by a veteran
Dear Prime Minister,
The OROP which you managed to get underway a year back, would certainly not have been possible without you at the helm of power. I congratulate you on this single most ground breaking policy decision taken since Independence. The recent suicide by a veteran over his pension, brings to the fore, how poorly and inefficiently pension matters of veterans are handled. The defence minister was quick to deflect the blame, by publicly announcing that the blame was with the paying bank. Later he said only about 5% veterans were not happy with OROP. In the numerous issues where this defence minister after studying files and records comes up with the worst conceivable answers, all against the interests of the armed forces, such unsubstantiated statements was but expected. I have had privilege of being of some help to many veterans over their pension issues, and some of the cases make very interesting reading on where the blame actually lies, and what corrective actions are required by the concerned department, probably,the same department that is giving the minister his figures and percentages.
Example 1: - Maj A.N.T retired (prematurely) in 1989. He called me up from Warud(MH) to tell me he was hardly getting any pension. I asked him to send me his PPO. The PPO was so badly prepared that it resulted in his getting a very low pension right from day one, and through the 4th, 5th and 6th CPCs. In 2014,his basic was just Rs12400.He had written a number of times to PCDA Allahabad,
but as he could not fathom the reason, he could not explain what the exact problem was.
He was getting the pension of a major with QS=20 yrs (not mentioned in the original PPO), whereas he had 20 yrs commissioned service + 6.5 yrs pre-commissioned service. A due drawn statement finally was made from 1989 to 2014 (14 pages) giving him the minimum pension in the rank of Lt Col(TS) through all pay commissions, and his pension restored to Rs 18205 in the 6th CPC (from a paltry 12000+). This resulted in PCDA making a fresh retiring PPO stating his QS, giving
him additional CVC on retirement+gratuity and in addition payment of arrears till 2014, a total of over Rs 4.5 lakhs. SBI was the bank in question which just kept forwarding his letters to PCDA, with no result. He could have bought a good 2 BHK home in Pune(the city of his choice), had he been given his correct dues in 1989.
Example 2: - Maj M.A. Z sought premature retirement in 1999. One look at his PPO was enough to make a letter to CDA(O) to revise his LPC. We went to CDA(O) with the letter, and found his name
missing from their database! Based on his letter he finally got arrears.
Example 3: - Lt Col SK T, retired in 2002.Similar case as example 1. His retirement benefits were revised, and he got a good sum in 2016.
Example 4: - Col S. U retired in 2002 (again premature) and a poorly prepared PPO again did him in. His retirement benefits were revised and he got a new retirement PPO with a handsome amount.
Example 5 Capt S K (IN) prematurely retired in 2004. A poorly and hastily prepared PPO resulted in a largely depressed retiring pension in 2004 and the following years. His PPO underwent a complete overhaul in end 2013 resulting in huge amount of arrears, including CVC and pension arrears as on 2004.
So what must the above reveal to the Defence Minister?
1. It must reveal at whose door the blame must lie. The CDA has always been inefficient in its functioning, but has successfully protected this fact from successive Defence Ministers. In fact
if a suicide has occurred over pension, why has he not asked for the PPO , to be publicised, to shame the real perpetrators? Why hide them.
2. The Defence Minister must know that with the plethora of computer systems and manpower available with them, manual records (ledgers) are still seen in rows of tables in CDA(O), Pune. Why? The reason being that they cheated the armed forces ,and then to undo the damage done, they had to issue thousands of fresh LPCs. But their basic nature is to short change the armed forces at every possible stage. Had they concentrated their efforts in preparing an iron tight pensioners’ data base, it would have served us better. This data base is not available for 100% defence pensioners.
3. The Defence Minister must know that if a pensioner who retired in 1999 is not on their data base, then it must raise serous questions of accountability, and must immediately lead to a data audit to understand where veteran’s records actually stand. The Defence minister stated that only ‘in about one lakh cases, the OROP had not been resolved’. Who gave him that figure, or how did he arrive at it? The same organisation which has not computerised the full data and which also told the earlier UPA govt that OROP was neither 'administratively or financially possible’ ?
4. An organisation that denies a pensioner the right to pension, by writing to banks to stop pension to a family pensioner (unless his/her date of birth is mentioned in thePPO), is assuming extra constitutional
powers.The same organisation issued a circular (to banks)10 yrs ago stating that `any of the following documents’ were okay for proof of birth-PAN, AADHAR, driving license etc etc. Yet when the PAN card copy was provided, they still insisted that AHQ/AG verify the date of birth. A letter had to be written to the PM by the pensioner, and immediately action was taken by SBI on that letter! In that I must congratulate the PM.
5. Another point of importance, to be understood by the Defence Minister, is that the initial commutation is the `capitalised’ value of commutation. There is a purpose for its release. Most veterans
use it for purchase of a roof over their heads. If any part of this is wrongly withheld and gets released
at a later date, the amount wrongly withheld should be scaled up using the CPI index figures, so that the amount released years later , meets the `capital’ requirements of the individual indexed at the time of its payment. Capital gains tax is computed in much the same way. This if enforced will mean that Rs 2 lacs, not given in 1989, would amount to over Rs 65 lacs today, and not Rs 3 or 4 lacs, as was actually paid in 2015!
6. The last and most important point is regarding CGDA’s data base of pensioners. Please release it in parliament and make it available to the ESM organisations. Each Parliament MP must also be given the responsibility to check district wise correctness of pensioners in the CGDA database to clean it up for correctness within 12 months, so that all defence and other pensioners’ problems
are ironed out.
The writer is a retired Naval Officer