Police manhandle OROP protesters

Police manhandle OROP protesters

Agitating ex-servicemen at Jantar Mantar complained of manhandling and ill-treatment by security personnel who tried to evict them on Friday morning, apparently as part of the Independence Day security drill.

As news of the aborted bid to evict protesters seeking One Rank One Pension (OROP) spread, politicians started reaching the spot to show solidarity.The police subsequently announced that the ex-servicemen would not be shifted out.

According to a retired serviceman, a Delhi Police team, along with New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) staff and paramilitary personnel, came to the two-month-old sit-in spot at 8:30 am and started demolishing the protesters’ tents.

“They came without notice and removed one of our tents. They also removed our banners and manhandled us when we resisted,” said Group Captain V K Gandhi.

Joint Commissioner of Police (New Delhi) Mukesh Kumar Meena said: “It was a joint action by the Delhi Police and the NDMC. Due to the increased threat perception in the capital ahead of Independence Day, we wanted to remove all protesters from the area. We only wanted them to vacate the place for two days. However, now they can carry on with their protest. We have full respect for our ex-soldiers.”

Among the politicians to visit the spot was Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi. However, he was not allowed to share the dais by veterans who said the protest was apolitical and that he had not come to them for the past 60 days of the protest, when there was no media coverage.

Gandhi, who was at the venue for about 10 minutes, left after speaking to the media.
“The prime minister had promised he would implement OROP. It is a very simple matter. The prime minister must give a date now,” he said. However, his remarks were greeted with chants of “Rahul Gandhi go back”.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted in the ex-servicemen’s support. He also urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to announce OROP from Red Fort on Saturday.
Delhi Transport Minister Gopal Rai reached the spot on Friday evening and expressed solidarity with the ex-soldiers. He demanded action against those who tried to evict them. The ex-servicemen said their protest, including a hunger strike on Saturday, would continue.

Their back-channel talks with government officials are stuck in the absence of consensus on pension calculation. Once this is decided, the government will have to arrange for several thousand crores of rupees to implement OROP.

It is also not clear how much money would be needed. The 2011 Bhagat Singh Koshyari committee report had suggested requirement of Rs 10,135 crore to implement OROP for six years, whereas Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had in 2014 said the annual outlay would be Rs 8,293 crore.

On Friday, reports emerged that OROP may require even more money — about Rs 12,000 crore — as the Defence Ministry and the veterans want the 2014 pension scale to be the benchmark, while other arms of the government prefer the 2011 scale. Former Army Chief Gen V P Malik was a part of the negotiation, but withdrew in the absence of consensus.

Four retired military chiefs — Gen S F Rodrigues, Admiral L Ramdas, Admiral Arun Prakash and Admiral Suresh Mehta — wrote an open letter to the President Pranab Mukherjee requesting speedy implementation of OROP.

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