Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Miffed SC to defence secretary: How about spending 10 days in high-altitude Army posts

New Delhi: A little over a month ago, the Supreme Court had suggested to the Centre to keep its Armed Forces Personnel happy by providing them with an independent pay tribunal where they could ventilate their grievances instead of returning their medals and burning artificial limbs. But finding the response lukewarm, a Bench comprising Justices Markandey Katju and T S Thakur expressed unhappiness in no uncertain terms and termed the bureaucracy in the ministry of defence insensitively effective. Sitting somewhere in a plush office in Delhi and finding fault in each proposal is easy.The defence secretary must be sent for 10 days to the high-altitude posts.He will at least see first hand the conditions in which these people serve the country, the Bench said.

To minimise further flow of anguished remarks, Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam, who appeared for the Centre, sought time to respond to the proposal but not before clarifying that  Govt was getting objections to the proposal for setting up a panel to look into pay-related and pension-related grievances of Armed Forces Personnel. The Bench reluctantly gave a final opportunity to Subramaniam to come back with a proper response from the Govt to the suggestion of setting up an independent pay tribunal but also reminded him that on the last two occasions, the government had done nothing better than seeking further time.

"Your bureaucrats are not bothered. People in the Army are returning medals in thousands and some have even burnt their artificial limbs in protest.They get a feeling now that these bureaucrats do not hear them.If you have a commission,at least some steam (anger among the armed forces personnel) will be let out, the Bench reasoned. Subramaniam said,I see value in what the court has suggested,but this involves more than one ministry.Even the recurring liability would be high.

The Bench posted the matter to November 8 asking the Centre to respond specifically to the suggestion, setting out the areas and parameters it was willing to consider.The apex court on September 8 had suggested setting up an independent pay tribunal chaired by a retired Supreme Court judge that would be a recommen-datory body.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


New Delhi, Oct 15 (IANS) Defence Minister A.K. Antony Friday announced a cash bonanza of Rs.12 lakh for each of the gold medal winning armed forces sportspersons, Rs.7 lakh for those who won silver and Rs.5 lakh to the bronze medal winners at the just concluded 19th Commonwealth Games.  The armed forces sportspersons have won 25 medals, 10 gold, seven silver and eight bronze, out of India's total tally of 101.

There were 50 sportspersons drawn from the three services who competed in 10 Games events. Antony commended the contribution of the armed forces in making the Commonwealth Games a success. Besides participating in the competitions, the services were involved in the day-to-day management of the Queen's baton relay during its over 100-day journey across the country. Armed forces bands participated in the opening and closing ceremonies, and flag hoisting during the medal presentations.

Indian Army engineers also built in record time a footbridge near the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium after an under-construction footbridge near the main venue of the Oct 3-14 sporting event collapsed barely days ahead of the sporting gala.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Govt to address pension issues of armed forces personnel

With a large number of officers and jawans approaching the A F Tribunal with pension-related grievances and complaints, Govt today said it was working towards improving the situation. Def.Min. AK Antony said in comparison with the civil pension structure, defence pension was "very complex" and a large number of complaints and grievances were there. "There are so many instances of personnel-below officer ranks and very senior officers approaching the Armed Forces Tribunal against these grievances... this is not a happy situation," the minister said while addressing the foundation day celebrations of the department of defence accounts.

The defence minister said there was a need to further improve the situation and government was working towards it. "In last few years, the DAD has improved the system drastically and there are lesser number of complaints now but there is a scope of further improvement. A large no.of ex-servicemen are approaching the Tribunal but this doesn't mean the things are bad," he added.

Earlier in the day, Antony launched three DAD websites named Project Suvigya, Project Aashraya and Project Sankalan. The websites have been created by the department for helping defence pensioners to know about their pensions and addressing their grievances related to it.

Under the Project Suvigya, pensioners would be able to know about their pension entitlements online and with project Aashraya, it would be possible for a pensioner to log into his pension account from anywhere in the world, DAD officials said here.

Project Sankalan would facilitate dissemination of various orders, instructions and manuals electronically and would also help in reducing paper consumption in the department, they added.

