Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Where Do We Go? Section 1

SOVEREIGNTY & SERVICES

by

Major General (Emeritus) RN Radhakrishnan

Part -9

Where Do We Go?

Section 1

Way back in 1964, IESL was established. It is unfortunate that neither the Serving AF Personnel (AFSP) nor the retired personnel (AFV) have been able take full advantage of the opportunity that has been available since then. On the contrary there has been a steady and rapid down gradation in all aspects, namely pay, perks, privileges and prestige. A number of small associations sprung up doing their bit to alleviate local problems to a satisfactory level. Credit goes to a few knowledgeable NCOs and JCOs. It is they who went about getting down to earth remedy to individual problems from the PDAs and the KBs.

With a quite a bit of fanfare IESM came up, made a distinct stir and got noticed. What has been the result? Can they claim the following?
  • Setting right the anomaly in the pensions of the Major Generals and Lieutenant Generals
  • Upgrading the pay band for Lieutenant Colonels
  • Getting a special scale of pay for Lieutenant Generals
  • Enhancement of the pension only for the pensioners (not the family pensioners)

Well! Anyone can claim, as almost everyone who could pen down a few coherent sentences had written to the various officials and the Ministers. What pressurized the Government is that they realized their goofing up in a very bad way and had to do some face saving and that is exactly what they did. They are shrewd. They know by these measures they can placate many and that is what counts.

Here we are trumped, not knowing what to do.

What are the issues?

I have already brought out the issues quite a few times and now I summarize, first the Short Term Measures falling under the definition as those that are to be implemented within three to six months’ period.
  • First and foremost; restoring the family pension at the rate of 60% (if not more) of all the pensions drawn by the husband after the enhancement or after retirement from a second career.
  • Payment of Correct Disability pension.
  • Completion of payment of Revised pension and the arrears by the PDA
  • Withdrawal of any appeal already made or intended to be made against the verdicts of HC and AFT, by the Government.
  • Short payment in pay and pension due to deduction of rank pay while re-fixing pay consequent to 4th CPCR for all officers to the rank of brigadier.
  • Completion of the issue of revised Pension Orders (RPO) by the PDAs and confirmation of the correctness of the RPO by the CDA/ RO concerned.
  • Revision of the pension of all commissioned officers must be taken interpreting the Pension orders correctly. The interpretation of the phrase ‘minimum of the pay in the pay band’ means the minimum of the applicable pay scale carved out of the pay band and not ‘the minimum of the pay band’.

Now let us review the Long Term Measures falling under the definition as the solutions that are to be implemented as soon as possible but not later than one year.
  • Bring about parity in pension based on the principle that any two armed force pensioners retired at the same rank and having put in the same length of qualifying service must be paid the same pension, for all the pensioners irrespective of the date of retirement.
  • Implement the 6CPCR on lateral induction. The age restriction that exists now must apply only for combat role. There are a number of establishments under the MoD exclusively dealing with Services. All these organisations must legitimately be manned by Servicemen with relaxation on the age of retirement to match that of superannuation. There is no need to retire any service personnel before the age of superannuation.
  • Create an Integrated Directorate of Rehabilitation and bring all the central and state controlled welfare organizations under it and man it with servicemen. This will ensure better functioning of those organizations and create more confidence in the AFV community. This directorate has to function only till such time the exercise of the lateral induction is not completed.
  • Bring all the polyclinics under the ECHS within the ambit of the Defence Medical Corps.

Final Solution

The promulgation of an ordinance to confer the special status of privileged citizen of the Nation and preferred employee of the Government on all armed force personnel that is the legitimate right of a soldier and moral obligation of the Nation to him is the final and only solution for us to regain all that is lost. Can there be any other better manner for the Nation to honour the soldier, who willingly accepts laying down his life in the defence of the Sovereignty of his country as the service condition, without demanding any special privilege in compensation?

