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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Are we the masters of self-defeat ?

In my recent post of October 14, though the main thrust was on the attitude of the instrumentalities of Ministry of Defence in stonewalling benefits for serving and retired members of the Armed Forces, I had also touched the issue as to how our own negative outlook, at times, was also resulting in denial of well deserved and logical service and pensionary welfare linked schemes. To this, many have responded that denial of benefits was never at the behest of, or the result of non-responsiveness of the services and that the perpetrator was always the civilian establishment.

But has this always been the case ? I think not !

The first stage of the problem is lack of understanding the intricacies of personnel related policies by people in uniform and the absence of a standardised and unified response to issues confronting us. Secondly, a subservient mind-set has encompassed us leading us to think that our position is inferior than that of the view taken by the Ministry of Defence, which, in fact, in the ultimate analysis may be the view of only a Section Officer sitting in an obscure office rather than the view of the (ill informed) competent authority in a particular arena. This subservience is also out in open public view in Courts and other fora, where the Services, rather than taking an independent stand or maintaining their own valid or fair viewpoint, tow a line thrust upon them by lower echelons of the Ministry of Defence. This is in stark difference to the approach of other Central Govt departments and even agencies of State Govts wherein different stakeholders or respondents, even if functioning under the same Ministry, do not feel shy of informing Courts, Tribunals, Commissions and other authorities, their own sovereign viewpoint on particular matters without being unduly servile. Thirdly, the legal advisors of the Services have slowly assumed the function of being ‘protectors of govt policy’ rather than playing a fair, non-adversarial, advisory role. In fact, they seem to forget that their duty is to advise the govt in assisting the Courts or other authorities in rendering justice and ensuring fair-play rather than to protect arbitrary or illogical policies to the hilt. The reaction always is ‘this is not as per policy’ rather than ‘this policy is not as per law and requires a change’. An example of the difference in such attitude as compared to the civil set-up has already been amplified by me in the above referred earlier post. The only welcome and positive perceptible change that has been seen in the recent past is in the AG’s Branch which has proactively tried to help out disabled veterans from the burden of unnecessary litigation, at times by disagreeing with the MoD. But to carry the good work forward would not only require people with a positive attitude in the AG’s Branch with the blessings of the Chief, but also a change in attitude in officers manning the JAG Branch and the DGAFMS. They should realise that they are not serving the govt, but they and the govt are together to serve the public and uphold what is actually judicious and right and not what a Section Officer or an Under Secretary thinks is right.

I have digressed. Now back to the question whether it is always the civilian establishment which denies us our dues. The following examples come to mind :-

(a) Grant of higher scale to Lt Gens after the 5th CPC :- The 5th CPC saw degradation of Lt Gens by way of placing them below DGPs from the IPS. A case was taken up for the rectification of the anomaly and the Services were offered on a platter that 1/3rd Lt Gens (other than Army Commanders who were already in a higher bracket) could be upgraded. It was refused by us and our stand was- give us 100% or give us none. Now this had far reaching consequences which are there for all to see even today. Rather than taking the offer and then fighting for rest of Lt Gens, we refused it altogether as a result of which all Lt Gens remained lower in pay than DGPs and were again placed in a lower grade (HAG) than DGPs (HAG+) in the 6th CPC. And then post 6th CPC, after much hankering we accepted the proposal of upgradation of 1/3rd Lt Gens to HAG+. The position would have been much better had we accepted 1/3rd after the 5th CPC and a higher figure after the 6th CPC. Who was to blame ?, Not the MoD !

(b) Grant of Pay Band-4 to Lt Cols after the 6th CPC :- I haven’t stated this openly before, but the greatest resistance for grant of Pay Band-4 to Lt Cols came from within the Army, but the same was thankfully off-set by a stellar performance by the Air Force and Navy. The objection of the Army was that there would remain no incentive for higher ranks if this were to be accepted. A banal argument in light of the fact that we were ready to face a steep degradation in status and pay vis-à-vis civilian counterparts to ensure an imaginary incentive for higher ranks !.

