New Delhi: Ex-servicemen agitating for 'One Rank, One Pension' (OROP) scheme on Friday said they would return their galantry and other medals across the country on November 9-10 and observe a "black Diwali".
"We have unanimously decided to return our medals across India," said Group Captain V.K. Gandhi (retd), general secretary, Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement, during a protest held at Jantar Mantar here.
The armed forces' veterans decided to intensify their agitation which continued for 145th day on Friday.
"The government is willing to provide us OROP, but it is full of discrepancies and is not as per its definition. In protest, all ex-servicemen sporting their medals will line up in a disciplined and dignified manner in each district on November 9-10," Gandhi told reporters here.
"The district magistrate concerned will collect the medals, and if he doesn't come to collect, the medals will be left behind. The DMs will be requested to guard the medals and send these either to Prime Minister Narendra Modi or President Pranab Mukherjee," he added.
The threat to return the medals is seen as a way to pressurise the government to notify OROP as per its definition. The government is already under attack from a number of writers, filmmakers and others who have returned prestigious awards to protest against "rising intolerance" in the country.
Maj. Gen. Satbir Singh (retd), who has been spearheading the Indian ex-servicemen's movement on the issue, said ex-armymen in Delhi would hand over their medals at the arrival halls of T1 and T3 terminals at the Delhi international airport between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. on November 9-10.
"Ex-servicemen living abroad will go to the respective Indian embassies with their families and return their medals to the ambassadors," he said.
The government had promised a notification on OROP as soon as the Bihar assembly elections were over, pleading that a model code of conduct prohibited it from notifying new schemes during elections.
Counting of votes polled in the Bihar assembly elections would be taken up on Sunday (November 8).
Lashing out at the central government's "lax attitude" in notifying the OROP in its true spirit, Gen. Singh said: "OROP is a serious issue. We wrote to Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar four times to consider our demand to implement OROP in its true spirit, but he never acknowledged. Parrikar did not talk to us."
"The government had been changing the goalposts from time to time. They are not issuing the notification. We apprehend that the government does not want to give us OROP as per the definition," Gen. Singh said.
Gen. Singh also said the veterans would observe a "black Diwali" this year in support of OROP.
"This Diwali we will not go home. We will sit at the Jantar Mantar here and raise our voices for our demand. We will not light lamps and observe a Black Diwali," Gen. Singh said.