We will see in the next section, in a short while, the steps that need to be taken by us.

Note: ‘emeritus’ means ‘having retired but allowed to keep a title as an honour’ and is a better word to describe ESM status.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

SOVEREIGNTY AND SERVICES-8-Review of the ESM Welfare

SOVEREIGNTY AND SERVICES

by

RN RADHAKRISHNAN (Rtd Major General)

Part 8

Review of the ESM Welfare

Prelude

1. A lot has happened in the last couple of years. We, of the ESM community (ESMC), have become acutely aware of how we have been short-changed by the Government. Thanks in a big way to the IESM, who took to the reactionary and highly visible path to make the Government listen to us. But for their agitation and deposit of medals, neither the Government nor the public would have developed the inclination to watch us. The silent and steady pursuance with the Ministry by IESL by virtue of its recognisance by the Government cannot be, but have been, highly ignored, because the efforts were neither visible nor publicized. It is unfortunate, but a fact that, notwithstanding these efforts, neither the Government nor the public have really understood the seriousness of the neglect of the ESM and the Services, by the Government for that matter the Public. Neither do they seem apprehensive of the repercussions the neglect can cause on the security and the Sovereignty of the Nation. Hence, an attempt is made to review the sad state, in which we all, of the ESMC, the Politicians and the bureaucrats, all those who matter, live blissfully, oblivious of the reality.

The Neglect

2. Assured Continued Employment Servicemen had been denied the opportunity to be employed till the age of superannuation. This had prevented him to earn a decent salary at the top of the scale, at the time of retirement. By virtue of assured career progression the scale applicable to him would have been two grades above, had he the opportunity to serve longer. Thus, he stands to lose heavily in pension that can take care of his family on his retirement. This is the crux of the malady. Having understood the gravity and inexorableness of this malady, Sixth Central Pay Commission (6CPC) mooted a concept of lateral induction. For reasons well known to the Government, this was not accepted, perhaps because the Government felt that the existing system of rehabilitation that included laying down reservation quota in the various Central and the State Government sectors addresses the shortcoming adequately. Let us see further how unfair the Government has been towards a soldier whose sacrifices cannot be expressed in mere words, but only can be experienced which is not possible in our country with no policy for compulsory military service.

3. Rehabilitation A directorate of Rehabilitation exists in Army. How effective this Department has been can be judged only if the Department can give data on the percentage of retired servicemen that have been rehabilitated. Following valid questions need addressing.

• Is the concept of rehabilitation envisages 100% rehabilitation and if not why?

• Has the Department been monitoring the rehabilitation and if not why? Ground facts speak volumes of the corrupt practices followed in denying the vacancies reserved for the Ex-Servicemen (ESM).

• Notwithstanding the creation of the Directorate of Rehabilitation, where was the need to establish more organizations in the form of Welfare Boards with dual control of the Central and the State Governments, thereby making the Welfare Boards more powerful, less helpful and far less accountable?

• Is it fair to deny Assured Continued Employment to a soldier and throw him at the mercy of an organization that is the least concerned and the least knowledgeable of the problems of a soldier?

• Is it fair that a vast number of establishments that exist under the control of the Central Government that can comfortably accommodate the whole lot of ESM are opened to civilian staff and a soldier made to run from post to pillar to get employment in the same establishments?

• Does it not amount to biased, rather highly partial treatment, ignoring the sacrifices, the soldier has undergone in his service to the Nation, when his counterpart in the Civilian world enjoyed secure and comfortable working environment, the direct fruits of the sacrifice of the soldier?

4. Pension Here I am not attempting to talk about how fair is the Pension Rules for the Soldier. An elaborate paper has been made available almost to everyone that matters in taking care of a soldier, a long while ago. I want to highlight how mean have the concerned authorities been in paying even the meagre pension to the soldier and the widows.

• PDAs are yet to pay the pension to a considerable number of pensioners (by the estimate of pension cell working at Madurai) in accordance with the pension first revised and made applicable wef 01-01-06.

