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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Proactive measures by the AG’s branch for reducing unnecessary litigation, especially for disabled personnel

Probably for the first time in history, the current Chief and the AG with his team have taken various proactive steps to bring down litigation involving veterans and their families providing the much required succour to the ex-service community.

It has been discussed umpteen number of times here on this blog that in certain areas unnecessary litigation was being thrust upon veterans and their families and the problem was even more severe in cases involving disabled personnel. Firstly, it had been observed that certain policy letters issued by the MoD were totally devoid of logic and then the interpretation of some other policies by certain authorities was diametrically opposed to the actual spirit behind the said policies. Also it was observed that cases in courts were egotistically handled and taken as an affront to the ‘system.

Not anymore.

The Army HQ, perhaps for the first time, has identified gaps in pensionary provisions which require correction. Though taking up of such issues had been a continuous process earlier too, the current crop of officers is doing the same with a vigour that was sadly missing in the past and the effort would show better results this time for sure due to the concentrated nature of the zeal being displayed. It is also being ensured that minimal appeals are filed in pensionary matters within the four corners of the powers delegated to the Services HQ. The boldness of action, rightly and justly exercising delegated powers, and pointing out anomalies to the Government is also a healthy sign of an apt democratic decision making process.

The best part of some of the recent decisions taken by the Personnel Services Directorate, and more specifically PS-4 (Legal), is that record offices have been directed to withdraw from appeals and cases in which the law or even govt policy is well settled. The record offices have been directed to process such cases for grant of benefits suo moto on filing of a case by a veteran since such litigation results in wastage of resources of veterans as well as the govt. Some of such issues where litigation has been ordered to be withdrawn are - cases where disabilities were declared as attributable / aggravated by the medical board but rejected by the office of PCDA(P) or administrative bodies, cases where disabled OR and JCOs had been refused grant of disability pension on the pretext of having been ‘discharged at own request’ etc.

Apart from rectifying anomalies at the objective policy level which basically involves the MoD, we need to carry out certain in-house subjective changes as well, especially in the arena of disabled personnel. The well meaning Chief’s declaration of 2011 as the ‘Year of the disabled soldier’ should be taken as a clarion call by the M-Block and the DGAFMS should initiate some proactive, and at places revolutionary, measures to ensure that the guidelines determining attributability and aggravation of disabilities due to service conditions are made more practical, medical, modern and humane. The plethora of litigation in this field is not because of MoD policies but because of a mathematical approach being followed by us which is far removed from the practical realities on ground. We are continuously closing our eyes to the fact that military service does involve more stress and strain than other professions. It is a fact universally recognised and accepted, and India cannot be, and is not, an exception.

With the correct attitude already in place, 2011 may actually lead to some very important positive changes in this area which may be subtle, but absolutely pertinent for the psyche and morale of our former and current service members.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Hail the note maker (pun intended)

Well, this has been discussed on this blog earlier –


here, and


Mr P Lal, IPS, provides some more insight into the issue in a middle that appeared today in The Tribune’ which is worth reproducing :

The babu and the bureaucrat

P. Lal

IAS officers generally take umbrage at being called babus! They prefer being referred to as bureaucrats.

But who is a bureaucrat? And who is a babu?

As commonly understood in India, a babu belongs to a lower echelon in the official hierarchy. A clerk in an office may be referred to as a babu, and a head-clerk as the bada babu giving the latter a touch of respectability.

Historically, however, bureaucracy emerged as a dominant mode of human organisation in factories, offices and industrial establishments, more than 300 years ago in the wake of the Industrial Revolution. It proved to be an effective tool of management in business organisations, factories and industrial empires. Thus, the bureaucracy was born in the private sector and effortlessly travelled to the government sector where, too, it showed its efficiency, deliverd goods and services and conformed to rules. By doing so, it acquired power. One who held an office in the system came to be known as a bureaucrat.

Thus, the branch manager of a bank or the Chief Medical Officer of a district is as much a bureaucrat as a Deputy Secretary in a ministry or the SHO of a police station.

Max Weber, the political thinker and social scientist, who researched ‘bureaucracy’ extensively in private and government organisations, prophesied its triumph and declared its three important characteristics to be permanence, hierarchy and a division of labour.

The element of permanence led C. Northcote Parkinson to propound, as far back as 1957, his famous law: “work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” He deduced as a corollary that there was little or no relationship between the work and the staff for its execution. Therefore, the rise in work-force would be much the same whether the volume of work were to increase, diminish or even disappear. To prove his point, he showed that the men in the colonial office in London increased from 372 in 1935 to 450 in 1939, to 817 in 1943, 1139 in 1947, and 1661 in 1954, whereas the size of the British Empire shrunk rapidly.

But, who is more important — the babu or the bureaucrat?

