Feel free to contribute on burning issues concerning the armed forces. Contributions would be acknowledged - Use the 'Comments' tab or email navdeepsingh.india[at]gmail.com. No operational/business/commercial matters to be discussed please. Legal advice/litigation related issues would strictly NOT be published or discussed or entertained. Information on this blog is opinion based and is neither official nor in the form of an advice. This is a pro bono online journal in public service related to issues, policies and benefits, and the idea behind it is to educate and not to create controversy or to incite. Be soft in your language, respect Copyrights.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

List of military allowances hiked by 25 % (Flying Allowance included)

The latest list of military allowances that have been increased by 25% consequent to the DA being revised to 51% w.e.f 01 Jan 2011, can be accessed by clicking here.

As enquired by many officers on this blog, Yes, the flying allowance has also been increased by 25% w.e.f the beginning of the current year.

Note : Comment moderation and publishing of new blogposts would be slow for the next few days during the absence of Maj Navdeep Singh who is on vacation.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Dependency criterion for ordinary family pension is not Rs 3500 but is Rs 3500 + applicable Dearness Relief

Some Record Offices have not been processing the ordinary family pension claims of parents of unmarried personnel who die due to causes declared neither attributable to, nor aggravated by military service, on the pretext that the total earnings of the parents exceed Rs 3500 per month.

This is incorrect. The dependency criterion is now Rs 3500 + applicable Dearness Relief and no longer any fixed amount. The rules were changed after the 6th CPC.

During the currency of the 5th CPC, the income criterion was a fixed amount of Rs 2550 and the DA quotient was not taken into account. However after the 6th CPC, apart from increasing the amount to Rs 3500, the govt further notified that the Dearness quotient would be added into the amount of Rs 3500.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

CBI, NIA and NATGRID out of the RTI loop

The government has issued a notification exempting the CBI, NIA and the National Intelligence Grid from the RTI loop by adding them into the second schedule of the RTI Act.

It is also interesting to note that while the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) were already featured in the second schedule, the same is not true of the defence services. Hence, to exemplify, while the Army is fully amenable to the RTI Act, the BSF is not. Incongruous to say the least.

Actually, it is also not understandable as to why the second schedule is required at all. The Act already exempts information related to operational matters, investigation, national security etc from disclosure and hence any such information can inherently be denied under the Act, notwithstanding the availability of the second schedule. In fact, when the proposal to place the CBI in the second schedule was mooted, there were voices within the govt which favoured the dissolution of the second schedule altogether and for denying information under the relevant sub-clauses of Section 8 of the Act whenever required, which in fact would have been a more just course.

Well, whatever floats the boat !

Note : Comment moderation and publishing of new blogposts would be slow for the next few days during the absence of Maj Navdeep Singh who is on vacation.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Guest Post : BeeCee says more than before

Regular readers would be aware of BeeCee’s earlier posts on the blog. Well, he seems pretty disturbed by certain issues which he has tried to address through the below reproduced communication to me. Though these are his own personal views and I may not subscribe to all his observations regarding the Services HQ, still his write-up may be an eye-opener about the damage already done. I do however agree that we, in uniform, have been sending conflicting signals to the establishment and have not been magnanimous while placing our demands before the govt or the CPCs. To take an example, when the VI CPC downgraded the ranks of Col & Brig and equated a Brig with a DIG by granting them an equal Grade Pay of Rs 8900, instead of a seeking a Grade Pay of more than 8900 for a Col for retaining the earlier edge (Col had a start of Rs 17100 while a DIG started at 16400 during the V CPC) we as a corrective measure sought a Grade Pay of Rs 8800 for a Col and accepted the Grade Pay of Rs 8900 for a Brig thereby tacitly and incorrectly sending out a signal that we had agreed that a DIG was senior to a Col and was equal to a Brig. Whereas the correct way out would have been to seek a minimum Grade Pay of Rs 9000 for a Col. Only if we ask for it would there be a chance of getting it !. Another example – in many mixed organizations, Lt Cols (V CPC start of Rs 15100) were and are functionally equated with Director level officers (Rs 14300 in V CPC) and at places were even writing ACRs of such civilian officers but our very own office of DGAFMS still has an Army Order in vogue that states that Deputy Secretaries (V CPC start of Rs 12000) can write the ACRs of Lt Cols !!! So whom to blame ? the bureaucracy or our own lack of deeper understanding and reluctance to keep on board people with expertise and rather being satisfied with GD officers who run the show with ‘minute sheet’ culture in all such issues including CPCs.

