Sunday, March 7, 2010

Did PM mislead House on pension?-Advani demands clarification after receiving letter from ex-servicemen

New Delhi : The BJP has demanded a clarification from the Government on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s statement in Parliament on Wednesday that ex-servicemen were getting enhanced pension. Although senior BJP leader LK Advani had then expressed satisfaction over the Prime Minister’s response, the need for the party to revisit the issue comes after Advani received a letter from an ex-servicemen panel stating that the pension scheme had not been implemented. Addressing the BJP Parliamentary Party meeting on Thursday, Advani said he had got a letter from the Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement (IESM) stating that “till today no jawan or JCO has received any orders for enhancement of pension”. He had on Wednesday also expressed satisfaction over the Prime Minister’s statement that the Government had honoured its promise of enhancing pension and it was implemented.
Informing reporters about the issue, BJP leader M Venkaiah Naidu said after the meeting that Advani had told his colleagues that the Prime Minister should have studied the matter and then spoken about it.

The letter by ex-servicemen, which the BJP said was sent to Advani after his clash with the Prime Minister during the Presidential Address debate, was written by Vice Chairman IESM, Maj Gen (Retd) Satbir Singh. The IESM has cited the Government order of July 6, 2009 on enhancement of pension of ex-servicemen and maintained that even enquiries from the Service Headquarters have confirmed that orders for the same have not been received. “It is a very serious matter of impropriety by the person no less than the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India on the floor of the House,” the letter states. Naidu said, “This matter should be taken seriously. The Parliamentary Party will see how the matter can be taken up further as it involved intervention of the Prime Minister. We demand the Government to respond.”The verbal duel between Advani and Singh had taken place when the BJP leader noted that Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee had specifically said he had accepted Rs 2,100-crore increase in expenditure per year for the purpose. “I am told that it has not been implemented, it has not been done,” Advani said. When the Prime Minister remarked that it did not “behove for anyone in this House to create a rift between the services and the Government of the day”, Advani refuted the charge saying he was not creating a rift.

The Prime Minister had informed the House that whatever the FM had stated in his Budget speech had been implemented. Advani then expressed satisfaction saying, “Well, if it has been implemented, I am very happy. But I can tell you that this is not the feeling that I got from the ex-servicemen." Incidentally, ex-servicemen have been agitating for the last couple of years on the issue of one-rank-one-pension. Many of the decorated soldiers also returned their medals to the President as a mark of protest.

The government last year set up a committee headed by the Cabinet Secretary, but the panel did not find the one-rank-one-pension demand administratively feasible. However, the committee suggested some steps to bridge the gap between the pension of soldiers who retired before 1997 and after it. The government also created another slab of soldiers who retired after 1997 but before 2006 and those after 2006, instead of four slabs existing earlier. Defence Minister A K Antony informed the Rajya Sabha in a written reply on Wednesday that these two recommendations were now under the consideration of the Finance Ministry and around 12 lakh ex-servicemen would be benefited.

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