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Friday, December 31, 2010

OPed in 'The Tribune' : 31 December 2010


Major Navdeep Singh

“All’s fair in love and war” was the answer I got from a responsible officer of the Ministry of Defence when I pointed out that his Ministry had recently cited an outdated Naval Pension Regulation before the Supreme Court to get a case decided in its favour. Is it a war that we are waging against our veterans? I cringe at the very thought.

The problem runs deep. While officers from the uniformed services and the IAS come and go, no offence meant but those others permanently ensconced in the Defence Ministry and the Armed Forces Headquarters, on whom we tend to over-rely, rule the roost. There is a feeling amongst key intermediary appointments that defence personnel with their subsidised liquor and free ration are already a pampered lot and that they do not deserve more, and hence every single welfare related attempt by the defence services is firewalled with notings on file which become difficult to counter. In all welfare related spheres, the rules and regulations are diametrically opposed to annals of logic. Pensionary provisions are the worst with so many cut-off dates, irrational stipulations and categories within categories that a count becomes difficult to keep. An Honorary Naib Subedar who retired after 1st January 2006 would get the pension of a regular Naib Subedar but a similarly placed person who retired prior to the said date would get the pension of a Havildar. A 100% disabled General who retired in 2006 would get Rs 27,000 as disability pension while an officer of the same rank with the same disability who retired in 2005 would get less than Rs 6000. In a socially retrograde move, a widow who re-married prior to 2006 would lose her right to ordinary family pension but not the one who re-married after 2006. It seems the government is regressively opposed to re-marriage of widows who unfortunately lost their husbands prior to 2006.

The list is never-ending. The bare fact that the defence services have the highest rate of pension related litigation in the country should have led to some revolutionary changes, but nothing positive seems to be happening on ground and the Pension department of the Defence Ministry continues to be operationalised by a single officer who runs the show and thrusts his decisions on millions of pensioners in stark contrast to the democratic and well oiled Department of Pension and Pensioners’ Welfare on the civil side. An overhaul is also required of how our medical boards are functioning and the rules related to grant of disability benefits. The system of determining whether disabilities are ‘attributable to, or aggravated by military service’ also requires a re-look since our guidelines in this regard are more mathematical and less medical. For example, for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to be declared as service-related, we are still governed by the otiose requirement that a person needs to be posted in a field area for a particular length of time, or for instance the requirement that the symptoms should manifest themselves within 3 months of being denied leave in case of the death of a parent when the individual happens to be the only son whereas modern medical science has now proved that the manifestation of such symptoms has no relation with length of operational service and can even happen instantly due to one solitary incident which may happen in a single day and can at times occur as a case of delayed onset even five years after a stressful event. And cannot a person be affected if he is not the ‘only’ son and would not the problem be service-connected if the symptoms arise say after three & a half months rather than the mathematical guideline of 3 months? While psychiatric disorders need to be examined on a case by case basis, we are still stuck in the primitive times with numerical yardsticks. Leave aside medical science, it is understood even by a layman that psychiatric disorders are commonly aggravated by issues such as education of children, property disputes, family problems back home etc when the person is deployed on military duty, peace or field. For cardiovascular disorders, the charter of duties of last 14 days prior to the problem is considered and service-connection is only granted if any stress and strain is observed in the said period. However it is common knowledge that such diseases manifest on account of stress and strain experienced over a long period of time and a 14 days window has no medical relevance whatsoever. Too much mathematical emphasis is laid on field service forgetting that there can be high pressure appointments in peace stations too which can result in far greater stress than field stations.

The malaise can only be addressed if the defence services start posting upcoming and brilliant officers in the service directorates dealing with manpower and personnel services who constructively provide their inputs to the process of decision-making and act as a counter-balance on elements who harbour an erroneous feeling that faujis are already getting more than they deserve. The element of sadism also needs to be curbed. If the feeling at the decision making level remains ‘why should he / she get what I am not getting’, then it would be an exercise in futility to expect anything productive, and in that event, the war against veterans, especially against disabled soldiers, war-wounded, widows and pensioners, shall continue unabated.


Anonymous said...

HAPPY NEW YEAR everybody. Hope New year brings hope for early implementation of OROP, Nonfunctional Financial Upgradation,DACP for AMC, Productivity linked Bonus schemes and lot others for fauzis. AMEN

Anonymous said...

Dear Major Navdeep ,

Thanks for enlighting article.
It is so clear that it leaves no doubt in anyone's mind as to where Defence Personnel stand and how they are being discrminated against even their own class. The blame lies with Babus.
May be the new year will bring in some cheer and sort out long outstanding cases ,like the Rank Pay and Disability Disparity.
Wishing You and your team a Very Happy New Year .


Roop said...

Thanks Navdeep. Wish You and Your family a Very Happy New Year. You are doing a yeoman service for the cause of all servicemen.

Anonymous said...

Hi Navdeep,
Well said, you are indeed doing a commendable job. I am sure some PBOR ESM and widows, in particular, must have truly benefited from inputs which you keep posting from time to time. Wishing you a happy 2011 , and also good wishes to others here on your blog. Rajeev Saksena

Anonymous said...

Major Navdeep,
very well written on the sad part of indian defence services pensioners.
Best wishes to you and your family ( including we all defence services personnel& families)for a very happy and prosperous 2011.
Hope some one responsible takes note and do something to redress genuine and long pending issues like rank pay and disparity of disability pension.
Lt Col (Retd) A K Jain

Commander said...

