New Delhi: Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi on Friday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of betraying soldiers and former servicemen by "lying" about implementation of the One Rank One Pension (Orop) scheme.
The Congress leader also sought a government apology for the police manhandling of the family of retired Subedar Ram Kishan Grewal, who killed himself by swallowing poison over the scheme for military veterans.
Gandhi, who was detained by Delhi Police thrice in two days over the issue, told the media in New Delhi that he met some 80 ex-servicemen and "they said what Modiji is calling Orop implementation is only pension enhancement".
"Narendra Modiji, you should stop lying and work to implement the Orop," the Congress leader said.
"If you have implemented Orop, why are they protesting at Jantar Mantar? The truth is that the government of India has not implemented it," Gandhi said, referring to a relay hunger strike that began on Tuesday for rectification of anomalies in the scheme.
The scheme, announced in September 2015, among other measures, is meant to ensure equal pension to servicemen who retired on the same rank and after the same duration of service, regardless of the year of retirement. However, retired soldiers have been alleging that the government has not addressed their concerns fully about disparity in pension payments.
The issue snowballed into a major political war after Grewal, 70, a former Rajputana Rifles subedar, demanding immediate implementation of the scheme, committed suicide by consuming poison at a Delhi park on Tuesday evening.
Gandhi was detained twice on Wednesday as he tried to meet Grewal's grieving family. Also detained were Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia.
The Congress leader, who was among politicians that reached Grewal's village in Bhiwani to attend his cremation, was again detained on Thursday evening as he tried to join the protest march of the Congress party over the illegal detention of Grewal's grieving family by the police in Delhi.
The Congress leader said on Friday that the ex-servicemen he met discussed with him issues regarding the government's claim about implementation of the scheme.
"The most important thing they said is that it's not about money but the respect and justice we owe them," Gandhi said, asking the Prime Minister to grant them "their right and the government has to (do) it."
"They also said if the government tells us clearly that they can't pay us our money, then we won't demand that."
Recalling how Delhi Police detained Grewal's family members at a police station, Gandhi alleged that they were "dragged and beaten".
"I was detained, I don't have issues with that, but detaining the family of the ex-serviceman is not good," Gandhi remarked.
"No government should ever do this to its people, not to talk about soldiers who give their lives for the nation. The government must apologise," he added.
The Congress leader said the government should respect its soldiers and fulfill their demands of Orop, Seventh Pay Commission and the disability pension.
Lashing out at the Central government, Gandhi said, "The government has written off Rs 110 lakh crore of 15 businessmen, but it has no money for the farmers and soldiers of the country."
"What is happening today?" Gandhi asked.
Youth Congress workers also staged a protest march against the Modi government and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar over the issue of Orop, and burnt their effigies.
The march was held from its office on Raisina Road to Prime Minister's Office in Central Delhi area, but they were stopped by the police.
The police had to use water cannons to stop the protesting workers.