Honourable Raksha Mantri,
Veterans and Family pensioners thought that the pronouncement at Rewari in September 2013 was the beginning of the end of the ill-treatment suffered for the past 67 years under the Raksha Mantralaya. Though you meet the COAS, CNS and the CAS, to hear and address concerns of serving personnel, who meets you to represent the 18 lakh Veterans and Family Pensioners is not known.
2. You must have had occasion to read many briefs prepared by your Departments having presided over the Mantralaya. Each of them would have extolled the tremendous efforts put in by their respective Departments, i.e. Department of Defence (DoD), especially the D (Pay/Services), and Department of Ex-Servicemen’s Welfare (DESW), especially the D (Pension/Legal), even the D (Pension/Grievances) [which does not have a Under Secretary as per the Mantrlaya’s portal at 8 pm on 6th November 2017] to improve the quality of life of the serving Armed Forces personnel and ameliorate the hardships and grievances of Family pensioners and ordinary pensioners, respectively. There is nothing in the public domain as to when you or your esteemed predecessors met the office bearers of the Mantralaya recognised Veterans associations i.e. Indian Ex-Servicemens League (IESL), the Naval Foundation, or the Air Force Association. Neither are there any minutes of the meetings.
3. The Mantralaya would also have reproduced or paraphrased reports of
(a) The Pranab Mukherjee led GoM of 2006,
(b) The two (then PM ordered) Cabinet Secretary Committees of 2009 and 2012,
(c) Many Committees formed under the instruction of your esteemed predecessors such as the Joint Working Group (of 2014) on One Rank One Pension (OROP), the orders (later rescinded) to appeal every decision in Courts of higher appeal if the decisions were not in favour of the Mantralaya etc.
I know nothing about those briefs because I have not been able to obtain photocopies all of them, but it is the mandate of the Mantralaya to give you nothing but a rosy picture.
4. Therefore, I commence with quoting from the Bhagwat Gita and Mahabharata to present the other side of the rosy picture.
(a) From the Bhagwat Gita, Chapter 3, Verses 1 to 9: -
Arjuna said: O Janardana, O Kesava, why do You urge me to engage in this ghastly warfare, if You think that intelligence is better than war?
My intelligence is bewildered by Your unequivocal instructions. Therefore, please tell me decisively what is most beneficial for me.
The Blessed Lord said: O sinless Arjuna, I have already explained that there are two classes of men who realize the Self. Some are inclined to understand Him by empirical, philosophical speculation, and others are inclined to know Him by devoted work.
Not by merely abstaining from work can one achieve freedom from reaction, nor by renunciation alone can one attain perfection.
All men are forced to act helplessly according to the impulses born of the modes of material nature; therefore no one can refrain from doing something, not even for a moment.
One who restrains the senses and organs of action, but whose mind dwells on sense objects, certainly deludes himself and is called a pretender.
On the other hand, he who controls the senses by the mind and engages his active organs in works of devotion, without attachment, is by far superior.
Perform your prescribed duty, for action is better than inaction. A man cannot even maintain his physical body without work.
Work done as a sacrifice for Vishnu has to be performed, otherwise work binds one to this material world. Therefore, O son of Kunti, perform your prescribed duties for His satisfaction, and in that way you will always remain unattached and free from bondage.
(b) And the Mahabharata:
“One should forgive, under any injury. It has been said that the continuation of the species is due to man being forgiving. Forgiveness is holiness; by forgiveness, the universe is held together. Forgiveness is the might of the mighty; forgiveness is sacrifice; forgiveness is quiet of mind; forgiveness and gentleness are the qualities of the self-possessed. They represent eternal virtue.”
(c) And the Bhagwat Gita wherein Lord Krishna says, “Treat all things and people – the highest and lowest – with equal respect for their sacredness.”
5. From above quotes I am inspired to state the following
(a) Raksha Mantralaya was both our work place as well as our home from the time we were enlisted/commissioned into the Armed Forces, and will remain with us till we, and our entitled family members, are dead. We were not bewildered by the instructions of your Mantralaya (conveyed through proper channel) to risk our lives and our limbs.