Great writing, Navdeep.I commend U
Wg Cdr MG Singh( retd)
Executive Director, Meuse Hospitality

S.Kanthiah said...

Dear Major Sir,
Wishing you and family a very happy and prosperous new year.

Sir, this article is a touching one. You have enlightened the very facts about the ill treatment and sufferings of veterans. You have touched almost all the areas of deficiency and hardships of veterans. Hats off Sir.
I simply admire you for your strong writtings in the right time, in the last day of the fadding year 2010.

Let us hope for better happenings in the NEW year.

Exwel Trust, Tirunelveli-Dist, Tamil Nadu.

Anonymous said...

Bravo sir, wish more power to your pen in 2011

Muthukrishnan said...

Dear Major Navdeep Sir,

First of all, on behalf of the entire armed forces veterans and their families I wish u and your family members, friends and well wishers a very happy and prosperous new year 2011.

Your writings, need to be displayed in golden color on the walls of the MOD. Your powerful expression should open minds of the bureaucrats to change their attitude.

Your writing is a great inspiration for us. Please continue. We will get justice.
May God bless u & your family with good health, wealth & mind to serve this community.
Thanking you,
C.Muthukrishnan (Sgt)
Exwel Trust,
Tirunelveli 627002.

Synapse said...

Why should anyone hear out a fauji in a democracy? Truly speaking - he is never been a part of it! We have been taught to stay away from politics. Don’t even talk about it! Hardly any fauji ever votes when he is serving and most often the habit continues when he retires. All he does is crib, crib, crib and crib – but do nothing about it!
If any one in our nation can get organized into a cohesive entity effectively, it is the Defence Forces – the culture, ethos and the goals are common. Yet, we remain divided by having so many Ex-Servicemen organisations each doing its bit on its own. Why can’t there be a single organisation to which every ex-serviceman automatically becomes a member immediately on his retirement. Why can’t it register itself as a Political Party. There are 17 lac ex-servicemen. Consider their close family members and close associates- the numbers would cross crores. Add to this the serving officers, then see the fun. Mobilise, fight elections and get things moving. Discipline, honesty, integrity are our USPs – the nation trusts its forces and would be too willing to lend all the support.
I wonder where are all the Retd General officers whom we swore by their leadership, especially the ex-chiefs? We hardly find any one of them leading from the front?

Anonymous said...

@ synapse

Nice thoughts indeed. But unfortunately with due regards to ourselves we are not united even while serving. There is too much of cut throatism and the rat race keeps you busy.The senior officers open up only after retirement and start giving expert suggestions but had done hardly much while in service when they even had the authority.Like a politician said fauji has No Vote and No Note(?) so why bother about them.In my opinion it is the middle level indivuals (even during service it is the same level which keeps the forces going ) who can perhaps do something.
Best woshes to them.
Gurdeep singh (retd)
Group captain

Col I D Sharma (Retd) said...

I want to draw your attention to the fact that Up to last day of the year 2010 both the sites of PCDA(P) and That of IHQ Of MOD have not updated their website with respect to pensions after implementation of 6th CPC. Although AG's Branch has published a Booklet on Terminal Benefits on Retirement and to NOK on death death of Pensioner. How ever their own website still not updated in spite of my pleadings to a Senior Officer of the same branch. What you can expect when such an attitude prevails in our own house. May I request though your column to highlight it. Thanks. ID

Anonymous said...

your blog is like news channel for armed forces personnel. please keep it on. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Sir can u plz highlight the effect of DA increase on fauji pay components.

maj devakumar rn said...

Dear Maj Navdeep,
WISH YOU AND ALL READERS HAPPY NEW YEAR! Your service to veterans is amazing.We do hope this year will bring joy to all veterans.Please enlighten us on pre 2006 major's pension latest after the AFT Delhi judgement.Also what is the latest on supreme court judgement on rank pay case for which all of us are awaitng.thank you and keep going . Wish you good luck.Maj Devakumar RN

Unknown said...

Dear Sir,
I've a few queries, and i sincerely apologize, should this comment be offending anyone, coz the intention of this comment is not so.
As a basic logic, it must be clear that the retirement benefits to any person sould be given as per the provisions prevailing in the "pay commission in vogue" at the time when he doffs his uniform. of course, it is understood that if new pay commission is delayed, he should be given the benefits as per the new pay commission(in case his date of retirement is after the "actually scheduled date of new pay commission").
so, the above statement(though might not be technically correct) should profess that any person whose date of retirement was before 01 jan 2006, should be given the benefits of the pay commission prevailing at the time of his retirement.
but yes, to cope up with the "inflating inflation", appropriate increment in the pension of the pensioners should be carried out.
would request you to please clear(rather purify, in case readers felt offended) my chain of thoughts.

digvijay said...

Typical of Fauji to cry ,shameful that retired or serving have nothing but to crib ,even I am doing the same .We got to get together but we have been trained not to ,then what do we do? Let everyone think & put up ideas ,maybe we will find a way ,of which I am sure of .we all know about the cases only we dont know how to handle them ,we got to find that Chankya .We found the Brahmin "Navdeep"Only the thinking soldier (not saying General on purpose )is missing & that missing link is as important as the missing link of evolution of mankind ,lets use our resourses & find him ,that we will .