Moist eyes, they return medals

via Neha Pushkarna, TNN published on February 22, 2009,prtpage-1.cms

DELHI: Subedar Chauhan could not hold back his tears as he parted with his
medals on Saturday. He said he had worn them close to his heart all his life but
only the government could not stand up to his contribution to the country.
Nearly 300 ex-servicemen returned their medals to President Pratibha Devisingh
Patil on Saturday in protest to demand `equal pension for equal

“More than 3000 medals were collected on Saturday, which we
returned at the Rashtrapati Bhawan. We wanted to give the medals to our Supreme
Commander, President Patil, but she did not meet us. If our demand is not
considered, many more ex-servicemen of all ranks will return their medals,”
said Maj Gen (Retd) Satbir Singh, vice-chairperson, Indian Ex-Servicemen
Movement the group that initiated this protest in December 2008.

than 2000 medals were earlier returned to the President on February 8 when
ex-servicemen from all over the country, including 300 general-rank officers,
had gathered at Jantar Mantar. According to the ex-servicemen, those who retired
earlier get less pension than those who retired recently even though their
number of years in service may be same.

Retd Commander Sharan Ahuja,
member, Indian ESM Movement, said, “If an officer of my rank retires today after
20 years of service, he would get Rs 30,000 per month as pension. However, I get
Rs 14,500 as I retired in 1994.” The ex-servicemen say that the disparity in
the pension of the defence personnel retiring at different times is too stark
because the old ex-servicemen never got adequate increment after the various
Central Pay Commissions. They said that the issue has been raging for 25 years

Retd Commander Ahuja said, “We have fought the wars in 1965 and
1971. We had spent our lives looking after the frontiers of the country. Many of
us don’t even know how many schools did our children had to change. Many of us
weren’t even around when our children were born.” He added, “Our medals were a
testimony to all this but we had to give them up as no government has acted on
our demand to have equal pension for equal service in all these years.
Ex-servicemen from all the three forces are together.”

Mukesh, who retired in 2004, said that government should understand the plight
of the ex-servicemen after they retire. “I haven’t fought against plastic
bullets. Then why is my pension less than those who retired after me. There are
no jobs for ex-servicemen either” he said. Subedar Ram Swaroop Yadav, who
retired from the army in 1992 says returning the medals is as painful for him as
parting with his child. “But if the President doesn’t have any concern for our
services, we better give the medals back,” he said.

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