(Source : Pay Commission/DNA News /PTI)

More logic, less rhetoric to strike a better deal - Maj Navdeep Singh

Is atta-dal cheaper for a pensioner who retired in, say 1995, than an employee retiring today? Absolutely not. Then why should an old retiree be paid much less pension than an equally placed person retiring today in the same rank and with the same length of service? Legalese apart, this is the question that stares the present system in its face. But then, the logic is equally applicable not only to defence pensioners but to all pensioners irrespective of the service they retired from. And this is where I differ from some veteran organisations, which time and again bring in the talk of honour, valour and sacrifice of defence personnel while trivialising the roles of other occupations.

One rank—one pension (OROP), or more precisely “Equal pension for the same grade with same length of service”, is definitely an equitable and ideal concept and should be granted, but it should be extended in time to all pensioners irrespective of the service from which they retired. If the defence services deserve it earlier or in a different format than others, it is not because their contribution is more hallowed than civilian employees but because they retire younger, at times 25 years before their civilian counterparts, are at call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and definitely lead a tougher regimented life. Every service or occupation, however, has a role to perform in sustaining this nation and the thin line between pride and superiority should not be crossed.

The outrage and retort of some members during a recent popular TV talk show, when a professor of economics suggested that there were other professionals too such as firemen who faced occupational risks, again reflected a kind of hollow supremacy which we are unknowingly instilling within the military society and that is taking us further away from the real world. Perhaps, the example of a fireman was not apt, but there are others such as personnel of the Central Police Organisations who face similar risks and probably lead an even tougher life. The only intelligible differentia that can be logically put forth is that defence personnel retire earlier.

Of course, also fallacious was the argument of the professor that defence personnel should be granted higher pay but not greater pension because the nation cannot afford it. Perhaps the professor did not know that pension, as interpreted by the Supreme Court, is a “deferred wage” and a higher wage therefore has to rationally translate into higher pension. This fight should be won not by comparisons or running down others but by articulating a logical stance that is not easy to defy.

The idea should be to convince the government, the public and the nation as to why pensioners in general and defence pensioners in particular deserve a better deal. Though I do not agree with the oft-repeated conspiracy theory of the bureaucracy being always opposed to what defence personnel deserve, I can say it with conviction that mischievous elements at not-so-high-levels definitely have the ability to deceive the upper echelons of governance with misleading file notings on which there is no proper application of mind at the top but only affixing of initials as a mere formality. Or else nobody on earth could justify what has been labelled as “modified parity” or “rationalisation of pension structure”.

The difference of Rs 1,400 between the pension of a Captain and a Major as on December 31, 2005 has gone down to Rs 250 on January 1, 2006 after the Sixth Pay Commission, rather than increasing with the enhancement of scales, while the difference of Rs 950 between the pension of a Major and a time-scale Lieutenant Colonel has gone up to Rs 11,600.

As on date, the disability element of pension of a 100 per cent disabled officer holding the rank of a full General who retired on December 31, 2005 after 40 years of service is Rs 5,880 while the disability element of an officer of the same rank retiring a day later is Rs 27,000. In fact, a Lieutenant, the lowest commissioned rank, with one day of service released on January 1, 2006 gets a disability element of Rs 8,100 which is much more than that of a 100 per cent disabled General, the highest commissioned rank, who retired a day earlier. Probably it has been somehow established on file that an injury sustained in January 2006 is more agonising than the one sustained a day before!

The government may call it anything — modified parity or rationalisation, officialdom may put across a labyrinth of rulings and decisions to defend itself, but the net result is that the differentia between pre and post 2006 retirees is something that shakes the conscience. But how do we counter it — by rhetoric and presenting ourselves as “holier than thou” or by sound and logical reasoning?

