Will the Defence Minister make the MoD bureaucracy Accountable too?
Two items, the first not very recent, and second quite recent, are the catalysts for this post.
The first is the BJP’s Election Manifesto, which is a very detailed document (available on www. bjp.org/images/pdf-2014/full_manifesto). For this post, the following relevant excerpts are re-produced: -
Page 2 – We have become a polity of promises and not performance.
Page 3 – What we need is a political party committed to deliver and a leadership with strong determination and political will.
Pages 5 & 26 – Decision and Political Paralysis….We will also encourage the bureaucracy to take right decisions
Page 10 - Open Government and Accountable Administration
Page 12 - Administration and its members will be truly accountable to their tasks as well as to the people
Page 38 – Implement One Rank One Pension
Page 39 - Appoint a Veterans Commission to address grievances of veterans…
- Ensure greater participation on Armed Forces in decision-making process of Ministry of Defence
- Implement measures to improve effectiveness of Armed Forces Tribunals and minimise appeals by the Government
(Emphasis in the original)
The second is the news item in Times of India (Bangalore edition) about Ministry of Finance’s communication, followed up with alacrity by the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) to income tax officers to cease and desist from filing “frivolous” appeals and harassing the tax payers, of whom at least 15 lac will be ESM.
As Shri Arun Jaitely, whose more important portfolio is as Finance Minister, is also Defence Minister, one hopes (in addition to the hopes of 30 lac widows of Veterans and Veterans) to see such directions to, and compliance by DESW (which has earned yet another pejorative - Dushman of Ex-Servicemen Welfare) and CGDA (no pejoratives in the public domain yet).
I - Polity of Performance and not Promises vis-à-vis Polity of promises and not performance
Enough has been written about the One Rank One Pension and the yawning, and ever widening, chasm between Government promises and MoD’s bureaucrats’ implementation. One of the characteristic is that Chairperson of the Working Committee has refused to convene meetings to resolve the differences and arrive at the modalities the MoS, Defence mentioned in the Parliament. One ESM, which spearheaded the “lets surrender medals” campaign, has raised the “Lets agitate again” call on OROP.
But let me (sorry, cannot get used to using the collective pronoun, as the Services prohibit that) get to the Department of Defence, per se. This essay now brings to the kind attention of the Defence Minister some more facets of the MoD and the challenge the Prime Minister and he will face to remove the growing impression of ESM (as conveyed by Lt Gen (retd) Bahri to the Defence Minister) of yet another “polity of promises and not performance” (emphasis in the manifesto).
II - Wrong decision making & Subsequent Intransigence vis-à-vis Open Government and Accountable Administration
Order of the Government of India (Transaction of Business) Rules, dated January 14, 1961/Pausa 24, 1882(s) issued from Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi, and signed by no less than Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the first President of India, (emphasis supplied) directs at Para 4 as follows : -
“Inter- Departmental Consultations. -
(1) When the subject of a case concerns more than one department, no decision be taken or order issued until all such departments have concurred, or, failing such concurrence, a decision thereon has been taken by or under the authority of the Cabinet.
Explanation - Every case in which a decision, if taken in one Department, is likely to affect the transaction of business allotted to another department, shall be deemed to be a case the subject of which concerns more than one department.
(2) Unless the case is fully covered by powers to sanction expenditure or to appropriate or re-appropriate funds, conferred by any general or special orders made by the Ministry of Finance, no department shall, without the previous concurrence of the Ministry of Finance, issue any orders which may -
(a) involve any abandonment of revenue or involve any expenditure for which no provision has been made in the appropriation act;
(b) involve any grant of land or assignment of revenue or concession, grant, lease or licence of mineral or forest rights or a right to water power or any easement or privilege in respect of such concession;
(c) relate to the number or grade of posts, or to the strength of a service, or to the pay or allowances of Government servants or to any other conditions of their service having financial implications; or
(d) otherwise have a financial bearing whether involving expenditure or not;
3. Provided that no orders of the nature specified in clause (c) shall be issued in respect of the Ministry of Finance without the previous concurrence of the Department of Personnel and Training.”
