘One Rank, One Pension’ has long been pending. A Parliamentary Committee on Defence recommended grant of one-rank-one-pension in 2003, but it could not be implemented due to change of guard at the Centre. Even the Congress party, which heads the present coalition government at Centre, supported our demand in its manifesto. In 2002, Congress president Sonia Gandhi endorsed the demand speaking at a rally in Chandigarh and then President A.P.J Abdul Kalam also supported the demand while addressing both Houses of the Parliament. But it is distressing that the demand has now been rejected by the Government without giving any reason,” said IESM vice-chairman Major General (Retd.) Satbir Singh.

“We organised a day-long hunger strike at India Gate in May and also held rallies across the country in support of our demands. We called on senior political leaders, but no one listened to us. When pushed to the wall, we decided to go on an indefinite relay hunger strike to highlight our demands. We wanted to hold the strike at Amar Jawan Jyoti at India Gate, but the Government refused the permission,” said Mr. Singh.

Lamenting the alleged “apathetic” attitude of the government towards the demands of ex-Servicemen, Mr. Singh said: “If the demand for one-rank-one-pension is not met, it will adversely affect the quality of manpower in Defence services as veterans are the extension of the serving soldiers. To say the least, it is unjust, unfair and unethical. It is demoralising for the Defence personnel who are the strongest pillar of democracy and the last bastion of the nation.”

A delegation also called on former Defence Minister George Fernandes on Friday seeking his support.