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Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Air Force Corporal's Example To The Nation - by R. KRISHNA KUMAR
EPITOME OF INTEGRITY: Despite
being in need of money, retired Air ForceCorporal Charles Williams wants
to return the excess money credited to his pension
At a time when scams are becoming common, the exemplary honesty and integrity of a retired Indian Air
Force corporal is hard to ignore.
Charles Williams, 89, a World War II veteran from Mysore and who’s in poor health, wants to return the excess money credited to his pension account.Mr. Williams joined the Royal Air Force in pre-Independent India. After being recruited, he was sent to Lahore for a six-week pre-induction training after which he was posted at Agra. Within days, Mr. Williams was sent to Burma where he saw action against the Japanese.“Though in the RAF, our unit saw a lot of ground battle and we dug in and stayed put in the trenches. We were holed up for weeks without regular supply of food and water. The battle that raged was horrific with soldiers getting maimed and killed in the heavy exchange of fire. But ultimately we prevailed,” recalled Mr. Williams.After retirement, he found certain anomaly in his pension and complained that he was being underpaid. “A visit to the local Sainik Welfare and Resettlement Board did not help me much as officials are apathetic to the grievances of ex-servicemen,” according to Mr. Williams, who then approached M.N. Subramani, president, VeKare Ex-Servicemen Trust in Mysore.
But calculations showed that the Centralised Pension Processing Centre of State Bank of Mysore, Mangalore, had credited Mr. Williams’ account with excess money.Mr. Subramani said he was being credited with Rs. 300 towards fixed medical allowances to which he was not entitled. He was credited with Rs. 15,200 in excess with effect from July 2007.“When this was brought to the notice of Mr. Williams, he asked me to inform the bank to recover the amount in 15 equal instalments so as not to put him in financial hardship,” said Mr. Subramani.What is ironic is that Mr. Williams is returning the medical allowance when he needs it the most. He is visually impaired and desperately needs Rs. 1.5 lakh for a heart operation. “When I am not entitled for something, the national exchequer should not be made to bear the burden,” said Mr. Williams, whose only request was that the excess amount be deducted in instalments.Meanwhile, Mr. Subramani has mailed a letter to SBM, Mangalore, drawing their attention to the anomaly.
At your service, but how long?
Anil Kaul urges the bureaucracy to accept that ‘One Rank One Pension’ is a just demand
Veterans, my friend, have to choose between being forgotten, mocked or used. As for being understood: Never. — Albert Camus
THE ENTIRE philosophy of handling the affairs of the armed forces and veterans needs an overhaul. By its attitude and deeds, the bureaucracy is ensuring that the atmosphere gets vitiated — once this happens, disaster can overtake the nation sooner than later. The trust of the nation — and the consideration soldiers deserve after the sacrifices they make with a smile — is missing. No amount of these half-hearted measures will be helpful unless this trust deficit is addressed and there is a total attitudinal change of the bureaucracy from ‘Squeeze the last ounce of blood of the soldier in times of emergency and once the job is done hang them’ should change to ‘Give the best to the soldiers as they are doing the most onerous duties for the nation’.
The soldier has to be made to believe that the entire nation is behind him to take care of him while he is ready to make supreme sacrifice. It must be done fast and before he starts asking: ‘Who am I sacrificing my life for? If this is their attitude then why should I sacrifice myself?’
To ensure that such a situation does not arise, there is an urgent requirement for grant of ‘One Rank One Pension’ (OROP) immediately. Thirty years is time long enough for anybody to wait for a basic problem.
Pension as defined by the Supreme Court is not pay but payment for services rendered. The OROP demand was authored way back in 1981 but remains unsolved. The definition of OROP has already been discussed in detail by the government and the Rajya Sabha Petition Committee headed by Bhagat Singh Koshyari and accepted as under:
The pre-1 January 2006 retirees got the same pensions as the post-1 January 2006 retirees by matching up the three factors that govern the pensions of ex-servicemen, i.e., the rank, the length of service and the trade (in case of all ranks below officer rank only). After this was effected, any future increases be automatically applied to old pensioners. The family, disability and dependents’ pensions are included for purposes of this definition. This, however, does not mean the grant of pensionary benefits such as DCRG and additional value of commutation pension.
This definition by no stretch of imagination includes annual increments in pensions as is given to serving soldiers. Not at all.
Notwithstanding the Rajya Sabha Committee Report being presented on 19 December 2011, is the general public aware that in 2013, a post-2006 retiree brigadier (equivalent deputy secretary) will get more pension than post-2006 retiree major generals (equivalent to a joint secretary). The protection clause for the Major Generals would have to be applied or Military Service Pay will have to be extended to Major Generals. This is the mess created by the Sixth Pay Commission. Now compare this with pre-2006 retirees. Pension of post-2012 retiree colonels (equivalent to a director), both time scale and selection grade, is Rs 35,841 whereas pre-2006 retiree major generals’ pension is Rs 26,700.You cannot have three-ranks juniors getting far more pension than the seniors. The OROP was asked for by defence personnel because ours is a rank-based hierarchy and our terms and conditions are unique and different from any other profession. As such, we want the same class of defence personnel is same rank and same years of service who are living today should get the same pension irrespective of the date of retirement and should continue to get same pension in perpetuity.
In their desperation to fool the unwary veterans, the bureaucrats had added the matter of annual increment in pension as per the serving soldiers to the award of OROP. This matter was being flaunted as the biggest stumbling block in grant of OROP.
EX-SERVICEMEN, IN fact, do not want annual increment in pensions as this is not right. The serving soldier gets his annual increment for additional year’s service: How can a pensioner claim the same for his retired service?
OROP means full parity with the latest rates of pension for past pensioners. Once granted, there are no increments till another revision by a Central Pay Commission or a Committee. A paper prepared by ex-servicemens’ organisations for the defence minister on OROP is available on demand. All those who wish to have its copy can be sent one on request. The most important is Chapter 5, which encapsulates all the lies that bureaucrats have been speaking over the past 30 years to scuttle OROP, together with the truth. This was given to the Koshiyari Committee also, which made good use of the information by exposing the lies of the bureaucrats and rejecting them with the contempt these deserved.
Successive governments in the past had claimed that OROP was untenable and the costs exhorbitant. The anomaly was created by the Fifth and Sixth Pay Commissions. The Congress had promised OROP in its poll manifesto in 2004. However, the UPA government rejected the OROP demand in December 2008, after which ex-servicemen returned their gallantry medals to the President and made open overtures towards the BJP. Following protracted protests, a committee was set up under the chairmanship of Cabinet Secretary KM Chandrasekhar to review OROP issues. Interestingly, it was announced ahead of the parliamentary polls in Punjab, Haryana, Uttarakhand and Rajasthan, which contribute thousands of soldiers to the three services.
On the basis of the panel’s suggestion, the Centre has now agreed to substantially hike the pension of junior commissioned officers and other ranks. The pension of such personnel who retired before 10 October 1997 (implementation date for the Fifth Pay Commission recommendations) will be brought at par with the pension of those retired after that date.
The pension of those retired before 1 January, 2006 — including the 1997 group — will be substantially hiked to come close to those who retired after the cut-off date of 1 January 2006 (implementation date for the Sixth Pay Commission). This is not OROP but better defined as near parity. Implementation of one rank one pension will put a ‘financial burden’ of Rs 1,300 crore on the government, wrote a journalist.Kaul, a retired officer, is the author of Better Dead Than Disabled. The views expressed here are personal.