But what did the MoD do in 1983-1987 or thereabouts?
(a) Appears not to have communicated to the 5th CPC that the deduction of Rank Pay has been challenged in the Hon’ble High Court of Kerala,
(b) Issues the SAI 2/S/98 while the matter is still under consideration of the Hon’ble Court, [F. No. 35(1) 2013-D (Pay/Services), Government of India, Ministry of Defence, New Delhi, dated the 26th April, 2013], and
(c) In violation of the Business Rules, the concurred with MoD (Fin) to the deduction of Rank Pay for re-fixation of pay in the integrated pay scale of Defence Forces officers as admitted by MoD (Fin) in Para 4 of note 88 dated 26 Jun 04 on MoD F No. B/25511/AKDP/AG/PS-3(a), which states, inter alia,
“The DOP&T/Ministry of Finance were not consulted while notifying the revised pay scales and Rank Pay etc” (emphasis supplied).
And after having committed Contempt of the Hon’ble High Court of Kerala, disobeyed the order of the President of India, ten years down the line, the MoD continues to litigate by quibbling over the order of Hon’ble Supreme Court!
What an example by the MoD for the most disciplined personnel of India – the Defence Forces! Ministry disobeys the President of India then…
And now to accountability
III - Resolving Anomalies or Passing the Buck vis-à-vis Administration and its members will be truly accountable to their tasks as well as to the people
“The Cabinet Secretariat is responsible for the administration of the Government of India Transaction of Business Rules, 1961 and the Government of India Allocation of Business Rules 1961, facilitating smooth transaction of business in Ministries/Departments of the Government by ensuring adherence to these rules. The Secretariat assists in decision-making in Government by ensuring Inter-Ministerial coordination, ironing out differences amongst Ministries/Departments and evolving consensus through the instrumentality of the standing/adhoc Committees of Secretaries.
Cabinet Secretary, as the topmost civil servant, acts as a secretary to the Council of Ministers. He assists in coordinating major administrative activities and policies of the Govt. of India, in resolving difficulties or delays, which may arise in the administrative field whether between departments of Govt. of India (emphasis supplied) or between the Govt. of India and State Govts...”
A six-member committee, comprising the Cabinet Secretary, Shri Ajit Seth, with the Defence Secretary, Secretary Ex-Servicemen Welfare, Secretary DoPT, Expenditure Secretary and Principal Secretary to PM, as members was set up by the Prime Minister after a Rajya Sabha panel recommended in 2011 granting One Rank One Pension to the retired Defence personnel. The government had asked the committee to submit its report by August 8, 2012 because the Prime Minister wanted to make a grand announcement from the ramparts of the Red Fort on August 15, 2012.
Although a total of 39 anomalies (figure courtesy: Nitin Gokhale of NDTV) were identified by the three services, the CoS, reportedly after consulting the three Services Chiefs, decided to concentrate on resolving the following core issues that directly affected both serving and retired armed forces: -
(a) Fixing common pay bands/scales for all JCOs and Ors
(b) Grant of NFU (non-functional upgradation) status to commissioned officers
(c) Correcting difference in pay in the pay band of commissioned officers
(d) Extending the HAG+ (Higher administrative Grade Plus) pay band to all three star officers
(e) Granting One-Rank-One-Pension to retired personnel
So what did the CoS finally resolve – 7 out of the 39 anomalies
(a) Improved pension of pre-2006 released Honorary Officers, JCOs and other ranks: Pensionary weightages were increased for Sepoy, Naik and Havildar to 12, 10 and 8 years respectively.
(b) Increased pension and family pension in case of commissioned officers based on the minimum of the fitment table (+ Grade Pay + Military Service Pay) rather than the pay band itself.
(c) Increased family pension of post-2006 and also pre-2006 JCOs and Other Ranks.
