‘Atrocious!’ roared the honourable Minister in his objection to the comparison of deaths of 40 Indian citizens standing in queues to exchange their hard earned old high denomination (OHD) notes with the death of 19 Indian Army’s soldiers, killed by terrorists’ bullets.
There is more atrocity. Alas, the victims are the serving and retired Indian Armed Forces personnel. These are not discussed elsewhere, even in muted voices.
For the first time in the history of 70 years of India’s independence, both serving and retired Central Govt’s civilian employees have enjoyed increased (2.57 times) salaries, pension, and arrears for the past three months. The Finance Minister’s statement that long queues are because the arrears of the Seventh Pay Commission are being exchanged is proof, if one was needed!
But serving Indian Armed Forces personnel and widows of those who made the ultimate sacrifice and retired Veterans have not been paid.
Again, for the first time in 70 years after independence, the Indian Armed Forces have politely declined, in writing, to implement Govt’s orders dated 5th September 2016 in respect of pay and disability benefits. The polite regrets are to a Govt that extols every soldier’s death and sacrifice. The Govt appears to have agreed with the Seventh Pay Commission’s recommendations put up by the bureaucrats aka Empowered Committee of Secretaries (ECoS).
Once again, for the first time in 70 years after independence, the Govt has approved “the payment of arrears on an ad-hoc basis, @ 10% of existing Basic Pay plus Dearness Allowance@ 125%” because the Indian Armed Forces have stood firm that the Seventh Pay Commission has adulterated the genuine entitlements of the Indian Armed Forces.
Why the dissonance between what the Govt says about Indian Armed Forces and what the Govt does for them? Here are just 4 instances of many.
1: - Govt’s orders of 2008 on pay for Indian Armed Forces personnel state that Military Service Pay (MSP) is to be added to Pay in the Pay Band (or Basic Pay) and Grade Pay including for calculating pension for all purposes except for calculating annual increments and determining status. The Seventh Pay Commission decided not to include MSP even for calculating the entry (Basic) pay from Sepoys to Brigadiers.
The Govt, despite praises for the sacrifices of the Indian Armed Forces every time a soldier dies, did not question non-inclusion of MSP for calculating the new Entry (Basic) Pay. Therefore, without MSP being added to calculate the new Entry (Basic) Pay, Govt’s orders of 5th Sep 2016 will result in a loss of approximately Rs 9000/- per month for Sepoys (and equivalents), which increases to a loss of Rs 21000/- per month for Brig (and equivalents).
2: - Seventh Pay Commission recommended, and the ECoS concurred with lower scales of disability benefits for Indian Armed Forces. The Govt has issued orders without questioning the ECoS. The ECoS, living in the comfortable, air conditioned environs of North and South Blocks, appear unaware of disabilities due to adverse elements - the biting cold of Siachen, injuries due to the misfiring/jamming INSAS rifles, explosions of bombs and ammunition because of faulty design coupled with delays by the Govt in taking remedial action, partial deafness due to the noise levels in the cockpits of An-32 aircraft and helicopters et al.
3: - Seventh Pay Commission has recommended that Indian Armed Forces officers be paid Rs 31500 per month and JCOs/ORs Rs 21000 as Hazard Allowance of the highest degree for serving in Siachen. On the other hand, the Pay Commission recommended that All India Services officers (which comprise IAS, IFS, IFoS, and IPS officers) be paid an additional 30% of their Basic Pay as an additional incentive to serve in Northeast states, Ladakh!. Aren’t they All India Services? Aren’t North-eastern States and Ladakh in India?
4: - a One Man Judicial Committee (OMJC) was formed to adjudicate on OROP. MoD asked Veterans to make representations through the MoD, the administrative Ministry for the OMJC. Natural justice is denied because MoD knows the Veterans representation but Veterans know nothing of the MoD’s rationale on the same issues. The results of the OMJC may not surprise 18 lakh ESM and widows.
The list of woes of Indian Armed Forces personnel are mis-treated is longer, but brevity prevents listing all of them.
A wise old man said, “Every society is judged by how it treats its least fortunate amongst them.” Sadly, the Indian Armed Forces appear to be the least fortunate!
Pray for Indian Armed Forces that they may continue to defend our country, never mind the mendacity of the bureaucrats, and lip service of the Govts of the day!