• Revised Pension Orders have not yet been issued and the PDAs express their inability. If this document is not made available, the widow, on the sad demise of the soldier would be harassed on her claim and the extent of her claim of pension. I had brought to the notice of the Secretary (ESW) the cases of as many as seven widows who were drawing half the pension they were entitled, for well over twelve years. Their arrears on account of this gross negligence amounted to the tune of three lakhs in an average.

• Principle in bridging the gap An exercise was taken up by the Government to bridge the gap in pension between the pre and post 2006 pensioners. Since the principle behind the bridging was not made known, the exercise led to arbitrary enhancement of pension. We see that the pension for personnel other than Commissioned Officers has been increased to some extent. The pension of the Commissioned Officers of the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and Lieutenant General has also has substantially increased widening the gap in the existing pension of the immediate junior ranked officers. The exercise should have been on the basis of a principle and that principle must be made applicable to all.

• We understand that there is no effective auditing system to verify the correct and timely payment of pension. To assess the effectiveness of the audit system I made a request to CDA (Pension) asking for data on the figures of short payment and over payment of pension over the past three years, which request has not even been acknowledged, till date.

• In an attempt to bridge the gap (why not eliminate the gap) in the pension disparity of the ESM, the Government announced enhanced pension by its order dated 08-03-10 for personnel other than the Commissioned Officers. In spite of very strict and concerned instructions by the Government, the order has not been implemented in full, till date by most of the PDAs and, the most lethargic one is SBI.

• Denial of Family Pension Government as a Role Model Employer has introduced the concept of family pension at the rate of sixty percent of the pension drawn by the husband. (On the demise of the husband, the widow loses the moral physical and financial support and needs the protection of the Government; hence proportion of the sixty percent itself becomes questionable.) Strange is the fact that the soldier on reemployment is asked to sign a document consenting that the wife, on his demise, shall be entitled to only one pension, either for his military service or the service in the civil sector, whereas he himself is entitled for both the pensions. Stranger still is the fact that this stipulation is from MoD. This case also has been brought to the notice of the former and the present Secretaries (ESW) for review.

• It is absolutely unbelievable but true that the above mentioned order clearly denies the benefit of the enhanced pension from flowing to the widows.

• There does not seem to be any organised opportunity for employment of dependent of the demised pensioner. There exists a provision for employment on compassionate grounds for a dependent of a Government employee who dies in service. Should a similar provision not be included for the ESM, considering him notionally as a Government employee till such time he attains the age of superannuation?

• Disability Pension The extent of benefit for disabled pensioners, which had been extended to the Civilian employees had been denied to the soldiers for reasons beyond the comprehension of any sane person. Ultimately, AFT had to intervene to redress the gross grievance. Yet one wonders if MoD would take it up with Supreme Court and lose, as it had been customary with MoD when verdicts at the lower courts are found to be in favour of the soldier. In the bargain more time will be lost and the suffering of the disabled soldiers shall continue. Can those on whom the soldier places utmost trust be so cruelly indifferent and unconcerned?

5. The Folly of Rank Pay The case of omitting the rank pay while fixing the pay of Major Generals in 1996 came to some favourable conclusion sometime in Sep 2009, after a prolonged battle in the Courts, made unpleasant by the Government by resorting to fight it at every step unsuccessfully and unnecessarily. All that the Government gained was to gain the wrath of the anguished families of the deceased Major Generals, in the intervening period. Again a fresh battle is on for similar folly committed way back in 1986 in fixing the pay of all officers up to the rank of brigadiers at that time. We cannot term it as a folly and the more appropriate phrase is ‘breach of trust’. The question is ‘should there be any more delay (the delay has been well over 24 years) in implementing the court orders to revise the pay of all affected officers.’ Dr V Moily the Minister for Law has come up with ‘National Litigation Policy’ which specifically addresses this kind of approach by Government Departments to delay and thereby deny justice to helpless employees. It is worth noting that ESM community has never developed the culture of Collective Bargaining.

