OROP suicide: Unanswered questions over Subedar Ram Kishan Grewal's death
"But anybody, who is getting Rs.22,000, would not end his life just for another 5,000 which he would have got anyway had he written a simple letter," defence ministry sources said .
Did Subedar Ram Kishan Grewal take his own life over a mere five thousand rupees per month? This is one among a clutch of unanswered questions clouding the army veteran's alleged suicide over pension woes, an incident that spawned a swirling political storm on Wednesday.
Grewal served in the Territorial Army and Defence Security Corps for a combined period of nearly three decades at different locations across the country before retiring in 2004.
ONE RANK ONE PENSION
Defence personnel have been demanding that the same pension should be paid to armed forces retirees with the same rank and the same length of service, regardless of the year they retired. The One Rank One Pension (OROP) scheme was announced by the Narendra Modi government on September 6, 2015, but several ex-servicemen say it has failed to address their concerns. Former Defence Minister AK Antony too attacked the BJP-led Centre over "mishandling" of the OROP issue, saying the scheme should be implemented immediately.
"As per calculations, Grewal should have been receiving a pension of `28,000 per month but due to some miscalculation by the bank, he was getting only `23,000, which is `5,000 less than what was due to him," defence ministry sources said. The bank had not added the hike due to him because of the OROP implementation and had he communicated the issue to the department concerned, the anomaly would have been done away with, the sources said.
His case could have been resolved amicably like hundreds of others even if he had directly approached the ministry, they added, showing letters on the issue from different locations. "But anybody, who is getting `22,000, would not end his life just for `5,000 which he would have got anyway had he written a simple letter," they said.
DID GREWAL FEEL THAT OROP IMPLEMENTATION WOULDN'T BE ADDRESSED
Grewal's salary at the time of retirement was `14,000 in 2004 and from the next month onwards, his pension was a meagre `6,500 per month. But after that, the pension of Grewal and other jawans like him rose almost four times due to the implementation of the sixth pay commission and intermediate hikes due to partial acceptance of OROP by Congress governments. The amount would have gone further up to `31-32,000 due to implementation of the seventh pay commission. "The issues related to OROP are still being considered by the Reddy commission. How could the soldier get the feeling that his issue would not be addressed?" asked union minister and former Army chief Gen VK Singh while interacting with Mail today.
OTHER UNANSWERED QUESTIONS
Another question that has arisen is why is it that the soldier got a request typed on October 31 for meeting the defence minister and then did not submit it and committed suicide the very next day. "His letter dated October 31 and his suicide on November 1 raise several questions. It also demands serious investigation about who was with the deceased when he took the extreme step," government sources said.
Another key point is that the veteran, who was at the forefront of public matters related to ex servicemen's issues, did not even wait to submit the letter to the defence minister's office and used the same letter as his death note. "It should also be looked into that why and how he took the extreme step and why was he forced to write his suicide note on the same page. Is it his own handwriting or someone else did it?" said the sources.
"It should be investigated that whether someone took advantage of his troubled mind to provoke him to take the extreme step." Gen VK Singh said in a similar case last year, a man was abetted to commit suicide at Jantar Mantar in the middle of a crowd during an AAP rally and nobody helped him. Grewal allegedly consumed poison behind the new MEA building on Janpath Road in central Delhi and was brought to Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital. His colleagues and friends from his village said he left his native place in a pleasant mood and did not appear to be on the verge of taking such an extreme step.