Advani vows to address retired soldiers’ grievances (Lead)

March 19th, 2009 - 4:50 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, March 19 (IANS) National Democratic Alliance (NDA) prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani, who has assured retired soldiers that he will fulfil their “one rank, one pension” demand, met former defence personnel here Thursday and heard their grievances.
“I will just say that if this country gives me a chance to come in power your demands will be met. I don’t see why it should not be done. The demands are so logical and so rational. Pension is not related to the time one has retired, it is related to the service,” Advani told the ex-servicemen.

“The problem is not of inadequacy but of inequality. This condition is so serious. I assure you that my party and NDA will fulfil this. I hope your medals will be returned to you with due respect,” he added.

In pursuit of their demand for “one rank, one pension”, the retired soldiers of varying ranks have returned to the president more than 10,000 medals won in combat and for distinguished service. The ex-servicemen have been holding a sit-in protest at Jantar Mantar for the last 94 days.

“The demand has been there for the last two decades. However, the movement started only one and a half years ago. For the last 94 days, we have been sitting at Jantar Mantar on a relay hunger strike,” said Colonel (retired) Kanwar Bhardwaj, president of the Indian Ex-servicemen Movement.

For the first time Monday, Advani had openly backed the ex-servicemen and promised that his party would implement the “one rank, one pension” policy if voted to power in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

“I was pained to see that many ex-servicemen recently gave up their bravery medals in protest against the non-fulfilment of this demand. My party has considered this matter in its totality,” Advani had said.

Former soldiers under the aegis of the Indian Ex-servicemen Movement are demanding that irrespective of the date on which the soldier retires he or she should get the same pension, which rises every time there is a wage revision.

The demand has now arisen because of the recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission, which did not address the “one rank, one pension” issue. The government has rejected the demand on administrative and financial grounds.

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