The writer practises in the Punjab & Haryana High Court
(source- The Tribune)

Different pension for same service is patently unjust- Ex-servicemen have been campaigning for implementation of One Rank--One Pension for years, with some even returning their medals in protest. Equal pension for the same length of service, irrespective of the date of retirement, is the core of their move to get a better deal - Lt Gen Raj Kadyan (Retd)

One rank — one pension (OROP) has been the demand behind which Ex-servicemen (ESM) have been rallying ever since the Sixth Pay Commission was made public in March 2008. It needs to be restated that OROP is a demand for equity and justice and not for money per se. The concept is based on demanding equal pension for equal work, independent of the date of one’s retirement. This is not the case at present and older pensioners are getting lower pension than their younger counterparts of the same rank and for equal length of service. Prima facie, this is unjust.

The Congress spokesperson understandably eulogized UPA 1 and UPA 2 for what they have done for the ESM since 2004, but made some statements that do not fit facts. His assertion that all personnel other than officers have been granted OROP was incorrect. When cornered, he corrected his version to say that the difference between pre and post January 2006 pensioners is only one to eight percent. This is again blatantly wrong as the difference is more than 50 percent for jawans. He also claimed that all personnel other than officers were very happy with what they have got. If this were so, they would not have been protesting and depositing their medals still. Thirdly, he attempted to create an impression that jawans are happy and the problem exists only in officers’ pension. One wonders whether this statement and not-so-subtle attempt to create a divide was his personal opinion or whether he was towing the official line.

In either case, it was unfortunate and unbecoming and needs to be clarified. When he announced that the government has agreed to constitute a separate Pay Commission for the defence forces from the Seventh Pay Commission, he was rightly booed. Going by precedent, the Seventh Pay Commission report might come out around 2018. There is no denying that the government announcement is merely to shelve the problem and not solve it.

Some have suggested a compensation package instead of higher pension, but In this they overlooked the fact that OROP is all about justice and not about money. While accepting the hazards of military life, an economist recently equated a soldier to a fireman who might get killed while entering a building that is on fire. Apart from the fact that the fireman has a choice whether or not to enter a burning building where a soldier does not, it is also relevant to remember that there is a fundamental difference between dying and getting killed. In the former, that the soldier faces, there is a readiness, even a willingness, to sacrifice one’s life for the nation. Getting killed on the other hand is a passive action and more accidental than voluntary. While one has all the respect for the firemen, it is difficult not to point out that while soldiers die in almost every operation, firemen do not die in every building that goes aflame.

Another misconception that needs correcting is about the injustice. A father and son, both having served in the same regiment, retiring in the same rank and after equal number of years, and staying under the same roof get a different pension to the disadvantage of the father. This is patently unjust. The economist propounded a theory that a son earning more than the father is a law of nature, but it overlooks two ground realities. First, one is not talking of earning; the son might have earned relatively more while in uniform. The subject instead is remuneration for the work already done in the past. If that work was equal both in quality (rank) and quantity (length of service), then remuneration must also be equal. Secondly, if the laws of nature were to be applied to soldiering, then the economist needs to ponder how natural it is for a soldier to be ordered to advance in the face of bullets and die an unnatural death?

The suggestion that OROP is not legally tenable is equally out of sync. If the past and present presidents, vice presidents, judges, legislators and host of others can have same pension for old and new pensioners, then why cannot the soldiers get it? Any government that hides behind the law to deny its soldiers their dues is only touting an excuse, not a reason.

Unfortunately, the bureaucracy is playing the villain, as brought out by Commodore Uday Bhaskar. When late PM Indira Gandhi gave a decision to sanction OROP and Uday, as the secretary, was required to prepare minutes, the senior bureaucrats told him to omit this point as they would take it up separately. And there is a more recent example. When enhancements in pension were announced on March 8, 2010, the service widows were left out. Aghast, I wrote to the Secretary, Ex-servicemen Welfare Department, but received no reply. I next wrote to the Defence Minister and again, no reply. Then I sent a letter to the Prime Minister. The reply that came through Army Headquarters bore a PMO file number. It said that the widows were not covered because the Committee of Secretaries (headed by the Cabinet Secretary) had not recommended it. The reply leaves no doubt about who in the government calls the shots. It is also an admittance of the harsh reality of the tail wagging the tiger. Leaving the widows out of the ambit of the enhancements has been a very insensitive action by the government and has caused widespread resentment among the veterans.

