Tuesday, 27 September 2016
Baat hain Maan, Samman, aur Maryada ki
The Hon’ble Raksha Mantri said a few weeks ago about going to Pakistan is like going to hell.
In his monthly broadcast Mann ki Baat on 25 Sep 16, the Hon’ble Prime Minister is quoted, (in The Hindu, 26 Sep 16) as saying, “I pay tributes to our 18 soldiers who lost their lives in the Uri attack. This cowardly act was enough to shake the country. It has not only left the people mourning but has also infuriated them. The loss of our soldiers is a national loss…..”
The substance of the Hon’ble PM’s speech and the Hon’ble RM’s comment is in sharp contrast with emptiness of the actual situation now brought to the headlines by Chiefs requesting MoD to delay in implementation of 7th CPC recommendations (as amended).
We have seen, heard, and read about sacrifices by serving members of our Army, Navy and Air Force and proof provided by Veterans who have lost limbs, and Widows of soldiers, sailors, and airmen who have served India and sacrificed their lives. It will be in the headlines of newspapers for a couple of days. The deaths will earn more TRPs proportionate to the loudness and harshness of the language of the anchor on prime time news programmes and Veterans who sputter with rage and far less coherence etc. Then they will move onto some other ‘breaking news.’ The deaths and sacrifices will be forgotten till the next lot of deaths.
But hell for Armed Forces personnel and Veterans and widows of Armed Forces personnel is closer home. How and what will the families of 18 live on, henceforth? It will be a pittance when compared to the fact that the 18 made the supreme sacrifice and the 19 nearly made that supreme sacrifice.
Did the deaths of many Armed Forces personnel shake up the officials in MoD and Def (Fin) in South Block, and in ‘B’ Wing of Sena Bhawan, and in the office of CGDA on Ulan Bator Marg, and the office of PCDA (P) in Draupadi Ghat etc to stop them creating hell for Armed Forces personnel, Veterans and Widows? Will these 18 deaths shake them up now?
Let us take the case of those 18 (and other) deceased personnel. Their families will get 60% (of the deceased Armed Forces personnel’s) last pay drawn as Special Family Pensions (SFP), if the above named officials do not write on files that the soldiers were sleeping in temporary accommodation and hence should not get full benefit, after the papers are processed and crawl through the labyrinths of the Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) and various departments, and then cross the Raj path (avoiding traffic or being stopped for a VVIP/VIP convoy) to the North Block for the Ministry of (MOF) to give its concurrence. So, the life of the Armed Forces personnel who died fighting terrorists has been devalued by 40%!
As for those injured, depending on the extent of their injuries and medical consequences, they will be sanctioned disability benefits of varying percentages, but only if some one in the above mentioned offices does NOT decide that his personal medical knowledge is better than that of the Armed Forces doctors and lowers the disability benefits. And again ironically, the Disability Act 1995 does not apply to Armed Forces personnel because they retire before that hallowed age of 60 years!
The hell that Armed Forces personnel face from ‘friendly fire’ (what else can it be termed as?) is not known to Bharatvasis because serving members of the Armed Forces NEVER complain about the long hours of duty required to ensure the integrity of this Nation. They NEVER complain that they have to fight with poor weapons produced by our Ordnance Factories or when rifles misfire when they face terrorists. They NEVER complain about the heavy but less effective bullet proof jackets because some one sitting in the air-conditioned rooms in the above named buildings take their time ‘processing’ files. They NEVER complain that they are working in submarines where the poor quality of batteries has led to fires and deaths due to poisonous fumes. They NEVER complain that they have to fly aeroplanes which have many components that do not work (and placed on the Concessions list!) and other aeroplanes that lack the basic search and rescue equipment which the recent case of the missing An-32 has brought out. They NEVER complained that slow or lack of decisions by the civilians employed in MoD led to the Pulgaon blasts that killed Armed Forces personnel and civilian fire-fighters.
Bharatvasis should know, unlike what the learned Chairman of the 7th CPC said that canteen facilities, entitled (not free) rations are given even to the Central Armed Police Forces. Bharatvasis and Chairman of 7th CPC might have read of the Sanskriti School run by wives of the All India Services Officers (IAS, IFS, IPS and IFoS) for their children. Bharatvasis may not know, like the Chairman 7th CPC may not too, that Sanskriti is funded by the profits of the Armed Forces Canteens but not from the CAPF canteens.