(b) Devotion to duty and the Nation of Armed Forces personnel has always been to be of the most exceptional quality. When the Mantralaya (on behalf of the Nation) considers we have fulfilled our duties because we gave up our lives, or we were retired from service, the attitude of Family pensioners and pensioners does not change to indolence. Having faith in the Mantralaya, we become patient and await the fruits of our devotion to the Nation and to our duty.
(c) The forgiveness and patience that the Family pensioners and pensioners of the Armed Forces have shown so far has been beyond reproach, even if appeals/cases are filed to challenge an award of a petty sum or it takes months, even years before the benefits (so readily bestowed on civilian pensioners), or are grudgingly given to Armed Forces’ family pensioners and ordinary pensioners.
(d) So is it wrong to expect that we must be treated with due respect, even if the civilian officers in the Raksha Mantralaya feel that we are the lowest in their esteem, their priorities, their respect because we request (not demand) what the Mantralaya promised us?
6. The honourable Prime Minister has repeatedly stressed on Swachh Bharat Abhiyan – a clean India campaign. As the Vedic principle states, ‘charity begins at home and so does cleaning.’ The Raksha Mantralaya is our work place and our home, even after death. So shouldn’t you and we start with cleaning the Raksha Mantralaya, your present work place and our permanent home?
7. In the succeeding paragraphs, are instances from disclosures obtained through the RTI Act, 2005 of the file notings of the Raksha Mantralaya where neither cleaning (of hearts) nor charity (of thought) has been practiced. They also provide references so that the Honourable Raksha Mantri may call for the files and ascertain the veracity, as well as the details.
The Rank Pay Matter
Maj A K Dhanapalan Vs UoI
Reference: File No. B/25511/AKDP/AG/PS-3(a)
8. The Raksha Mantralaya inflicted the indignity of deducting in a devious and unauthorised manner the Rank Pay granted to Armed Forces Officers in 1987. The 4th Central Pay Commission awarded Rank Pay to officers of the ranks of Captain (Capt), Major (Maj), Lieutenant Colonel (Lt Col), Colonel (Col) and Brigadier (Brig) and their equivalents in the Navy and Air Force. The 4th CPC stated that Rank Pay was in addition to their revised pay in the integrated pay scale. Please see Chapter 28 and 31 of the 4th CPC Report.
9. However, officers of the Raksha Mantralaya, particularly the Defence (Finance) deducted the amount of Rank Pay before re-fixation of the pay of the officers. The Ministry of Finance (Deptt of Expenditure) questioned the manner of the deduction. It asked why deduct the amount of Rank Pay from the Basic Pay, if only it is to be paid again. The incredulous reply of the Defence/Finance was that because the 4th CPC says so but could not provide a document to support itself.
10. Even when the Solicitor General of India opined that the judgment of High Court of Kerala (in Writ Appeal No. 518 of 1998 in UoI Vs Maj A K Dhanapalan) was not worthy of being challenged in the Apex Court due to a delay of more than 500 days, yet the Raksha Mantralaya (Defence/Finance) persisted on the plea “let us try and see what happens” or words to that effect. Raksha Mantralaya lost the case but refused to implement the decision of re-fixation of pay in cases of similarly situated officers after restoring the impugned deduction of Rank Pay. So many officers filed cases in various High Courts in India.
Similarly Situated Officers Vs UoI
Reference: - File No. 34(6)/2012-D (Pay/Services)
11. The Apex Court transferred all the cases to itself on the plea of the Raksha Mantralaya but upheld the judgment of the High Court of Kerala on 8th March 2010. The Raksha Mantralaya was not done yet and filed an Interlocutory Application (which a Solicitor General, later Judge of the Apex Court stated was a “Review Petition in disguise”
12. Once again the Apex Court ruled in Interlocutory Application No. 9 to Transfer Petition (Civil) No. 56 of 2007 that re-fixation of pay must be done after restoring the deduction of Rank Pay on 4th September 2012. It took the Raksha Mantralaya two years and a reference to the Solicitor General (now a honourable judge of the Apex Court) and to the Attorney General of India (since deceased), who concurred with the Armed Forces officers before action was taken.
