New Delhi: On the 141st day of the protest by ex-servicemen demanding OROP, over 200 retired paramilitary personnel on Monday also launched a three-day protest in the capital.
These paramilitary personnel want the ‘One Rank One Pension’ scheme for around 13 lakh retired and serving personnel of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF).
The already protesting veterans from the forces, while stating that they are “happy” about it, said they would then also demand raising retirement age to 60 years for all soldiers.
The retired paramilitary personnel, under the banner of Delhi-based All India Central Paramilitary Forces Ex-servicemen Welfare Association, gathered at the Jantar Mantar in central Delhi demanding OROP and many other rights for CAPF personnel under the central civil services rules.
A retired officer protesting at the site told IANS the CAPF should be treated at par with the armed forces, adding that the CAPF personnel were part of 1965, 1971 and the 1999 Kargil wars — as they had fought along with the Indian Army and were the “first line of defence”.
Since independence, 22,250 army personnel lost their lives in various battles, while 33,678 CAPF personnel were killed in the line of duty, he said.
Meanwhile, General Secretary of Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement (IESM), spearheading the agitation demanding OROP for the three forces, said most soldiers in the forces have 40 years as retirement age. If the paramilitary forces want OROP, the armed forces want 60 years as retirement age.
“As far as we are concerned, all have the right to protest and will be rather happy. But we would then demand government to permit us to serve till 60 years of age,” Group Captain Gandhi told IANS.
“Soldiers are forced to retire at 40 (years)… A person who retires at 40 years, gets Rs.8 crore less than one who retires at 60 years,” he said.
While the retirement age for civil servants is 60 years, 85 percent of the soldiers are compulsorily retired between 35 and 37 years of age and another 12 to 13 percent soldiers between 40 and 54 years, as per estimates.
Monday was the 141st day of their agitation, which continued even after government announced the ‘OROP’ scheme on September 5. The veterans have said what government announced is not OROP, but One Rank Five Pension.
The retired CAPF personnel however felt the announcement of OROP for the army reflected the “discriminatory” attitude of the government towards them.
“We are the first line of defence in the country and guarding the national border, Maoist-affected areas, the border with Pakistan or the insurgency-hit Jammu and Kashmir and the northeastern states,” P.S. Nair, general secretary of the association, told IANS.
“A number of our personnel are killed in the line of duty every year. We don’t understand why the government is ignoring us in providing central facilities like other armed forces. All CAPF personnel should be provided benefits,” Nair said.
While there are over 9.5 lakh serving personnel in forces like the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Border Security Force (BSF), Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) and Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), which comprise the CAPF, there are over 3.5 lakh retired personnel.
Nair said if OROP is sanctioned to the CAPF, it would cost around Rs.2,000 crore to the government exchequer.
“Take the case of the Line of Control (LoC), where the BSF is deployed along with the Indian Army. If personnel from both the forces are killed in any operation, the family of army personnel get four times more pension than those of the BSF jawan. Is it not a kind of discrimination?” asked Nair.
He said since 2004, they were clubbed with other government officials and they stopped getting pension.
“We are soldiers too and are in a risk-prone job. One of our demands is also that the government should restore our pension benefits,” Nair said.
The protesters — including former senior officials of BSF, CISF, CRPF, SSB and ITBP — told IANS that they had on September 30 posted a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi considering our demands.
They said they sent a letter to Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Monday, seeking appointment with him on Tuesday to discuss their demands.
R.B. Pathak, who retired as a commandant from the CRPF, said: “We were told that if and when the OROP is announced, it will be for the CAPF also.”
“Our service conditions are worse than those of the army. We have the right to be provided OROP and other facilities like army,” Pathak said.