NEW DELHI: After artists and writers, former Indian military personnel have now also started returning their medals in protest against the policies of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, embroiling Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a new domestic crisis.
According to Indian media, retired military personnel were set to return their medals on Tuesday to protest against a government move to fix pensions for military veterans.
In Delhi, medals will be returned outside the busy terminal 1 of the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA), reported Indian newspaper.
General Secretary of the Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement VK Gandhi told the newspaper that veterans would return medals at crowded places to educate the common man about the issue of the government’s One Rank One Pension (OROP) scheme.
“We reject the OROP notification by the government. We will continue with (our) agitation and intensify it further,” he told news agency ANI.
“Will request all ex-servicemen to return their medals and explain to citizens that OROP has not been given to us. The OROP notification issued by the government doesn’t meet the definition of one rank, one pension. In fact, it murders the definition of OROP,” said Gandhi.
The BJP government on Saturday formally notified the OROP scheme that it claims will benefit more than 2.4 million veterans and 600,000 war widows.
However, the scheme was rejected by former military personnel, who launched a movement earlier this year to pressure the government to accept their demands.
The OROP scheme is aimed at ensuring that all retired personnel, who have the same rank and length of service, receive the same amount of pension, irrespective of their date of retirement.
Under the existing policy, military personnel who retired before 2006 receive less pension than those who retired later.
But Gandhi said that the OROP did not fulfill the objective of the scheme, claiming the government had “inserted provisions” into the notification to complicate the issue. “We want OROP as per the definition. No junior should get more pension than his senior,” he said.
Veterans will start returning their medals during November 10-11 and district magistrates across India have been informed about the protest, he was quoted as saying.
The protest by the ex-military men comes after a number of Indian filmmakers, actors, writers and scholars returned their awards in what is a growing chorus of anger at perceived intolerance and spiraling Hindu nationalism under Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the government of his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Critics of the ruling right-wing BJP accuse it of not doing enough to counter the extremism of Hindu nationalists and to protect freedom of expression in secular but Hindu-majority India.