Personnel of the Armed Forces are not permitted to have unions to represent them to ask the Ministry of Defence what more should they sacrifice over and above their lives to be treated with dignity by the Govt of India? They cannot walk into the office of the Raksha Mantri to register their anguish, like 16 Joint Secretaries did in the Home Ministry to place their grievances before the Home Minister.
The widows of officers, soldiers, sailors, and airmen who gave their youth for India, and for us, ask what more should they sacrifice than the lives of their husbands to get more than 30% of the last pay drawn as an Ordinary Family Pension (OFP) being granted now. They ask how do we ensure the future of our children who have to be brought up and educated to stand on their feet on a smaller percentage of the last pay drawn of their late husbands? The late husband may have dropped his children by scooter (and saved school bus fares), while earning 20% more than the widow’s pension, besides other things including earning an additional income, working as Security guard (Rs 5000-7000 per month) or a Security supervisor (Rs 7000-10,000 per month). How is the widow expected to supplement her income? By stitching clothes on the sewing machine provided by welfare organisations when it is cheaper to buy the similar clothes online?
The Veterans who lead disabled lives ask how do we fight legal battles in Courts (RM's Committee of Experts report has not been heard of after it was submitted) when they cannot afford even the travel expenditure while the MoD uses services of Govt’s law officers even if the Armed Forces Tribunal awards a benefit of Rs 300/ p.m to the disabled? The Veterans, many are with one leg, one hand, one eye, and some with bullets inside their bodies because surgeons say they will die if they operate because the bullet(s) is/are too close to a vital organ like the heart or lungs, even the brain ask, “What else should we sacrifice for this Nation so that we get a reasonable quality of life, medical aid of a reasonable standard, and assistance for our families?” This, Honourable Citizens of India, is the hell that is closer at home.
Lest this is construed as another Veteran’s sentimental rant, please peruse a few examples from Court orders, and from file notings.
Case of One Widow
In 2010, Smt Pushpavanti approached the Honourable Supreme Court (Writ Petition (Civil) No. 291 of 2010) praying for better pension than the pittance she was being paid. The MoD fielded then Attorney General for India (May his soul rest in peace) and then Solicitor General of India to defend itself. After a stinging rebuke by the Honourable Bench who also gave a temporary relief of constituting an Armed Forces Grievance Redress Commission and to take instructions from the Govt for setting up a separate Pay Commission for Armed Forces. It was a fleeting hope of “achhe din,” because the Hon’ble Court recalled its order.
So, the Armed Forces personnel and Veterans, and widows were back at where they started – at the not so tender mercies of the MoD.
Delay and Aborted Denial of Court granted Benefits
On 04 Jul 2003, a Division Bench of the Hon’ble High Court of Kerala dismissed the Writ Appeal (No. 518 of 1998) in UoI vs Maj A K Dhanapalan and upheld the order of a Single Judge restoring amount Rank Pay deducted by the MoD in refixation of Pay. Instead of paying Maj Dhanapalan, the Deptt of Expenditure advised MoD “to take a chance for filing a Special Leave Petition” on 06 Aug 2004 in the Hon’ble Supreme Court. The SLP (No. 5908 of 2005) was dismissed at the first hearing by the Hon’ble Court on 12 Jul 2005. The advice of MoF was inspite of the Addl Solicitor General advising against filing the SLP.
On 04 Sep 2012, the Honourable Supreme Court awarded restoration of rank pay which was deducted in 1986 onwards for re-fixation of the pay of officers of the Army, Navy, and Air Force. The Hon’ble Court also directed that the benefit of its order be extended to all eligible officers whether or not they had approached the Hon’ble Courts, Armed Forces Tribunals etc (Interlocutory Application No. 9 of 2010 in Transfer Petition (Civil) No. 56 of 2007). The Solicitor General (now a Hon’ble Judge of the Supreme Court) opined on 31 Oct 2012 that the Govt should comply with the order in letter and spirit.
But Deptt of Exp, MoF’s habit die hard. Then Deputy Secretary in the Department of Expenditure, MoF, asked why the Court’s order should not be implemented only for Army officers because the majority of the litigants were from the Army. Obviously, contrary to the opinion of the Solicitor General, the Dy Secy had his own interpretation of the order of the Hon’ble Court and his intent to deny benefits to the Armed Forces personnel was proved beyond doubt [MoD File No. 34 (6)/2012 – D (Pay/Services) Note no. 18 Para 3 (c) dated 9 Nov 2012].
