Wednesday, 31 December 2014
Dhamakedaar Ideas on the Eve of the New Year
Please read post in the context (from Deccan Herald of 01 Jan 15)
1. Fiscal deficit is at 99% of the target as on 30 Nov 14 & with 4 months to go.
2. Excise duty has been hiked on petrol, diesel etc
3. Tax revenues are at 45% of the target for 2014-15.
In his guest column in the Outlook magazine issue dated 29 Dec 14 at page 20, Hasan Suroor quotes Arun Shourie’s revelation that the Prime Minister likes to tell his advisors: “Arey yeh theek nahin hai; kuch dhamakedaar idea do.”
And in his Good Governance Day directive to the MoD, Shri Manohar Parikkar has requested all & sundry to provide ideas for improving the working of the MoD by emailing suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Therefore, the intention of writing this is to fulfil the Prime Minister’s requirement as well as assist the Defence Minister understand the enigma called ESM.
Some readers will comment that every ESM with access to a computer, and an internet connection has written to every dignitary from the President of India & Supreme Commander of the Defence Forces to Chiefs of the Defence Forces, and so what is new or original in the contents of this epistle.
There is nothing new in this epistle but new “dhamakedaar ideas” to improve the working of the MoD, a problem that exists, and defies remedies since Independence.
The Dhamakedaar Idea of the BJP’s seasons in the sun – One Rank, One Pension.
Let me start with the cart - RM giving ESM (aka Ex-Serviceman) a shock at the Aaj Tak Conclave (as quoted by the esteemed Karan Thapar) by stating only “80% of OROP will be paid…because there is never 100% in everything” or words to that effect. Maybe, it escaped someone who wrote that script for RM, that 80% makes it modified parity, and not OROP! And the RM is a busy Minister!
Maybe Maj Gen Satbir Singh, Chairman of IESM (though Lt Gen Raj Kadyan was introduced as the Chairman of IESM on the Karan Thapar show!) will reconsider his demand by amending it to demand payment to ESM (ORs and Officers) & widows above the age of 80 years first, between 70 and 79 years next, and finally those between 60 and 69 years.
Now to the horse:
The Koshiyari Committee was provided the initial financial outgo of Rs 3000 crore and a recurring outgo of Rs 1300 crores (Rs 1065 crore for Veteran ORs & Rs 235 crores for Veteran Officers).
A second opinion was provided by the experts, the “abacus” and self-righteous guardians of the Public Exchequer, i.e. Deptt of Expenditure, Min of Finance. DoE/MoF provided the following data in two separate estimates dated 15 Jul 2011 and 01 Aug 2011 as follows, indicating a 10% increase annually: -
FY 2012-2013 Rs 1430 crore
FY 2013-2014 Rs 1573 crore
FY 2014-2015 Rs 1730 crore
FY 2015-2015 Rs 1930 crore, and
FY 2016-17 Rs 2379 crore, (attributed to the increase of 25% consequent to the implementation of the recommendations of the 7th Central Pay Commission).
Then, probably to scare the wits out of the Congress-led UPA Govt that was already facing a barrage of adversity due to scams, inflation, increasing CAD etc, the DoE/MoF also (helpfully?) suggested that an outgo of Rs 7480 crore would be required in 2011 to meet demands of civilian employees, which would (more ominously) increase at Rs 3000 crore per annum to a figure of Rs 62218 crore in FY 2016-17.
But, the Wisest Men of the Bureaucracy, the Cabinet Secretary and the Committee of Secretaries stated in 2012 that the annual outgo for OROP would be Rs 1400 crores with an initial total outgo of Rs 8000 crores to Rs 9000 crores.
In 2013, consequent to the wise conclusions of the Cab Secy and the select secretaries, the Govt implemented the Modified enhanced parity, where pensions of ORs other than JCOs of some groups and Officers were increased. But we are none the wiser if this amount was deducted from the estimates that we were soon to be confronted with.
In 2014, the CGDA led Joint Working Group (JWG) constituted by the MoD agreed to disagree on the estimates of Rs 9300 crores by the CGDA and between Rs 4600 crores to Rs 5100 crores by the Services HQ.
It probably did not occur to the mandarins of the MoD that CGDA, being the auditing arm of the MoD, would have better expertise to audit implementation of policy than lay down policy. But, either awed by the CGDA raising the bogey of the clarity of the Hon’ble Supreme Court’s order in the Rank Pay case and preparing a Draft Government Letter (DGL), or simply passing the buck, MoD again entrusted CGDA with a policy matter – preparing a DGL for OROP.
Now, we come to yet another aspect – the politics of OROP that cloud the “achhe din” of BJP’s promise of “will pay” and “have paid OROP” echoing from the heights of Siachen!