‘The law of inverse importance’ is relevant in this connection. According to it: “Exceptions apart, the real importance of a functionary in a bureaucratic organisation in regard to the nature of decision on a case, is inversely proportional to the rank that he occupies in that organisation.”

Thus, a note put up by an assistant, in a majority of cases, would be approved by the competent authority who is mostly an officer-bureaucrat who would just initial the file ( a more practical-minded one may write ‘ not approved’, to be changed, at an ‘opportune’ time, to: ‘note approved’). If the assistant doesn’t put up the note, there is no way a decision can be taken. And, therein lies his power!

A record-keeper clerk is even more important than the assistant, though lower in hierarchy. It is he who maintains the files, puts up the PUC (paper under consideration) and adds the precedent case files. He can make the fresh receipts (PUCs) disappear, make the whole files perform the vanishing trick or only such pages of them as are inconvenient. He can add precedent cases — favourable or unfavourable — depending on which party he wants to favour. After all, the decision makers find it safe to tread the path shown by precedents.

So, officer-bureaucrats (in all bureaucracies), cheer up. There is nothing to crib about being called babus!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Full reservation for wards of military personnel in Army College of Medical Sciences is illegal and unconstitutional : Supreme Court

This morning does not bring very good news.

In a judgement that may have far reaching consequences, and perhaps a cascading effect on other institutes as well, the Hon’ble Supreme Court has ruled that reserving all seats for wards of army personnel in the Army College of Medical Sciences (ACMS), Delhi, was illegal and unconstitutional, and the college, even though run by the Army Welfare Education Society (AWES), shall be amenable to the reservation policy as applicable in Delhi under the relevant statute and, of course, the Constitution of India.

The 164 page judgement covers the length and breadth of the reservation policy under the Constitution as well as the issue whether an unaided non-minority educational institution can have the liberty of admitting students of its own choice. The Court while fully acknowledging the difficulties faced by defence personnel and their wards, has held that notwithstanding such issues, it was not permissible for the ACMS to dedicate itself only to wards of army personnel.

The judgement of the SC would not affect admissions undertaken in the past.

The following paragraph of the judgement essentially explains the spirit of the judgement :-

……If we find that every unaided educational institution can define its own source, then we run head long into a situation wherein the entire field of higher education is carved up into “gated communities”, with each new educational institution defining its own source in whichever manner it may choose to, as long as overt and invidious constitutional grounds of classification are not resorted to. How will the scholars in those colleges interact with people from other communities, other social backgrounds, so that they can perceive and conceive the manner in which they may have to apply what they are learning to solve the problems in the wider social context of India? Where would such classifications stop? Would members of the judiciary, both higher and lower, then determine that they will start many law colleges which will only admit wards of such members of the judiciary? Would Indian Administrative Officers, along with some slightly lower level in the administrative rung then have a similar right? Would the members of the police force also then get such rights? Would NASSCOM or a group of software companies say that they want to start software engineering colleges that will open their portals only to those who belong to NASSCOM? Where will this stop? How will this nation take the burden of such walled and divided portals of knowledge? What will become of the prayer of our national poet laureate, that knowledge be free and where the world is not broken up into fragments of narrow domestic walls? Have we set ourselves on the path to such divisiveness, at the very source of the one force that could liberate us and unite us, and make us a more egalitarian society? If we were to uphold the logic of the learned Senior Counsel appearing for the Respondents, which we cannot under the ratio of TMA Pai, and P.A. Inamdar, but under “complete justice jurisprudence” of Article 142, then we would have set ourselves on a slippery slope, whereby the entire field of higher education would comprise of “gated communes” or some new and perverse form of caste system, where existing advantages, of occupations, social and economic stature, would get ossified only within a small segment of the population. Surely, fundamental rights have been granted to the citizens, to be free and build a better society or at least refrain from actions that would create further walls of social division……

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Improved Scales for JCOs and OR notified in March 2010 : More amendments, deletions, additions notified by the MoD

This is with regard to the new scales notified in consequence to the recommendations of the Committee of Secretaries in March 2010.

The MoD has carried out changes in the said master letter issued on 08 March 2010.

The new letter issued on 15 April 2011 alongwith the PCDA(P) Circular dated 11 May 2011 can be accessed and downloaded by clicking here.

Notably, the MoD has cancelled and deleted Table No 133 which dealt with pensionary entitlements of Viceroy Commissioned Officers (VCOs) granted Honorary Commissions. The enhanced pension rates notified for VCOs granted Honorary Commissions now stand relegated to regular rates as applicable to other Hony Officers.

Most other substantive amendments relate to Warrant Ranks of the Indian Air Force.

Monday, May 16, 2011

US Court of Appeals comes down heavily on the Department of Veterans’ Administration especially in respect of psychiatric disabilities

In a judgement pronounced on 11 May 2011, the US Court of Appeals has held unconstitutional the sloppy treatment of American Veterans with service-connected ailments and the long cumbersome system for grant of disability benefits.

