Anguished over the Modi government’s complete lack of concern for their welfare, the Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement, which hit the limelight recently over its prolonged protest at Jantar Mantar on the OROP issue, has extended its support to the Congress in Punjab, as well as the other poll-bound states and Himachal Pradesh.The IESM members, led by its chairman Major General Satbir Singh, were welcomed the AICC office here by senior party leaders, including Punjab Congress President Captain Amarinder Singh, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat, along with AICC general secretary in-charge of Punjab affairs Asha Kumari, MP Ambika Soni, PPCC vice president Sunil Jakhar, and Randeep Surjewala. Retired defence officers General SP Grewal and Lt. General Tajinder Shergill also graced the occasion.
Captain Amarinder thanked the IESM members, who had spent 571 days at Jantar Mantar on relay hunger strike to press for the implementation of One-Rank-One-Pension (OROP) scheme by the Defence Ministry. He called for a two-minute silence in memory of all servicemen killed in Kashmir and other parts of the country.Captain Amarinder also extended his warm wishes to all on the auspicious occasion of the 350th birth anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh.With IESM also lending support to the Congress, ex-servicemen around the country were now with the party, Captain Amarinder told mediapersons, pointing out that the Indian Ex-Servicemen League, a 4-lakh strong body recognized by an Act of Parliament, and the Sanjha Morcha had already extended support to the Congress in Punjab.
Lamenting the total apathy of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar towards the problems of servicemen and ex-servicemen, Captain Amarinder pointed out that not only had the demand for OROP been put on the backburner by the Centre but the armed forces had been cheated of their rightful due as a result of downgrading of army ranks through the dilution of the Order of Precedence. He also hit out at the central government for not taking the defence forces’ interests into consideration in the 7th Pay Commission.The Congress, said Captain Amarinder, was committed to the welfare of the ex-servicemen and had included a 21-point agenda for them in its manifesto in Punjab.Major General Satbir said the ex-servicemen had been humiliated by the defence minister, who had in fact insulted a soldier by ordering IB inquiries. He said he had taken strong exception to Parrikar’s irresponsible remarks, which showed his shameful indifference to the concerns of the armed forces. Though there were 53 schemes for ex-servicemen in Punjab, not one of them was being properly implemented on the ground, said Major General Satbir, adding that Captain Amarinder had assured the ex-servicemen of taking up the matter on priority on coming to power.
The ex-servicemen, he said, had decided to actively work for the Congress and ensure its victory in the polls so that their demands get implemented in letter and in spirit, said Major General Satbir, adding that the ex-servicemen were fighting for their `aan, maan and shaan.’Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh said it was shameful that India’s soldiers were agitating and the government was oblivious to their cause. Demanding grant of OROP to the ex-servicemen, he said it was a question of their honour not money.Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat flayed the government for trampling the rights of the ex-servicemen, saying Modi had diluted and diverted the OROP issue. He also lashed out at the Modi government for creating disparities in the services through the 7th Pay Commission. Appreciating the move by the Punjab Congress to include an agenda for ex-servicemen in its manifesto, Rawat evinced interest in adapting the same for Uttarakhand.
AICC leader Randeep Surjewala accused Modi of backstabbing the ex-servicemen by going back on his promise to implement OROP, even after the ex-servicemen body had agreed to his definition of the same. Only the Congress, he said, can safeguard the interests of the ex-servicemen.Among the key members of ISEM who were present at the event were Gen Lal ji from Uttrakhand, Brig J S Sandhu, Mrs Swadesh (who sat on hunger strike 501 days at Jantar Mantar for OROP), Hon. Capt. Jaladhan from Khanna, Subedar Devi Dayal from Jagraon, Mrs Dalbir Sidhu (wife of an army officer from Chandigarh), Kameshwar Pandey, Dr Rohit (Jabalpur).