13. Before commencing reading this piece on the One Rank One Pension (OROP) for Armed Forces family pensioners and other pensioners, please see what other classes of those who serve the nation are entitled to: -
Reference: - M.S.A. No. 18 THE SALARY, ALLOWANCES AND PENSION OF MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT ACT, 1954 AND THE RULES MADE THEREUNDER, as amended up to December 2010
Section 8A Pension: - With effect from the 18th day of May, 2009, there shall be paid a pension of twenty thousand rupees per mensem to every person who has served for any period as a Member of the Provisional Parliament or either House of Parliament: Provided that where a person has served as a member of the Provisional Parliament or either House of Parliament for a period exceeding five years, there shall be paid to him an additional pension of one thousand five hundred rupees per mensem for every year served in excess of five years (emphasis supplied).
One Rank One Pension (OROP)
Reference: - File No. 12(1)/2014/D(Pen/Pol) and also Part II
14. In repeated exhortations, from the icy slopes of the Siachen glacier, to the smooth flight deck of INS Vikramaditya, the Armed Forces family pensioners and pensioners have been told that One Rank One Pension (OROP) has been granted. But is that the truth?
15. The Raksha Mantralaya assured the Armed Forces family pensioners and pensioners that OROP would be that personnel of the same rank, with the same years of service would be paid the same amount of pension, irrespective of the year of retirement/death (in case of family pensioners) with periodic enhancement. File No. 12 (01)/2014-D (Pen/Pol) with particular reference to minutes of meeting taken by the Raksha Mantri on 26th February 2014 may be of relevance.
16. However, the Mantralaya shifted the parameters in a fiat by giving an average of the highest and lowest pension for the same rank and same years of service, with protection for those drawing higher than the average. Does not that pose a conundrum – how can two pensions (the highest which is protected and the average) be One Pension for One Rank? And what is the equalisation once in 5 years?
17. Perhaps, in a momentary flash of wisdom, the Mantralaya instituted a One Man Judicial Committee (OMJC) headed by retired Justice Reddi.
18. The OMJC heard Family pensioners and pensioners of the Armed Forces at different places in India and prepared and submitted a report in October 2016. That report is being belaboured in the Mantralaya since October 2016, and periodic extensions are being obtained from the Lok Sabha Committee on Government assurances [Reference: - File No. 9 (17)/2017/D (Pen/Pol) refers.] The honourable PM may be unaware that the Mantralaya moves even slower than a snail!
Pensions as per Govt approval of the 7th Central Pay Commission
File No. 17 (02)/2016-D (Pen/Pol) & File No. 17 (01)/2017/01/D (Pension/Policy)
19. The Raksha Mantralaya must draw out a Concordance table for Armed Forces family pensioners and pensioners on the similar lines as that issued by the Deptt of Pension & Pensioners Welfare vide F No. 38/37/2016 – P & PW dated 6th July 2017. The tables trace pensions and increments from 1.1.1986 onwards till pensions as on 1.1.2016.
20. It was good news to read that there is a fresh thought on the Armed Forces Officers vis-à-vis AFEJHQ officers’ equation. It has come not a moment too soon, so this author shall refrain from giving any opinion.
21. All Armed Forces pensioners, Family pensioners, and disabled, war-injured pensioners and those who have lived through decades of service to the nation, watching the manner that the officers of the Raksha Mantralaya (Ministry of Defence) treat them, have built up a infinite capacity to endure the pain, the humiliation, and yet be able to forgive their oppressors and suppressors.
22. Pronouncements from the heights of Siachen to the decks of INS Vikramaditya notwithstanding, have started dimming our hopes, as the examples above have shown, wondering if all those promises are photo ops, even Māyā.
23. Rig Veda uses the word Māyā in two contexts, implying that there are two kinds of Māyā: divine Māyā and undivine Māyā, the former being the foundation of truth, the latter of falsehood.
Brihadaranyaka Upanishad describes Māyā as the tendency to imagine something where it does not exist.
In Puranas and Vaishnava theology, māyā is described as one of the nine shaktis of Vishnu. Māyā became associated with sleep; and Vishnu's māyā is sleep which envelopes the world when he awakes to destroy evil. Vishnu, like Indra, is the master of māyā; and māyā envelopes Vishnu's body.