In a scathing 140 page judgement, the US Court of Appeals has ruled that the Veterans’ Administration (VA), akin to our Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare, suffers from ‘unchecked incompetence’. The Court concluded, "VA's unchecked incompetence has gone on long enough; no more veterans should be compelled to agonize or perish while the government fails to perform its obligations."

The Court also came down heavily on the system where the attributability documents are kept confidential and not shown to veterans unless the affected person applies under the ‘Freedom of Information Act’.

The Court also observed that the procedures followed by the system in grant of disability benefits were not neutral and weighed in favour of the government.

On the claim of sovereign immunity forwarded by the US government, the Court remarked that the British ‘King can do no wrong’ principle was not one which could be happily imported into the American system, especially for those who were dying for the nation.

The Court also judicially recognised, perhaps for the first time, that military personnel indeed had a higher rate of suicidal tendencies than the rest of the populace. The Court observed that in the absence of proper safeguards, veterans were 'suffering and dying, heedlessly and needlessly.' It was also recorded in the order that the appeals process initiated by the VA amounted to depriving disabled veterans of their property.

The Court concluded that the US Constitution conferred upon former service-members and their surviving dependants a right to effective care and just and timely adjudication of their service-connected death and disability benefits and that these Constitutional rights were being violated by the VA.

Interestingly, the judgement was rendered by a majority of 2 – 1 with one judge dissenting with the majority view. The opening line of dissent runs as follows :

“The majority hijacks the Dept of VA’s mental health treatment and disability compensation programs and installs a district judge as a reluctant commandant-in-chief…”

The case was filed against the VA by Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans United for Truth, both non-profit organisations working for the benefit of ex-servicemembers.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Central Paramilitary Forces are now officially known as Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs)

This is linked to the last post.

Central forces were variably referred to as Central Paramilitary Forces (CPMFs), Central Police Organisations (CPOs) as well as Central Police Forces (CPFs).

The Home Ministry has however officially changed the nomenclature of BSF, ITBP, SSB, CISF and CRPF and these organisations shall now be called Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs). A letter to the effect has already been issued by the MHA.

The change does not affect other police organisations under the MHA.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Ex-gratia lumpsum payment to invalided personnel as per Union budget announcement : Orders issued for CAPFs, soon for defence services

As announced by the Finance Minister during the Union budget, orders for a fresh scheme of grant of a lumpsum ex-gratia amount for invalided personnel have been issued on the civil side for Central Armed Police Forces (formerly known as Central Paramilitary Forces).

Personnel disabled with attributable / aggravated disabilities and consequently invalided out shall now be entitled to Rs 900,000 (Nine Lacs) for 100% disability, proportionately reduced for lesser percentage of disability. The said lumpsum shall be applicable for people with 20% or above disability and the provisions of broad-banding or rounding-off of percentage for purposes of calculation of disability element shall not be applicable for computation of the newly introduced ex-gratia lumpsum.

The scheme is a fresh welfare measure with no connection with the recommendations of the pay commission and hence shall be made applicable only to those personnel who were invalided out / boarded out with more than 20% disability after 01-04-2011.

This ex-gratia lumpsum shall be in addition to the war-injury pension / disability pension / lumpsum compensation in lieu of disability or war-injury element / CAA etc and other welfare related schemes.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Message from President Disabled War Veterans (India)

Message from Col HN Handa, President, DIWAVE :-

A few years ago, when we, representing the Disabled War Veterans, requested for certain measures both in regards Pay & Allowances and the initiating of welfare measures for such categories of personnel, to the Parliamentary Committee, we were rather surprised at MoD & Services HQ indicating to them that they were totally unaware of the number of Battle / War Casualties since no such records were maintained.

You are aware that proper statistics and data would help greatly, especially in calculating the expense to the exchequer to enable any measures getting past the MoD (Finance) and the decision making process.

With the assistance of the Adjutant General Lt Gen Mukesh Sabharwal and Lt Gen B V Nair, DG DCW, we undertook this gigantic task of obtaining and collating data of such personnel. We are thankful to all the Colonels of Regiments, Centre Commandants and Record Officers to have delved into their past records and produced the desired data. This Data, duly compiled in 4 Volumes has been handed over to the DG DCW, MD ECHS and Secretary (ESW) for future planning purposes.

However, our task does not end here. The Data of officers is not fully available especially of those serving, those voluntarily retired from service and others.

This is an appeal to all officers who are known to you or who see this mail that they should send me the data regarding themselves to diwave1@gmail.com

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Extension in retirement age : this time it may be real !!!

Though the rumours have been flying left, right and centre since the past few months, it seems that there may be some grain of truth in the buzz this time round.

Active deliberations are in the works on extending the retirement age of central govt servants by 2 years.

If implemented, as per precedent, even the defence services would be granted the benefit of the enhanced retirement age.