Successive Parliamentary Committees have been recommending OROP. Besides, seeing the support of the public, of the courts as evidenced by their recent pronouncements, and of the Members of Parliament, so ably shown the lead by Rajiv Chandrasekhar who has renounced the increase in his MP salary till OROP is sanctioned, the writing is clearly on the wall. Isolated, the government can only delay grant of OROP but cannot deny it. Though none of us would like that to happen, it cannot be said that a serving soldier, seeing the plight of his father or uncle whose profession he had followed, will remain unaffected. The unhappy prospect can be grave.

The writer is former Deputy Chief of the Army Staff
(source-The Tribune)

Punjab Vidhan Sabha passes OROP resolution on 30 Sep 10

The Punjab Vidhan Sabha today unanimously passed a resolution supporting one rank, one pension for ex-servicemen. In another resolution that was passed today, ... edited ...


-- चंडीगढ़ . पूर्व सैनिकों को वन रैंक, वन पेंशन का प्रस्ताव वीरवार को पंजाब विधानसभा में सर्वसम्मति से पारित हुआ। विधायक बलबीर सिंह बाठ ने प्रस्ताव पेश करते हुए कहा कि पंजाब में पूर्व सैनिकों की स्थिति काफी खराब है।खरड़ के विधायक बलबीर सिंह सिद्धू, जालंधर कैंट के विधायक जगबीर सिंह बराड़, अजायब सिंह भट्टी और विपक्ष की नेता राजिंदर कौर भट्ठल ने उनका पूरा समर्थन करते हुए कहा कि सरकार इस प्रस्ताव को पारित कर केंद्र सरकार को भेजे। बाद में स्पीकर ने सर्वसम्मति से इस प्रस्ताव को पारित किया। इन्होंने भी उठाए मुद्दे शून्यकाल के दौरान ही कांग्रेस विधायक मक्खन ¨सह ने मालवा में कैंसर के प्रकोप का मुद्दा उठाया। उन्होंने कहा, फरीदकोट इलाके के पानी में यूरेनियम की मात्रा काफी अधिक है। भाभा अटोमिक रिसर्च सेंटर की रिपोर्ट में इसकी पुष्टि हुई है। संगरूर के विधायक सुरिंदर पाल सिंह सिबिया ने डेलीवेज पर काम कर रहे कर्मचारियों का मामला सदन में रखा धूरी से विधायक इकबाल सिंह झूंदा ने चौकीदारों का मामला उठाया। अजीत सिंह मोफर ने ट्रैफिक नियमों को सख्त करने की मांग की।



Dear All,

A Great Day for `Sanjha Morcha`. Multi-pronged `attacks` by senior veterans have carried the day for us for now. Tally Ho to the Parliament Session with all `guns blazing`.

Expose the `unscrupulous netas & babus` of the MOD. The spectators galleries must be filled with war veterans/disabledsoldiers/widows when the OROP issue is raised in Parliament. We have been taken for a ride for too long - ENOUGH IS ENOUGH !!!

Why is the IESL silent ? They promised to give feedback of their meetings with COAS etc

ref Col Bhag Singh`s pts in meeting held in office of RSB, Chandigarh which I also attended

& specifically asked him to give feedback on IESL`s efforts on OROP/other issues.


Brig SS Jaswal, Veteran Madras Sapper,
IESM, Panchkula.


Dear All.

We must all congratulate General Vijay Oberoi,Brig Harwant Singh and Brig Ghuman .

Last evening Gen Oberoi sent a brief to CM Punjab,Brig Harwant sent brief to Finance Minister Punjab and Brig Ghuman and self briefed MLA Sidhu who in turn briefed Capt Amarinder.

The same has resulted in Punjab Assembly passing resolution for grant of OROP unanimously.

We will request other states to follow suit.

We have also prepared a brief for MP,s which will be given to Punjab MP,s and and with the request that other states MP,s must also be contacted by Veterans so that they are sensitised before winter session startting on 7 Nov.