In a press conference organized by Martyrs’ Family Welfare Foundation’ at Press Club of India on Thursday, many retired Army veterans including the Convener of the foundation Major Dr. TC Rao, Major General Ranjit Singh, Major General Ravindra Yadav, Colonel Ravi Tokas, Major SN Yadav, Chairman of MFWF Colonel Mahavir Singh participated in the press conference.
The demand of ‘representation and reservation of ex-servicemen’ in the legislative bodies from the Gram Panchayat to the Parliament’ was vociferously raised in the press meet. Retired soldiers alleged that they have been neglected by the different governments over the last 70 years. The contribution of soldiers in nation-building has been unprecedented. Therefore, they want to cooperate to speed up the development of the country even post-retirement.
MFWF Convenor Major Dr. TC Rao said, “A large chunk of ex-servicemen is feeling neglected today. We demand direct participation in the electoral politics that should be dealt on priority. On the basis of the population of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, ex-servicemen must also get reservation in the legislature of this country and states, from Panchayat to Parliament. In this regard, we have sent a memorandum in five points demand to the honourable President of India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress President Sonia Gandhi, the Chief Election Commissioner and the heads of all mainstream national and regional political parties.
According to Major TC Rao, “About three crore families in this country have military background, but neither government has paid deserved attention to these crores of voters nor given them due recognition in the election bodies. Whenever the country faced threats, thousands of brave soldiers have sacrificed their lives to protect the dignity of borders with their blood. Government can’t neglect anymore.”
It is to be noted that soldiers mostly do not get chance to cast votes due to deployment duty during elections. The soldiers allege that the governments ignore. While 17 former Presidents in the US were from military background, in India those veterans are been sidelined.
Statistics show that in Delhi Cantonment constituency, a total of 50% of the army voters reside, including many civilians involved in various jobs of the army, indirectly associated with the veterans’ family. It is also noteworthy that 30% votes of the total 62 cantonments in the country are from defense forces. ‘The Martyrs’ Family Welfare Foundation’ demand that all the 62 seats in the concerned assembly under which the cantonment area lies should be reserved for the soldiers only.
General Ravindra Yadav raised the issue of non-payment dues of defense officers by National Highway Authority of India. He said, “The retired defense forces are running pillars to post to get their dues. They have operated toll plazas from 2003-2010. Thereafter, the scheme was closed because of the pressure from the civil contractors lobby. The officers were asked to deposit bank guarantee ranging from 10-25 lacs, which the officers obtained after mortgaging their properties. Some of them rendered homeless as they couldn’t repay the installments.”
The veterans further allege that all political parties have ignored them. If demands are not met, then the state and national political parties may have to bear the brunt of the veterans in the upcoming Delhi Assembly elections.
The MFWF, in its joint statement, demanded the nomination of two ex-servicemen in the Cantonment Board and also submitted a draft to send two ex-servicemen to the Lok Sabha in place of Anglo Indian.