(c) Higher Grade Pay for Colonel vis-à-vis the rank of DIG :- The pay scale of DIG was traditionally placed between the scales of Lt Col and full Col. After the 6th CPC, DIG was placed in a Grade Pay equivalent to a Brig. Despite forceful attempts by the Pay Commission Cells of the three services, the ultimate proposal forwarded to the Govt by the Services contained a demand of a Grade Pay of 8800 for a full Col and acceptance of 8900 for a Brig, thereby tacitly agreeing an inferior role for a Col and equation of a Brig (28 years’ service) with a DIG with 14 years’ of service. We did not seek for Colonel a GP higher than DIG and on the contrary sought a lower GP. If we do not even demand, why would they give ??

(d) Non-functional financial upgradation :- In the organised Group A Services, after the 6th CPC, all officers are now entitled to non-functional financial upgradation till the scale of HAG (equal to Lt Gen) in case they are not promoted in the ordinary course. Hence, innocuously, unknown to our top brass, almost all civil officers irrespective of actual rank or grade, including those of the MES, are retiring with the pay and pension of Lt Gen while we continue fighting on mundane issues and wasting our energies and intelligence debating on the colour of the curtain in the VIP room (Ganga ???) in the Alpha Mess. There has been a silent takeover by the HAG on the civil side without much fanfare. When this matter was raised by the Air Force and Navy at a time when the Govt was willing to listen, it was shot down by the Army component. Realising the joke that we had played upon ourselves by not processing the proposal when it could see the light of the day, we took it up again, but this time it was rejected by the MoD. So whom do we blame ?

(e) Grant of DACP to military medicos :- When the Govt had approved the Dynamic Assured Career Progression scheme for all doctors under the central govt, there was resistance from our very own PPOC (emanating again from the Army) that this would lead to higher pay to doctors than other officers. It was also foolishly pointed out that military doctors were in receipt of the Military Service Pay also and hence did not deserve DACP. Rather than helping our very own doctors in reaping benefits announced by the govt, we resisted such benefits. On the contrary, we should have smoothly allowed the scheme to be implemented and then could have asked for rectification of other anomalies affecting other personnel. A similar inane bogey was raised in the earlier part of the last century when the Central Govt had introduced Non-Practicing Allowance (NPA) for all doctors. This had led to a protest by the Army HQ that if implemented, the doctors would start getting more emoluments than other Arms and Services. A pity, isn’t it ?

(f) Non-grant of AV Report benefits to SSCOs commissioned prior to 2006 :- When the AV Singh Committee report was implemented, it was implemented for all officers serving in the Army as on 16 December 2004. Later however, our very own MS Branch discovered a ‘ghundi’ and observed that the said benefits could not be granted to SSCOs and WSES officers. When later the SSC scheme was tweaked in 2006 and the terms of engagement were changed from 5+5+4 to 10+4 years, the AV benefits were granted to all those who were commissioned under the said scheme or to those who had opted for the new terms. As a result of this, Male SSCOs commissioned prior to 2006 who are in old terms, including those who were in service in December 2004, are being promoted as quasi-substantive Captains on completing 9 years of service and are retiring in the substantive rank of Lieut even after serving for 14 years while their SSCO counterparts commissioned after 2006 are being promoted as Capt in 2 years, Maj in 6 years and Lt Col in 13 years. Similarly, WSES officers under the old terms are being promoted as Capt after 5 years and are not eligible for any substantive promotion after Capt. When there was hue and cry on the subject, our PS Directorate did take up the issue for rectification but recommended that SSCOs commissioned under the old terms should be made Capt in 5 years rather than the current 9 years !. So there you have it, we are not even magnanimous in demanding our rights. Rather than simply seeking that all officers who were in service in December 2004 or who joined thereafter should be promoted to Capt, Maj and Lt Col in 2, 6 and 13 years as per the universally applicable promotion scheme, we ourselves have been misers in demanding what should have logically flown to us without impediment. So who shall give if we do not even demand ?

