Even as scores of ex-servicemen continue to return their medals to her as a mark of protest against perceived pension irregularities, President Pratibha Patil’s office has written to a prominent ex-servicemen organisation asking them to stop using her name as the ‘grand patron in chief’, triggering a wave of protest by retired soldiers.
In a jolt to the Indian Ex-Servicemen League (IESL) that counts 9 lakh veterans across the nation as its members, the President last month conveyed that her name is being used as the grand patron in chief without consent and the organisation should discontinue this practice. The organisation has contended that the President, who is also the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, has always been a grand patron in chief since it was set up in 1964 and has produced several documents, including letters by former Presidents Giani Zail Singh and V V Giri, to support its cause.
Senior functionaries of IESL contend that the reason for the harsh stand by Patil’s office are the antics of its rival — Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement (IESM) — that has in the past months organised rallies and protests for pension hikes. The President’s office has come under increasing pressure after members of similarly named IESM started returning their medals in protest against perceived pension discrepancies.
However, in the official letter sent to the organisation, Patil’s office has said the President as a policy is not accepting ‘patronship’ of autonomous organisations. The letter says the name of the President should no longer be used in any document of the IESL. Countering this, IESL functionaries say that several Presidents have accepted this ‘tradition’ and named three former Supreme Commanders who have endorsed the organisation.
With the President’s office closing the case with a firm no, IESL has approached the ex-servicemen cell of the Congress in a bid to revive the ‘tradition’. “It is a serious matter and I will be taking it up through the proper channels,” secretary of AICC ex-servicemen department Captain Praveen Davar said.
-via Indian Express