Ex-soldiers protest `government betrayal`

Thousands of ex-army men from across the country demanding "one rank one pension" gathered in Delhi and blamed the government for their financial hardships, accusing it of "ignoring" and "betraying" them.

New Delhi: Thousands of ex-army men from across the country demanding "one rank one pension" gathered in Delhi on Sunday and blamed the government for their financial hardships, accusing it of "ignoring" and "betraying" them.

Huge posters reading "Jai Hind" and "Stop discriminating" were put up outside Jantar Mantar in central Delhi, the venue of their demonstration organised by Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement (IESM).

"The armed forces are children of lesser gods for the government. No one pays heed to our demands and the bureaucrats and politicians sitting in their air conditioned rooms decide what is good for us. Our lives have no value for them," said a livid AJB. Jaini, a retired major general.

There should be a separate pay commission for the army and it should be headed by a serviceman. This is not an officers` movement but a soldier`s movement as almost 99 percent of the demonstrators are junior commissioned officers, added Jaini.

The protestors accused the government of being biased against them.

"Farmers are getting their loans waved off, Pakistan and Afghanistan are granted aid, and worse, crores of rupees are being guzzled in various scams by corrupt politicians, but the government has nothing for us," said retired colonel Kirit Joshi.

In a rally in 2002 in Chandigarh, Sonia Gandhi had promised "one rank one pension". She never fulfilled her promise and secondly, she even refuses to meet us, alleged Joshi.

The demonstrators said they will return their medals to the president, the supreme commander of the armed forces, as a mark of protest and would also be submitting a memorandum signed in blood.

"At the end of the rally we will have around 125,000 signatures in blood, including those collected in earlier rallies, and we will submit them along with the medals to the president," added Joshi.

It is not a fight for money, but for honour, he said.

IANS

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