Anyway, here is BeeCee’s mail and I may again reiterate that these are his own views :

Dear Navdeep,

I happened to speak to some long retired Major/ eqvts fighting for an improvement in their pensions, and to some other officers regarding OROP recently. I was surprised by the extent of damage and it is quite clear that this is not going to be resolved till officers (serving/retired) understand what the real problem is, and find a permanent solution. I am once again reminded of our friend Pragmatic's quote from Chesterton, "It is not that they don't know what the solution is, what they don't know is the problem".

I have been generally following such issues since '95 but am not aware of any occasion between 1987 (IV CPC) and 2007 (VI CPC) except the High Level Committee post V CPC (3 Vice-Chiefs, Def Sec & Secy (Def Fin)) when the Services HQ put up a reasoned case for the arrest of the downslide that started at the IV CPC. Ironically, implementation of this was undermined by another Committee comprising of the Chiefs and the Cabinet Secy. Therefore the most important issue is for Services HQ and retired senior officers to come clean and connect the gap between their public posturing and what has been actually sought from the Govt, CPCs etc. Officers react or offer comments based on the 'public posturing' of such worthies while GOI/ MOD/ CPCs respond to what has actually been asked for by the Service HQ. As long as this gap is not bridged, replays alternating between tragedy and farce will go on. Karl Marx may be out of fashion now, but his remark on history is apt for our pay/personnel issues.

OROP and Major's Pension

Despite a reasonable understanding of pay/personnel issues, I cannot comprehend the on-going OROP theatrics. I may be wrong, but Pension rules providing past pensioners 50% of the minimum of the relevant ‘replacement pay’ in the new pay band actually provide something very close to OROP for all. In any case, the argument that you are progressively getting ‘downgraded in pay' and a demand for old pensioners to get the same pension as new ones do not exactly compliment each other. I hope I am wrong, but I suspect OROP is another red herring and an effort to cover up somebody's monumental incompetence at CPCs and of course at the Bagga/ AVS report. This is starkly evident in the Major's predicament on pensions.

I have seen some blog commentaries, approach papers etc on OROP. Most of them state that the Lt Col is getting too much as compared to the Major, Lt General gets too much over Maj Gen or arguments in a similar vein, by comparing the pensions of different military ranks after Vth and VIth CPCs. I have not seen any discussion that compares the pensions with similarly placed Civilian, CG or CAPF officers. While I too haven't done a full calculation yet for lack of access to specifics, I am confident that such a comparison will not only show where the problem lies, but also expose the dismal complicity of Services HQ in the denial of dues to their own officers.

Take a look at the pension orders for pre-2006 pensioners. In principle, it is the same for both military and civilian officers. 40% increase above 'existing pension,' subject to 50% of the minimum on the 'replacement pay'. Sounds fair and just. But gets absolutely unjust when you look at the actual figures.

A long retired Major and a Director/Comdt(SG) had similar pension and would have similar increase in pension when you do a 40% addition to 'existing pension'. But when you take 50% of the minimum of 'replacement pay', the Major gets 14,100/- and the Director/Comdt gets about 23,050. The civilian effectively gets almost twice the pension of his pre-VI CPC military counterpart. Any surprise that the ‘Civilian’ scoffs at OROP and is laughing all the way to the bank. The Major doesn't know (and doesn't bother to find out) what hit him and as a matter of habit gets in line behind a bunch of guys shouting OROP, OROP making a spectacle of themselves and the veterans community in general. But how did we come to this pass?

It is the Services HQ through Bagga/AVS report that sought the degradation of the Major to 'minor'(from NFSG/Above JAG pay to STS level). This was implemented by the VI CPC. Did they not have the wit to realise that OROP will ensure that retired Majors also would have their pensions reduced to the STS level even though it was earned at a much higher scale?

It is not only Majors, even after the Bagga/AVS instigated downfall, the Lt Col was at par with Director/Comdt(SG), but for some inexplicable reason, Service HQs sought equation of the Col (who was above DIG by pay, service, protocol & pension till the VI CPC) with Director/ Comdt and of the Brig with DIG. This has led to a fall in the pension for all such pre-2006 pensioners and pay/status of officers post VI CPC.