Delay in Pension Orders for Armed Forces Veterans and Widows
Before 1.1.2006, if you served for 33 years you were given full pension. If you served less than 33 years, your pension was divided by number of year of service divided by 33 years. For example if pension for 33 years was Rs 33000 and the Govt employee worked for 22 years he would get Rs 22000. The Supreme Court upheld the appeal of a retired civilian employee that he should get full pension which is 50% of his last drawn pay.
Govt of India issued orders on 6th April 2016 for restoration of pension for retired civilian employees deleting the pro-rata deduction of pension of those who have served more than 20 years but less than 33 years and Ministry of Defence issued similar on 8th April 2016 for restoration of pension for retired Defence civilian employees.
But till the date of this paper, the orders for retired Armed Forces soldiers, sailors, airmen, and officers deleting the pro-rata deduction of pension of those who have served more than 20 years but less than 33 years have not been issued because “the matter is under inter-ministerial consultation” replies the Joint Secretary in the Deptt of Ex-Servicemen Welfare.
Convoluted Logic on Disability Benefits for Veterans
7th Central Pay Commission (7th CPC) has decided and recommended to the Govt that disability benefits for 100% disability should be restricted to Rs 27000 for disabled officers, Rs 17000 for disabled Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs) and Rs 12000 for disabled soldiers/sailors/airmen of the ranks of Havildars, Naiks and Lance Naiks (called Other Ranks or ORs).
The reasons given by the 7th CPC, perhaps on the advice of an IDAS officer who was member of the Pay Commission’s Secretariat, is that about 20% of the officers awarded disability benefits are senior officers like Colonels, Brigadiers, Major Generals and Lieutenant Generals who continue to serve till their ages of retirement whereas only 7.2% of JCOs and ORs awarded disability benefits continue to serve till their retirement ages.
The country will be unhappy to note that the 20% are actually about 2000 senior officers who are in strategic, tactical planning and decision making roles or have had expertise from specialised training paid by the State, whereas the 7.2% are 95000 JCOs and ORs who have faced bullets and improvised explosive devices of terrorists, anti-nationals and insurgents. Due to those stresses they may be suffering from hypertension, diabetes, partial loss of hearing (being too close to artillery guns without ear defenders whose purchase awaits concurrence of Def (Fin) and much more – all attributable and/or aggravated due to military service.
The 7th CPC did not consider it fit to consider how the Army, Navy, and Air Force can invalided out 2000 officers or 95000 JCOs and ORs, in addition to about 800 officers who superannuate and 55000 JCOs/ORs who retire or complete their terms of engagement every year.
The 7th CPC did not ask the Director General of Armed Forces Medical Services reasons for such large number of officers, JCOs and ORs continuing in Armed Forces with disabilities but relied on the statistic supplied by Controller General of Defence Accounts to punish the Armed Forces by lowering the amount of disability benefits. After stating that it is being done for equity and justice!
Irrationality of an Incentive to Serve Govt of India anywhere in India
The unfairness will become evident to Honourable Members when we read in the 7th CPC Report the recommendation that IAS, IFS, IPS and Indian Forest Services Officers [All India Services – (AIS)] are to be paid 30% of their Basic Pay as incentive for volunteering to serve in Ladakh or in Assam and other north-eastern States of the Union of India. The basic pay of these officers will be between Rs 56, 100 and Rs 2, 25, 000 and the incentive could range from Rs 15, 480 to Rs 67, 500.
On the other hand, Armed Forces officers serving in the Siachen glacier are recommended to be paid Rs 31, 500 and JCOs/ORs will be paid Rs 21, 000 per month. They will get no incentive to serve in Ladakh, Assam or the north-eastern States of the Union of India! Ironically, an AIS officer will be rewarded 30% of his pay for agreeing to the serve his employer, the Govt of India, in Ladakh, Assam etc where the danger of dying from terrorist attacks is lesser!
The Government of India is the true and actual Civil Authority. The Armed Forces personnel as well as civilian government employees, whether from the IAS or IPS or Organised Group A services like the Indian Defence Accounts Service (IDAS) are accountable to the Govt. The honourable Govt must demand that the IAS, IDAS etc do not usurp authority, and sanction for themselves some benefits and concessions while denying the Armed Forces personnel, Veterans and Widows the same set of benefits and concessions misquoting it as supremacy of Civilian Authority.
Baat hain Maan, Samman, aur Maryada ki