More than 3,000 ex-servicemen have written to PM Narendra Modi seeking his permission to leave the country along with their families. The ex-servicemen are mif ed that the government has not even taken up their 15-yearold proposal to start a milk processing plant at Beed, one of he worst drought-affected dis ricts of Marathwada.Ram Nagargoje, chairman of the Jai Jawan Jai Kisan Dairy Products’ Co-operative Society Ltd, which had floated he proposal, sent the letter to Modi and President Pranab Mukherjee. “We have urged he Union government to grant permission to around 3,250 ex-servicemen, 750 widows and 7,500 family members to leave the country to earn a living. We have lost hope seeking permission from the state government to rehabilitate ourselves,“ he said.

The ex-servicemen have said that while the government is ignoring their rehabilitation, it is busy rolling out the Make-in-India red carpet to foreign investors. They claimed that despite repeated requests to the PMO, President, defence ministry and Maharashtra governor to forward the milk project proposal, the state secretary of dairy development has been sitting on it.

Nagargoje said, “Under the welfare and resettlement programme launched by the mini stry of defence, ex-servicemen in the state, especially from Beed district, came together and proposed a milk processing project and a milk powder plant in Beed. The plant would have generated direct selfemployment to more than 4,000 ex-servicemen and their families and indirect employment to 6,000 people. This would have been the first ex-servicemen’s dairy co-operative in the country . However, 15 years later, we are struggling to implement the project, waiting for comments from the state.“

“We had submitted our proposal to the Union government through the ministry of defence in 2000 and also submitted 20 sets of copies to the state secretary , animal and husbandry , dairy and fisheries through the Rajya Sainik Board. But the secretary did not forward our proposal to the Union government,“ he added.

The ex-servicemen later filed a writ petition in the Bombay high court against the government in 2003. “In 2014, the court ruled in our favour, asking the government to consider the project on priority within six months from a revised submission,“ Nagargoje said. Sstate secretary (dairy de velopment) Mahesh Pathak said the ex-servicemen’s milk co-operative will have to seek approval from Mahanand, which is the nodal agency and the state’s apex milk co-operative body. He said the state government has forwarded the proposal to Mahanand and has also sent reminders.

Speaking to TOI, Dinesh Sawant, manager of the Farmers Organisation and Animal Husbandry Department, Mahanand, said earlier proposals by about five to six other co-operative dairy societies are still pending with the Union government. Only after these proposals get cleared would the ex-servicemen’s proposal be considered, he said.