To an observer, the whole situation would be comical. You first have a bunch of guys asking for and obtaining a reduction in pay, status and well earned pension. Then you have them again surrendering their hard won medals in protest because the GOI generally agreed to their own demand of reduction in pay and pension through Services HQ. No wonder the political class is confused and others are sniggering at such displays of incompetence laced with threats of emotional blackmail. Are retired officers so semantically and arithmetically challenged that they cannot see matters for themselves and call those responsible to account?

What the pre-2006 Maj/Lt Col/Col/ Brig should seek is not OROP, but Restoration of pre-2006 pension with the same improvement (in percentage terms) over existing pension as has been given (by the VI CPC) to similarly placed civilians. Do this simple extrapolation (which will exclude the AVS/VI CPC interventions from Services HQ) and see the results. Services HQ in any case do not have the mandate to propose a reduction in the pension of those already retired. I would also suggest seeking some penal compensation from those who brought officers to this sorry state.

I used to call these as self-inflicted damages. But that is not really true. These are damages inflicted by selected individuals against their own colleagues. CPCs, MOD, bureaucracy et al may be complicit in the crime. After retirement, they compound matters by calling for OROP, return medals, hold jamborees at Jantar Mantar and so on to continue leading the credulous up the garden path. But if they claim to speak for all ESM it is an insult to my (and many other veterans') intelligence.

In retrospect, I feel really relieved that the scope of the CPCs and Cadre Reviews did not cover uniforms. Or else, our 'experts' would have proposed 'the Emperor's new clothes' for those serving. May sound funny, but past experience is depressing and indicates that our guys would have not only worn them happily, but strutted about in them like the Emperor in all his glory.

I know these are harsh words. But it is time somebody blew the whistle on these shenanigans that have taken away the financial security and dignity of officers and reduced them to the level of supplicants. Nor does it speak well of the officer corps that the individuals responsible are not shown up for what they have done.

Above all, I do not understand the compulsion of Services HQ to be less than forthright with serving and retired officers. This fudging of the factual situation leads to delusional behavior by some officers, abusing all and sundry and generally making a laughing stock of themselves. What is worse, it is symptomatic of the lack of 'downward accountability' that seems to have become the norm at Service HQs. Services HQ need to merely publish the following data in respect of the VI CPC(include IV & V CPC too if you want to see the full extent of perfidy) to start an informed discussion.

A. Pre VI CPC pay of officers vs corresponding/ nearest civil pay scales
B. Services proposals to the CPC regarding pay grades and equivalence of officers
C. Post VI CPC pay of Service officers and the corresponding civil scales/grade.
D. Pre and post VI CPC pensions of the above officers.

No one needs to take my word on this and I am willing to have a public conversation on the subject and apologise if I am wrong. Hence I am posting it to many who may have an interest in resolving the matter. You may also post it on your blog if you think it's appropriate.

All the best


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

US Army officially appoints its first Indian religious teacher

The US Army has officially appointed its first Hindu religious teacher (Chaplain) – Capt Pratima Dharm.

Chaplains in the US Army are of commissioned rank unlike the Indian Army where they are JCOs. There are currently about 1000 hindus serving the US Army.

More can be read about the development by clicking here.

Note : Comment moderation and publishing of new blogposts would be slow for the next few days during the absence of Maj Navdeep Singh who is on vacation.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Handicapped veterans to get priority in Canteens

The QMG’s branch has issued instructions to all Commands that handicapped veterans would be granted priority while purchasing items from Canteens.

Handicapped veterans would also be allowed the help of an attendant inside the canteen premises.

A welcome gesture for the disabled.

Note : Comment moderation and publishing of new blogposts would be slow for the next few days during the absence of Maj Navdeep Singh who is on vacation.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Bring naval provisions in line with army and air force law : AFT

In a welcome landmark decision, the Chennai Bench of the AFT has called upon the authorities to consider incorporation of procedural safeguards in naval rules in line with what is provided under army and air law thus meeting the requirements of principles of natural justice. Similar decisions were rendered in the past too.

The same was reported in ‘The Tribune’ recently and is reproduced hereunder :

Amend dismissal Rules, AFT tells Navy

Tribune News Service

In a significant ruling that could set into motion a process to amend certain provisions of the Navy Act, the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) has held that regulations pertaining to the powers of summary dismissal vested in naval authorities do not meet the ends of natural justice.

Unlike corresponding provisions in the Army Act and the Air Force Act, which bring out clearly the fundamental provision of providing an opportunity through examination of the witnesses and the right to cross-examination by the accused in the presences of an independent witness, the Tribunal observed that provisions of the Navy Act lack requisite inbuilt safeguards.