6. Here the words from an article titled ‘Unfair to military personnel’ by Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi, the former VCOAS are worth quoting:

“This may be hard to believe but the prevailing culture at that time was that most military personnel were fairly blasé about their pay and allowances. --- It was in fact considered infra dig to get in to mundane issues like entitlements, as it was a firm belief that the authorities will always look after one’s interests. It is now clear that we were really naive. The authorities in the corridors of South and North Blocks, however, had little time for such niceties!”

Suggestions

7. I am confident that the Legislators will view this paper not in terms of rules and regulations but from the point of constitutional propriety. The perpetuation of this kind of ill treatment singularly towards the Armed Forces cannot be easily understood and needs a study by itself. Such a study is not warranted at this juncture, as even without knowing the cause the legislators can find a solution once for all, if they are so inclined. Hence a few suggestions are made as follows:

8. Short Term Measures are defined as those that are to be implemented within three months of receipt of this appeal drawing the attention of the legislators to the grievances caused to the Ex-Servicemen Community.

• First and foremost; restoring the family pension at the rate of 60% of all the pensions drawn by the husband after the enhancement must be taken up.

• Payment of Correct Disability pension must be done.

• Completion of payment of Revised pension and the arrears by the PDA has to be ensured, duly monitored at the Directorate of ESW level as PDAs have not responded to the repeated instructions of the Government and CDA (Pension)

• Any appeal already made or intended to be made against the verdicts of HC and AFT must be withdrawn and the court verdict must be honoured and adhered to by the Government.

• Short payment in pay and pension due to deduction of rank pay while re-fixing pay consequent to 4th CPCR for all officers to the rank of brigadier must be regularized.

• Revised Pension Orders (RPO) must be issued without delay and confirmation of the correctness of the RPO must be intimated to the individual by CDA/ RO concerned.

• Revision of the pension of all commissioned officers must be taken interpreting the Pension orders correctly. The interpretation of the phrase ‘minimum of the pay in the pay band’ means the minimum of the applicable pay scale carved out of the pay band and not ‘the minimum of the pay band’.

9. Long Term Measure is defined as the solutions that are to be implemented as soon as possible but not later than one year.

• Bring about parity in pension based on the principle that any two armed force pensioners retired at the same rank and having put in the same length of qualifying service must be paid the same pension, for all the pensioners irrespective of the date of retirement.

• Implement the 6CPCR on lateral induction. The age restriction that exists now must apply only for combat role. There are a number of establishments under the MoD exclusively dealing with Services. All these organisations must legitimately be manned by Servicemen with relaxation on the age of retirement to match that of superannuation. There is no need to retire any service personnel before the age of superannuation.

• Create an Integrated Directorate of Rehabilitation and bring all the central and state controlled welfare organizations under it and man it with servicemen. This will ensure better functioning and create more confidence in the ESM community. This directorate has to function only till such time the exercise of the lateral induction is not completed.

• Bring all the polyclinics under the ECHS within the ambit of the Defence Medical Corps.

Conclusion

10. All that is required to be stated in the conclusion is that promulgating an ordinance to confer the special status, of privileged citizen of the Nation and preferred employee of the Government on all armed force personnel, is the legitimate right of a soldier and moral obligation of the Nation to him. Can there be any other better manner for the Nation to honour the soldier, who willingly accepts laying down his life in the defence of the Sovereignty of his country as the service condition, without demanding any special privilege in compensation

THE END

Sent to Sri Nitin Gadkari President BJP through email nitingadkari@email.com



Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Dear Vetrans

I have started this blog for discussion on any constructive suggestion towards Armed Force Veterans' Welfare (AFVW).

My request is that use this blog for only constructive criticism and AFVW.

Regards RNRK