The government on Saturday night said it has "significantly narrowed down" the gaps with the agitating ex- servicemen but held out no concrete assurances over ‘One Rank One Pension’ even as the veterans sought President Pranab Mukherjee’s intervention to resolve the vexed issue.
"I understand that over the last few days the gap has narrowed down significantly… The principle which implements OROP we are committed to it but it has to be based on some principles," Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said.
He also cautioned against raising demands which the economy cannot afford, asserting that what happened last Monday will probably happen once every month if we discard all fiscal norms and fiscal prudence.
"Therefore, you have to have a more disciplined economy and therefore, those raising demands in the various segments must realise that the governments can also implement such demands as much as the state of the economy can afford. But I’d like to see people being paid more," Jaitley said at an event here, noting that one cannot have a system where pension of one segment is revised every year.
"Can it happen anywhere else in the world? And then if you do it one segment you have a demonstrative effect on other segments. And then we can forget about fiscal deficits and fiscal prudence and probably what happened last Monday will probably happen once every month if we discard all fiscal norms," he added.
The annual revision of pension is one of the keys demands of the ex-servicemen who are seeking implementation of OROP.
Meanwhile, ex-servicemen took their 76-day-old agitation a notch higher by seeking the intervention of Mukherjee to resolve the vexed issue, stating that if any "damage or mishap happens" to those on hunger strike he and the government will be "solely responsible".
In a letter to the President, who is also the Supreme Commander of the armed forces, United Front of Ex-servicemen (UFESM) said a soldier is supposed to kill enemy before laying down his life for country, "But under your rule, a soldier’s life is at stake and is being wasted as he is being deprived of his legitimate dues".
UFESM, an umbrella organisation of agitating veterans, noted that as many as four former soldiers, who are on fast- unto-death, have been hospitalised and that health of another ex-serviceman Havildar Major Singh, who was on an indefinite fast since August 16, was fast deteriorating.
"Panel of doctors has declared that his medical condition has deteriorated to dangerous level and he needs to be hospitalised immediately to save his life," the letter, a copy of which has also been sent to PMO, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and BJP President Amit Shah, said.
"Your Excellency and the Government of India will be solely responsible if any damage/mishap happens to Havildar Major Singh or any other ex-servicemen because of hunger strike," it said.
The letter requested Mukherjee to instruct the government to implement OROP as per the Ministry of Defence letter dated February 26, 2014.