“It will be pertinent to draw the attention of the respondents (Navy Chief) to the peculiar situation, in which the personnel of the Navy are seeking redressal in High Courts and AFTs, due to the summary powers of dismissal vested in the Navy Act,” said the Tribunal’s bench, comprising Justice AC Arumugaperumal Adityan and Lt Gen S Pattabhiraman.

Disposing of a writ pursued by the widow of a sailor who was dismissed by a summary court martial for allegedly falsifying official documents, the Tribunal set aside the punishment and ruled out that her husband would be deemed to have retired from service and that she would be entitled to family pension from the date of her husband’s death. The Tribunal held the summary trial to be vitiated since it was against the principles of natural justice.

The sailor was dismissed from service in May 2000 and sentenced to 90 days rigorous imprisonment besides reduction in rank. He died in November 2010 during the pendency of the writ filed by him earlier. He had contended that he had not been given adequate opportunity to defend himself during his summary trial.

The Tribunal also directed the Navy Chief to consider incorporation of suitable measures to make the provisions of Regulations 27 and 29 of the Regulations for the Navy, Part -II (Statutory) to be in conformity with the safeguards as built into the corresponding provisions of the Air Force and the Army Acts, since the summary disposal powers of dismissal cannot be treated as an admonition.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Another salvo from the MEA, another hit for military status. Sad, very sad.

“Don’t make me chase you, even doves have pride” : Prince (When Doves Cry, Purple Rain, 1984)

Regular readers would remember this post of December 2009 where it was discussed as to how the MEA was imposing a self-calculated status equivalence on commissioned officers and also on those of Group A services other than the IFS.

Well, even at the time when the above post was published, the anomaly had already been corrected to a degree vide an MEA letter dated 18-02-2009 wherein equation of non-IFS officers, including military officers and those from the State Govts and Universities, was fixed vis-à-vis IFS officers based on Grade Pay. This was the status equivalence promulgated vide the ibid letter :-

Officers with Grade Pay (GP) of Rs 5400 and above but less than Rs 6600 were to be equated with Third Secretaries.

Officers with Grade Pay (GP) of Rs 6600 and above but less than Rs 7600 were to be equated with Second Secretaries.

Officers with Grade Pay (GP) of Rs 7600 and above but less than Rs 8700 were to be equated with First Secretaries.

Officers with Grade Pay (GP) of Rs 8700 and above but less than Rs 10000 were to be equated with Counsellors.

Officers with Grade Pay (GP) of Rs 10000 and above were to be equated with Ministers

This in a way checked the anomaly of equivalence as well as allowances since military officers were earlier being granted status and allowances much below their actual standing and service.

But now, on 10-12-2010, the MEA has issued another order in supersession of the above one, reiterating the rank equivalence mentioned above, but with the following rider in Paragraph 4 :-

“The rank equivalence of military officers on assignment or deputation under any programme of the govt of India will be determined on the basis of their military rank as per the existing system”.

So there you have it, while the anomaly stands corrected for all other services, the incorrect status equation remains for the men and women in uniform. In fact, the status in a way has further been downgraded. To take an example, an officer of the rank of Colonel who enjoys a Grade Pay of Rs 8700, and who is actually equivalent to a Counsellor in foreign missions, would remain clubbed with officers with Grade Pay of Rs 7600 (First Secretaries) who are junior even to a Lt Col. There are organisations within the Govt of India where civil officers with the GP of Rs 8700 are reporting to Colonels who are also writing their ACRs, and if hypothetically both such officers were to be deputed to a mission abroad, then the junior civil officer would be equated with a Counsellor while his actual senior in India, the Colonel, would be outranked and equated with a First Secretary while on foreign shores. There are also examples wherein for certain purposes, senior serving Lt Cols and equivalent are being forced with an equation to Second Secretaries who at time comprise of officers with only 4 years of Group A service in case of direct appointees, and even worse, Group B officers (formerly Class II, equal to JCOs) just promoted to Group A with less than even a single year of Group A service.

Why the entire exercise seems more absurd is that even officers of the State Govt have been granted the correct status in accordance with their Grade Pays while the military has been left out.

The services must take this up strongly with the MEA otherwise this would have far reaching ramifications on the already depressed military status. Such undemocratic one-way letters are uncalled for. All such letters must be issued after taking every stake-holder, in this case the military establishment, on board.

Meanwhile, the doves cry.