Scores of military veterans today returned their medals in Delhi, Haryana and Punjab in protest against the “diluted” notification of OROP scheme even as Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said their action is “unlike that of a soldier”.
The veterans said they will observe a ‘Black Diwali’ to protest against the NDA government going back on its assurances on the One Rank One Pension (OROP) scheme.
At many places including Panchkula, Ambala, Mohali and Patiala, the veterans held protest, saying they were dissatisfied with Centre’s notification issued last week.
Ex-servicemen from Ambala, Chandigarh, Moga, Jalandhar and Gurdaspur already returned their medals today, while those from Mumbai, Pune, Vadodara and Bangalore will follow suit “next”, Col(retd) Anil Kaul, spokesman of the protesters, said in Delhi.
In Delhi, several ex-servicemen returned their medals before the District Collector’s office.
“The veterans had threatened to leave the medals on road if we didn’t accept it. Hence, we accepted those,” District Collector Sanjay Kumar told reporters.
Kaul also hit back at Parrikar over his “unlike soldiers behaviour” remark, saying his behaviour too “doesn’t behove that of a Defence Minister”.
Brig Kiran Krishan (retd), Convener for North Haryana of the Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement (IESM) said the veterans gathered at Major Sandeep Shankla war memorial in Panchkula, where the medals of over 150 veterans were collected.
“After that we marched till mini secretariat in Sector 1, Panchkula and handed over the medals to Additional Deputy Commissioner, Panchkula, as the DC was away for some other programme with the Chief Minister,” he told PTI in Chandigarh.
He said those veterans who returned their medals were of various ranks including Major Generals, Subedar Majors, Captains, Sepoys, among other ranks.
“In our memorandum to the Prime Minister, which we submitted to the ADC, Panchkula, we have expressed our dissatisfaction on issue of notification as it doesn’t meet our requirements,” he said.
Parrikar said he was “pained” to see such tactics being used by ex-servicemen.
Claiming that the veterans have been misguided, he asked them not to link their decision to return medals to a financial demand.
“Medals are given by the country for the service and gallantry acts that the soldiers have rendered. A section insisting on returning the medals because one is not happy with certain clauses of OROP, for which the government is paying over Rs 8,000 crore, is demeaning the medal itself,” Parrikar told PTI in Vasco Da Gama.
While noting that democracy gives everyone the right to protest, he urged the veterans not to return their medals which have been bestowed upon them by the country.
“These acts are not in line with the army discipline. It is hurting the basic ethos of the army,” Parrikar said.
Congress accused the government of practising “politics of deception” on the OROP issue.
Independent MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar, who had negotiated between the government and ex-servicemen over OROP issue, urged the veterans not to return their medals and asked them to engage with the one-man commission set up for redressal of pending issues.