Supreme commander of armed forces has no time for us: Ex-soldiers (Lead)

February 21st, 2009 - 9:03 pm ICT by IANS  

Pratibha PatilNew Delhi, Feb 21 (IANS) A delegation of ex-soldiers Saturday marched to the Rashtrapati Bhawan and returned over 3,000 gallantry and meritorious service medals to protest the rejection of their demand for “one rank one pension” - and complained that President Pratibha Patil, the supreme commander of the armed forces, “did not have time to meet us”.
Patil, the supreme commander of the armed forces, did not personally receive the medals, which were collected by presidential palace officials.

“We are really hurt that the supreme commander of defence forces did not have the time to meet us. We expect she (Patil) will give us time and listen to our problems,” said Major General (retd) Satbir Singh of the Indian Ex-servicemen’s Movement (IEM) that organised the protest for the second time this month. The previous one was on Feb 8.

The IEM is demanding that irrespective of the date on which a 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.

“We fought for the country without caring for our lives and are now compelled to fight another battle for our rights. We are demanding ‘one rank one pension’ and as a protest are returning the honours we won by putting our lives at take,” Commodore (retd) Lokesh Batra said.

“We feel so dejected today that we are compelled to return out lifetime honours for our rights. Despite a raw deal being meted to us, we are ready to lend our support in any hostile situation,” said Maj. Gen. (retd) Balbir Kataria while handing over his meritorious service medal.

Despite the central government rejecting their demand, the ex-soldiers have decided to continue their struggle.

“We are in process of collecting more medals and will return them to the president. We have received support from across the country and ex-servicemen abroad to take the struggle forward,” said Warrant Officer (retd) K. Bala.

Minister of State for Defence M.M. Pallam Raju had Wednesday said that though the “one rank one pension” demand had been rejected, “the government is also examining whether certain improvements can be made in the pension being given to the old pensioners”.

According to IEM officials, a sepoy who retired before 1996 gets a monthly pension of Rs.3,670, but one who retired between 1996 and December 2005 gets Rs.4,680. A sepoy who retired after January 2006 gets Rs.8,700.

Effectively then, an army havildar, who retired earlier, gets pension money that is less than what a sepoy retiring after January 2006 gets though the havildar enjoys a higher rank. The mismatch applies to all ranks.

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