Reminiscent of many plans, policy decisions coming a cropper against reality, the UPA, perhaps goaded by the then PM-candidate spewing fire at an ESM rally in Rewari, and showering promises on ESM, the otherwise tight-fisted FM of the UPA grandly announced OROP on the floor of the Parliament to thunderous cheers, from both the Treasury benches inside Parliament, as well as 29 lakh ESM & widows outside Parliament.
The alacrity with which then Defence Minister of UPA constituted the JWG, enunciated the definition of OROP and signed a written order was astounding.
So ESM organisations joyously thumped chests (by the leaders of some ESM organisations) and counting the clinking of arrears in arrears in the pension accounts. But alas, as dreams being interrupted with every dawn of every morning, the OROP too has suffered.
The present PM promised expeditious implementation of OROP from the INS Vikramaditya, through election rallies finally that momentous statement “mere bhagya mein likha hain” from the high altitude of Siachen. The Defence Minister, as well as his MoS announcing finalisation of modalities of OROP on many occasions appear to be bereft of ideas, plans and know-how of keeping their promises.
Now, both the Prime Minister, and the Defence Minister have to produce something dhamakedaar.
ESM are getting the feeling that there is a wilfulness in not implementing OROP because they (like I) are unable to reconcile the regular announcements by Govt media that inflation is down, GDP is increasing, FIIs’ are investing more, Interest rates should be reduced, Black money is being traced and taxed filling the Public Exchequer, Prices of crude oil is down saving the Public Exchequer US $ 2 billion in imports costs, Decision not to appeal against judgements in the Vodafone and Shell and other cases, means the Govt can afford loss of several thousands of crores etc.
But the sobriety to this “Make in India” dream is provided by the Chief Economic Adviser stressing the need to cut down Rs 60000 crore to Rs 80000 crore to keep the fiscal deficit down and Govt announcing a cut of 20% in the Health Ministry’s budget, and the dollar ruling at Rs 64 or so on 30 Dec 14.
So, what are my dhamakedaar ideas to the PM and RM for OROP?
(1) Stand up and tell us the truth. ESM are patriots, Soldiers and Veterans, in that order. We speak the truth, and we don’t flinch from being told the truth.
(2) Give us a “ complete payment of OROP by so-and-so” date. Do not use “we are only 200 days young Govt and UPA did nothing in 36500 days.” That is why you are in Govt and the UPA got less than 50 seats in Parliament!
And remember, many of the young jawans and young officers face the enemy/terrorist/insurgent or whatever else is the euphemism used, from their first day of being inducted in battle.
(3) Admit that your homework was not up to scratch. If the above are not dhamakedaar ideas, just think of the dhamaka if the OROP was implemented.
Litigation and Limiting the Implementation by Excuse
One Major Dhanapalan, with limited and personal financial resources, took on the behemoth of the MoD and its plethora advice and services of Govt Law officers. Just when the other similarly situated officers though they too would get the benefit of the judgment, the MoD, using advice and services of Govt Law officers, compelled them to file cases in various High Courts, which the MoD prayed for and transferred to the Apex Court (TP (C) No. 56 of 2007. The Apex Court ruled against MoD on 08 Mar 2010.
MoD, on the advice of the then Learned Solicitor General (Shri Gopal Subramanium) filed an Interlocutory Appeal No. 9 of 2010 instead of a Review Appeal – a statement that would subsequently be upheld by the next Ld Solicitor General (now Justice Rohinton F Nariman of the Apex Court). MoD, which lost this case also on 04 Sep 2102, and sought the opinion of the SG on further legal avenues.
The Ld SG (now Justice Rohinton F. Nariman ) opined that MoD must implement the judgement in letter and spirit and also advised the MoD to take whatever administrative decisions necessary to implement the Apex Court order.
Implementation has left much to be desired and a Contempt Petition No. 328 of 2013 has been filed. Defence Secretary and CGDA have been impleaded at the behest of the Apex Court and the case is listed for a hearing on 09 Jan 2015.
MoD has lost more cases than it has won, as can be proved by statistics obtained from the files, but denied to this author by MoD (DESW) transferring a request for information under the RTI Act, 2005 to Army, Navy and Air Force HQ who are neither the custodians nor repository of the information.
Yet, using advice and services of Govt Law Officers, MoD continues to file appeals. Where such appeals have been dismissed, the Deptt of Expenditure decides to assume more powers than the Apex Court as in the SAG-29 Pensioners Vs UoI case (OA 655 of 2010) culminating in dismissal of UoI’s Curative Petition No. 124 of 2014), where a Review Petition as well as a Curative Petition were dismissed. Now, Deptt of Expenditure, the original culprit, has decided to implement the order of the Apex Court only for litigants, though such an order has not been passed by the Apex Court.
