OROP protest on, ex-army chief urges PM Modi to talk directly

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New Delhi, Aug 21: The agitation demanding implementation of 'One Rank, One Pension' scheme for ex-servicemen continued for the 68th day on Friday, which also marked the fifth day of indefinite fast unto death at Jantar Mantar here.

Friday was the fifth day of the indefinite hunger strike by Colonel Pushpender Singh (retd) and Major Singh, a retired Havildar and the fourth day for Havildar Ashok Chauhan (retd).

OROP: Ex-army chief urges PM to talk

All three veterans are medically fit, spokesperson of United Ex-Servicemen Front Col Anil Kaul (retd) told IANS.

Former army chief Gen. VP Malik (retd), meanwhile, stressed that it was high time the political leadership talked directly to the agitating soldiers.

Gen Malik, who has been actively involved in the talks between the government and the veterans, and acted as intermediary a lot of times, said it was unfair that the bureaucrats were talking to veterans on behalf of the government.

"I do feel that prime minister should talk to the veterans directly now," Malik told IANS. "I don't think it is fair that bureaucracy talks to the veterans. The leaders should talk directly."

The veterans were trying to meet the prime minister and have sought help from Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar for this.

[What is One Rank, One Pension of Armed forces?]

Asked if the veterans got any confirmation for a meeting with the prime minister, Col. Kaul said: "We are hoping that the prime minister will meet us by August 25 or 26."

"The principal secretary (in PMO Nripendra Misra), when he met us, had asked for around 10 days... The ball is in their court now, we can only wait and watch," he told IANS.

"We are firm that we will not agree if there is any dilution in the definition of OROP," he added.

The Prime Minister's Office held talks with the veterans at least thrice in the last fortnight.

The first two meetings were before Independence Day, when Gen Malik met PMO representatives on August 11 and again on August 13.

According to sources, Modi was ready to announce OROP in his I-Day speech, however, the talks between PMO representatives and the veterans failed as the government wanted to make certain changes in the scheme, which the veterans felt was equal to back tracking from what was promised.

The situation worsened when police used force against the veterans on August 14. The next meeting with Principal Secretary Misra came on Tuesday.

The meeting, however, remained inconclusive.

While the secretary urged the veterans to end the agitation, the ex-servicemen stayed firm on their demands.

The ex-servicemen are demanding that 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.

IANS

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