One does not often hear of soldiers committing suicide. But we now have news of a soldier who took his own life because of the injustice done to him and others like him in the payment of pensions to soldiers under the much-touted one-rank-one-pension principle of the government of India. Retired soldier Subedar Ram Kishan Grewal, aged 70, and five or six of his friends had approached the Delhi residence of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar at about 12.30 p.m. on Tuesday. They were denied entry, and Grewal and his companions moved to a park nearby at about 1 p.m. A little later at about 1.15 p.m. Grewal’s companions spotted him lying on the ground with a bottle of insecticide next to him. After he had swallowed three or four insecticide tablets, he made a telephone call to his son Jaswant in Harya and said, “I have consumed poison... I am sitting near India Gate in a park and Behind Jawahar Bhawan... Injustice is happening with me. Injustice is happening with our jawans. Our jawans did not get justice... I am a man of principles. I am sacrificing my life for my family, tion.” He also scribbled a few lines on the one-page memorandum that he was uble to hand over to the Defence Minister. These were the words: “I, for my country, for my motherland and for my country’s army sacrificing my life. I served in 105 Infantry Battalion in Rajputa Rifles for six years and 11 days and thereafter got discharged and joined in Defence Security Corps. There I served for 30 years, nine months and 26 days. Like me, thousands of army men have served in both the places, but they have not yet got benefits of OROP. Now it is up to God.”
This tragedy was uncalled for, and the Defence Minister should have put aside other engagements to listen to soldiers who had put in more than 36 years of service and who had a genuine grievance about their pensions. Instead of this, he instructed deprived former soldiers like Grewal to come back after seeking a proper appointment. However, Grewal did what he considered was his duty to other soldiers who had been deprived of their fair pensions according to the OROP principle. It cost him his life, but he made a statement in the strongest terms about how the proper pension structure of soldiers was being adversely affected by the unwillingness to honour earlier promises.
This tragedy does not do any credit to the government. The Union government barred both Rahul Gandhi, MP, and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal from meeting the relatives of Ram Kishen Grewal even though they had expressed their wish to meet Rahul Gandhi. The police not only prevented Rahul Gandhi from meeting Grewal’s family but took him to the Mandir Marg police station. When Rahul Gandhi attempted to meet Grewal’s family after his release from the Mandir Marg police station, he was again detained by the police and taken to the Tilak Marg police station via Parliament Street police station. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal was likewise prevented from meeting Grewal’s family at the Conught Place police station. Kejriwal was detained by the police at 7:40 p.m. and taken to the RK Puram police station. While Rahul Gandhi was released at 8:15 p.m. and Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia at 8.30 p.m., Kejriwal was still at the RK Puram police station till 10.30 p.m.. What was worse was the alleged beating up of Grewal’s family members by the police when they were taken from the Ram Manohar Lohia hospital to the Conught Place police station. The assault of Grewal’s family members and the act of preventing them from meeting Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal were mean acts of the government that will obviously not be taken well by anyone. If anything, this was a typical example of the government seeking to politicize the death of a veteran soldier, though it is not very clear what purpose this was going to serve. What should be very clear to anyone is that such action is calculated only to turn the people away from the BJP-led government.