Similar is the case by MoD/DESW where an Order dated 02 Jan 2014 to Services HQ to file appeals “in stereotyped cases” without taking the consent of MoD/DESW had to be withdrawn on 02 Feb 2014.
More recently, the Apex Court dismissed MoD’s appeals in about 800 “stereotyped” cases in CA No. 418 of 2010 and tagged cases.
Now factor in the waste of Public money in seeking legal advice, filing appeals, affidavits, rejoinders, fees for the Govt Law Officers vis-à-vis the amount that might have been saved if the case was won – Rs 310 against a cost of Rs 80000 or so!
What is my dhamakedaar idea?
Do Not File cases/appeals without applying one’s mind and not with just one motto – Deny benefits to ESM.
Review circumstances and background of every case/appeal filed and won or lost in the past 5 years. If the review points out to certain familiar, but venal, characteristics, take action against the MoD's officer(s) who initiated the case/appeal and against the Govt Law Officer’s whose inexpert advice resulted in infructous litigation.
Do Not Suffer The Blight of Unthinking (as Hasan Suroor’s article is titled)
Notings on file obtained through RTI Act, 2005 reveal the opinion of the MoD that Non-Functional Upgradation (NFU) has been denied to the Defence Forces because they are not organised Class A Services.
Is it because they are denied the Fundamental Right of forming Associations (unlike the IAS or IPS or IFS etc Officers Associations which make demands on the Govt for things like financial and legal assistance for erstwhile AP Govt officers in the Jagan Mohan Reddy case)?
Is it because the President of India, Supreme Commander of Defence Forces, and Constitutional head of the Republic of India signs the Commissioning Order, which is promulgated in the Gazette Extraordinary of India?
Is it because while IAS and IPS and IFS officers are at decision-making levels in respective Ministries, the MoD is unique in steadfastly (stubbornly?) denying a similar place (organised Class A Officers) for Defence Forces Officers?
If Defence Forces officers are denied NFU because of not being organised Class A officers, what is the logic of placing officers of MES, BRO etc, earning higher emoluments & who obviously belong to organised Class A services, to work under the Defence Forces Officers?
If extra emoluments obtained through NFU do not determine status, how do the MES, BRO etc officers quote the higher emoluments for their places in a command and control organisation quoting higher emoluments?
Has the MoD etc issued an Office Memorandum or ID Note or whatever to the effect that emoluments do not dictate status, as stated by MoD in a brief to the Cab Secy Committee on Pay & Allowances anomalies relevant to the Defence Forces?
Finally, unthinking of the Wise Old Men of the Cabinet Secretary Committee, convened under the orders of then PM in 2012 who decided to pass on the “decision making” buck to the 7th CPC – ostensibly because it is an expert body that can take a holistic view on NFU and other pay anomalies relevant to Defence Forces.Not only have the anomalies remain unresolved for the past 8 years but will remain so for the next year (till 01 Jan 16), with resultant loss of income, that has been unfairly, and denial of natural justice, to bureaucrats!
Which raises a serious doubt? Isn’t the 7th CPC comprise officers of the IAS, IPS, IAAS etc, whose heads, the wise Secretaries headed by the Cabinet Secretary, put up their hands because of the complexity of the problem? How does being part of 7th CPC make the same bureaucrats better at thinking out solutions? Was it just denial, and delaying on the part of those Cabinet Secretary Committee wisemen?
So, what are the Dhamakedaar Ideas?
Let Defence Forces officers occupy posts at decision making levels in the Ministry of Defence. Remember, they are the ones that lay down their lives and seek nothing more than what the Govt has promised them. They have served in areas risking their lives. If IPS officers can be posted up to the level of Special Secretaries in MHA, why not Defence Forces officers in MoD?
Don’t differentiate between different Officers of the Government by practicing blatant discrimination. Learn from the Parliament, the citadel of enacting Laws for the land because it does not differentiate between BJP, Congress, Samajwadi Party, BSP, CPI (M), CPI etc when deciding on Pay, Allowances and Pensions because they are differently organised.
Is it because politicians take the decisions and bureaucrats create mischief and hide it in voluminous notes on file?
So, why do the politicians make promises and let the bureaucracy discredit them?
Then why does the PM, the Pradhan Sevak, trust bureaucrats to make a mockery of his promises before elections and assurances after assuming the office of the highest Executive, especially when it involves the Defence Forces - serving or ESM?
Jai Hind; Jai Jawan