(d) Improved Casualty Pensionary Awards for pre-2006 commissioned officers, JCOs and other ranks: Minimum guaranteed Special Family Pension, Liberalized Family Pension, Dependant Pension (Special) and Second Life Awards determined on the basis of the minimum of fitment table for each rank as per the applicable Special Army/Navy/Air Force Instructions (+ Grade Pay + Military Service Pay + X Group Pay if applicable) rather than the minimum of the pay band itself.
(e) Improved Casualty Pensionary Awards for post-2006 JCOs and other ranks: Modalities of some casualty pensionary awards of post-2006 cases of JCOs and other ranks have also been changed.
(f) Improved pensionary benefits of post-2006 released JCOs and other ranks: Weightages of pension for the ranks of Sepoy, Naik and Havildar increased to 12, 10 and 8 years and notionally been made applicable to post-2006 retirees also. Ordinary family pension also increased in the case of post-2006 JCOs and other ranks.
(g) Provisions of Dual Family Pension and Family Pension for life for handicapped family pensioners even in case of re-marriage.
Witness the reply from MoD to a RTI application that in the matter of NFU - “The Committee submitted its Report to the Prime Minister. It is stated that the recommendations on pay related issues of the report of the Committee have been further examined in Ministry of Defence and it has been still decided to wait.” (No. 35 (11)/2013/D (Pay/Services), Government of India Ministry of Defence, New Delhi, dated the 8th October, 2013).
Wait for what? And the UPA government quietly, even docilely, accepted a bureaucratic fiat!
Late Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao has been credited with saying, “not making a decision is itself a decision.” Precedent is that bedrock on which every bureaucratic decision flounders and is wrecked if it requires application of the mind, initiative and innovation.
One Rank One Pension was announced by then Finance Minister on 18 Feb 14, and must have permitted the Cabinet Secretary & CoS to heave half a sigh of relief.
Half a sigh? Read on..
Precedent of “non-decision” appears to have been taken to heart by the Committee of Secretaries headed by the Cabinet Secretary to refer to the 7th Central Pay Commission for resolution other anomalies placed before the Cabinet Secretary and his Committee of Secretaries (CoS) that required application of the mind. So much for intellectual prowess and decision making!
There is speculation whether the Chairman of the 7th CPC, with his experience as the Chairman of the Principal Bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal, will return the anomalies list to the Cabinet Secretary/MoD as resolution of past anomalies is not in the terms of reference related to Defence Forces (Para 2 (b) of the GoI/MoF/DoE Resolution No. 1/I/2013-E.III (A) dated 28th February 2014). The ToR is reproduced below: -
(b) To examine, review, evolve and recommend changes that are desirable and feasible regarding principles that should govern the emoluments structure, concessions and facilities/benefits, in cash or kind, as well as the retirement benefits of the personnel belonging to the Defence Forces, having regard to the historical and traditional parities, with due emphasis on the aspects unique to these personnel.
But one wonders whether the senior most officers of the much vaunted steel frame have displayed intellectual hollowness and ethical shallowness, if they have sent the anomalies to the 7th CPC for resolution. CoS has denied itself all cogent arguments and information by not inducting a member of the Defence Forces, something akin to just one side being heard and the decision announced. They have also decided not to take decisions they were tasked to take by nobody less than the Prime Minister and convey it in unambiguous terms to the Defence Forces.
Absurdities of the senior IAS officers’ logic fail comprehension when they have showered their own flock with unintended benefits like the Non-Functional upgradation. Just because one in the batch is promoted, others are provided largesse two years later! What happened to the much publicized merit system? Shrouded in the euphoric cloud of (unintended) financial gain?
It is a sharp contrast to MoF’s magnanimity to serving IAS and Gp ‘A’ officers in the absolute lack of objections to the Non-Functional Upgradation, a terms filled with contradictions. If one is non-functional (adjective; Not having or performing a function), how can one be upgraded?
Why else would a Deputy Secretary in the DoE think that the benefits of the decision of the Apex Court (in the Rank Pay case) should be restricted to the Army because of his impression that (all) the litigants appear to be from the Army.
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