New Delhi: Hours after Delhi Police and NDMC officials tried to evict a group of ex-servicemen protesting over 'One Rank, One Pension' from Jantar Mantar on Friday, Union Minister VK Singh conveyed to them that Home Minister Rajnath Singh was informed about the incident and he has instructed the Delhi Police Commissioner BS Bassi to allow them to continue their agitation.
Earlier in the day, agitating ex-servicemen demanding implementation of OROP were allegedly manhandled by the police as it tried to evict them from protest hotspot Jantar Mantar here ahead of the Independence Day celebrations on the ground of security.
In a crackdown apparently linked to Saturday's Independence Day celebrations, police and civic employees swooped on the protesting retired soldiers at the Jantar Mantar protest site, leading to scuffles.
Deputy Commissioner of Police Vijay Singh told IANS that all protesters were being evicted from the area for security reasons ahead of Saturday as part of a drive by the New Delhi Municipal Council.
Terming the police action as "barbaric" and "undemocratic", the ex-servicemen, who have been on protest for nearly two-months, wondered how can they be "security threat" when they dedicated their lives protecting the country while in service.
"How can you doubt our integrity? Or consider us a security threat? We served the country in protecting it and now we have become security threat," said a protesting army veteran.
It will be a "black Independence Day as they as they have tried to curb our independence," said group captain VK Gandhi (retired), adding, "The way the police have acted against us just a day before Independence day it is totally unjustified."
The police said they tried to evict protestors from various outfits from Jantar Mantar in the heart of the capital following a request by civic agency New Delhi Municipal Council.
As the police and NDMC started clearing the protest hotspot, the ex-servicemen refused to go away. "I was pushed by the cops who even tore my shirt," said 82-year-old Vishambhar raising anti-police slogans.
The ex-servicemen requested Police Commissioner B S Bassi to restore their tents.
"This is shocking and obnoxious. Nothing can be worse. We are the protectors of India's Independence. We are requesting the Police Commissioner to restore our tents since we had permission. The move to remove our tents is barbaric, undemocratic and dictatorial as it comes on the eve of Independence Day," Maj Gen (Retd) Satbir Singh, Chairman of Indian Ex-servicemen Movement, told PTI.
A senior police officer said , "As Delhi is on a high alert ahead of Independence Day so we are removing the protestors to ensure security."
Currently, the pension for retired personnel is based on the pay commission recommendations at the time when the personnel retired.
This leads to a difference in pension for officers of same rank who retire on different dates.
With OROP, retired personnel would draw the same pension as officers and jawans of the same rank who are retiring now.
They would also be entitled to a year's back pensions at the new rate, which would be a windfall for pensioners.
The OROP will benefit 25 lakh ex-servicemen. It is expected to cost the government around Rs 8,500 crore.
Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju has also asked the Delhi Police Commissioner not to remove the ex-servicemen protesting at Jantar Mantar.
Close to 22 lakh ex-servicemen and over six lakh war widows stand to be immediate beneficiaries of the scheme, which envisages a uniform pension for the defence personnel who retire in the same rank with the same length of service, irrespective of their date of retirement.
(With agency inputs)