The Bhagavata Purana narrates that the sage Markandeya requests Vishnu to experience his māyā. Vishnu appears as an infant floating on a fig leaf in a deluge and then swallows the sage, the sole survivor of the cosmic flood. The sage sees various worlds of the universe, gods etc. and his own hermitage in the infant's belly. Then the infant breathes out the sage, who tries to embrace the infant, but everything disappears and the sage realizes that he was in his hermitage the whole time and was given a flavor of Vishnu's māyā.
24. So we are back where we were before September 2013. That there would justice and an undoing of the previous wrongs has been belied to the extent that Veterans and Family pensioners agitated in public, perhaps for the first time in the history of independent India.
Other Suggested Reading Material
25. Please pardon any unintended impertinence, but the following is suggested reading: -
(a) The Post War Pay Committee Report 1947
(b) The Armed Forces Pension Revision Committee Report
(c) The Raghuramaih and the Kamath Committee Reports 0f 1960 and 1970 respectively
(d) The Ajai Vikram Singh Committee Report 2004 and the Apex Court’s order in Civil Appeal No. 3208 of 2015
(e) The Group of Ministers Report, also known as Pranab Mukherjee Report 2005,
(f) The Cabinet Secretary Committee Reports of 2009 and
(g) Raksha Mantralaya File Nos. 12 (01)/2014 – D (Pen/Pol) Parts I and II on OROP and the Rakya Sabha Committee on Petitions 142nd Report (also known as the Koshyari Committee Report)
(h) The Reports of the 3rd Central Pay Commission (CPC) of 1973, 4th CPC of 1987, 5th CPC of 1997, 6th CPC of 2008 and 7th CPC of 2016 with particular emphasis on recommendations for Pay, Allowances and Pensions for Armed Forces
(j) Special Army, Navy and Air Force Instructions 1/2/1987, 1/S/1998 and 2/S/1998, 1/S/2008 and 2/S/2008, 3/S/2008 and 4/S/2008, Army, and Air Force Pay Rules 2017 and Navy Pay Regulations 2017 and Amendments thereof
(k) Concordance table Civilian family pensioners and pensioners issued by the Deptt of Pension & Pensioners Welfare vide F No. 38/37/2016 – P & PW dated 6th July 2017
(l) File No. 2 (1)/2014/D (Pension/Legal) on withdrawal of instructions for processing Court cases for appeals
26. In conclusion, some wise words from the Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa: -
At the end of the war, when Hanumān visits Sītā to relay the news of Rāma's victory, she tells him to spare the lives of Rākṣasi's who'd troubled her earlier, by citing the story of a tiger chasing a hunter and how a bear offers him shelter.
“O Hanuman! There is an old maxim possessed of merit, actually uttered by a bear in the presence of a tiger. Hear it from me. 'A superior person does not take into account the sin of those who have committed an offence (against him). The vow of not returning evil for evil must be carried out at all costs; (for) the virtuous persons account good conduct as an ornament.
Formerly a tiger ran in pursuit of a hunter. The latter climbed up a tree. There was bear already preached on a bough of the tree. Making to the foot of the tree, the tiger addressed the following words to the bear: "Look here, both of us are denizens of the forest. The hunter is our common enemy. Therefore, knock him down from the tree." The bear, however, replied: "Having reached my abode, the hunter has in a way sought asylum with me. I am therefore not going to hurl him down; I would be deviating from my duty if I do so." Saying so, the bear laid himself down to sleep.
The tiger now turned to the hunter and said, "Push the bear down. I shall afford protection to you." The hunter thereupon pushed the sleeping bear. The bear, however, clutched at another bough and thus escaped from falling down. The tiger now addressed the following appeal to the bear: "The hunter sought to hurl you down and has thus wronged you. Therefore push him down." Though pressed by the tiger again and again, the bear refused to hurl him down and repeated the above quoted verse in support of his attitude.”
With profound regards and best wishes for a successful tenure as a Raksha Mantri who did better for the Armed Forces than in the past 70 years,