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No clarity from government over OROP, say veterans (Lead) 

New Delhi, Sep 3 (IANS) Even as talks with the central government’s mediators continue ex-servicemen, staging a hunger strike here to seek immediate implementation of the OROP scheme, on Thursday said there was no clarity from the government’s side over the issue.

Thursday was the 81st day of protest by ex-servicemen in the national capital. Thirteen retired soldiers are on indefinite hunger strike. Relay hunger strikes are being held in some 60 towns and cities.

“How do we negotiate when the government does not say what it is willing to offer?” asked Col. Anil Kaul (retd.) at the Jantar Mantar protest site where retired soldiers are observing a hunger strike for implementing One Rank One Pension (OROP) scheme.

Group Captain V.K. Gandhi (retd.) said: “There is no one statement from the government… One person says one thing today, another person another thing. They keep shifting the goalpost.”

The veterans rued that despite the government sending several mediators, no concrete proposal from the government has come so far.

Stating that they were still open to talks and ready to consider the government’s point of view, the ex-servicemen said there was no clarity on the government’s offer to them.

“The government makes their offers, we present our demands. But nothing is clear. One mediator makes one offer, another one makes another… The way we have conveyed our demands clearly, the government should also make its offers ready,” Col. Kaul told IANS.

“Six or seven different mediators are talking to us, they are sending different people to get concessions, but there is nothing concrete,” Group Captain Gandhi added.

About the probability of the government announcing the OROP unilaterally, the veterans said if they found it was not as per their demands, their agitation would continue.

“We want One Rank One Pension, not one rank two pension or one rank three pension…” Group Captain Gandhi said, adding that the yearly revision veterans were asking for was important so that it remains one rank one pension.

“Unless there is revision every year it will not be One Rank One Pension,” he said.

Col. Kaul further said the review the veterans were asking for at the rate of three percent every year is not an increment, but for equilisation of pensions. “We are not asking for any three percent increment. There is no such thing as increment,” he said.

“What we have asked for is a periodic review of pension so that at no stage the definition of OROP, as accepted by parliament, is violated,” he added.

About the condition of veterans staging an indefinite hunger strike for so many days, the ex-servicemen wished to know if the government would take the responsibility if anything happened to them.

Col. Pushpender Singh (retd), who started an indefinite fast on August 17, and had to be evacuated and taken to hospital later, returned to Jantar Mantar on Wednesday.

Along with him is Havaldar Major Singh, on fast since August 17 as well, who has refused to leave the protest site despite his deteriorating health condition.

There are 13 ex-servicemen sitting on an indefinite fast at Jantar Mantar.

Asked about fissures emerging among senior officers and Junior Commissioned Officers over OROP, Gandhi and Kaul rubbished such rumours.

Asked about the government’s claim that implementing OROP would lead to a huge financial burden, Gandhi said: “Whenever we ask them to give the mathematics they have done over the cost, they have nothing to show.”

He added that the expenditure that would accrue to the government by implementing the OROP had been vetted by different layers, including the defence minister.

He said varying figures of supposed government expenditure were being floated “by people who do not know what they are talking about”.

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