(g) Placing senior officers on appointments tenable by junior civilians :- Sample this – while we continue placing Lt Cols and Time Scale Colonels as GEs, the civilian establishment sends only officers with GP 6600 or max 7600 on these appointments. On one hand we theoretically claim that a Superintending Engineer is equal to a Lt Col, while on the other we continue sending Lt Cols and Cols on appointments tenable by even Executive Engineers. We send senior Majors from the SL cadre as AGEs which is an appointment held by Subedar equivalent GP 4600 (Group B) and Lieut equivalent GP 5400 officers from the civil side. We have been posting Majors as BSOs which is an appointment tenable by Group B Officers in GP 4600 who are 4 steps junior. And this is our own doing and cadre management, and then we blame the civilians for degradation of status !. Brace yourself for the 7th CPC.

(h) Grant of medical facilities to non-pensioner ESM including SSCOs and ECOs :- The Govt had allowed limited medical facilities to non-pensioners holding the status of ESM, including released SSCOs and ECOs. While pensioners were entitled to ECHS, such non-pensioners are entitled to outpatient medical facilities in MHs and then if required medical reimbursement by the Kendriya Sainik Board (KSB). In the early 2000s, the DGAFMS had time and again taken up with the govt that such facilities should be withdrawn but the request of the DGAFMS was not accepted. The AG’s Branch had also floated detailed guidelines on the subject authorising such affected non-pensioners to avail facilities from MHs based on medical entitlement cards issued by the Man Power (MP) Directorate. In 2009-2010 however, the DGAMFS on its own issued directions to MHs that they should not provide medical attendance to non-pensioner ESM and should not accept patients based on medical entitlement cards. This also led to failure of the Sainik Board re-imbursement scheme since there was a requirement of a certificate from an MH for availing re-imbursement under the scheme. The KSB scheme interestingly has been promulgated under the directions of the Raksha Mantri. This was ultimately resolved through litigation when the AFT directed continuance of such facilities to such affected ESM. But rather than gracefully accepting the verdict and the already existing guidelines on the subject, the DGAFMS forced the govt into appeal to the Supreme Court since this became a prestige issue for the M-Block. The SC refused a stay on the AFT judgement. This is yet another classic case as to how we are our own enemies. On one hand we are finding it extremely to attract talent to join the services as SSCOs, and on the other we ourselves are filing appeals in the Supreme Court against beneficial policies that we had ourselves initiated, and asking MHs to refuse medical treatment to extremely old ECOs who had been issued medical entitlement cards by the AG’s Branch.

Was the subject line of this blog-post hyperbolic ?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Happy Diwali – Here’s hoping for World Peace

An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind –

Mohandas Gandhi

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Limited examination for induction into IPS soon

Indications are that the Kamal Kumar report recommendations on recruitment in the IPS through a limited departmental / competitive examination has been accepted with certain modifications by the Govt.

Every year, till about 2020, the UPSC would be recruiting officers directly into the IPS through a separate examination which would be over and above the quota of officers recruited through the regular Civil Services Examination.

The QR for the above would most probably be 5 years of service in the Army or the CAPFs at Group A level. It remains to be seen whether the seniority would be protected or not. The age limit shall be 35 years which marks a 10 year reduction from the 45 years recommended by Mr Kamal Kumar.

It is hoped and wished, that the forces would be magnanimous enough in smoothly approving the release of officers who are selected in the said examination.

This is a departure from the earlier reservations expressed by senior police officers on intake of military officers in the IPS. The relevant part of the report signifying the earlier thought process runs as under :-

4.2.7. Strong reservations were voiced against the induction of Army officers too, since many of the above obstacles would have to be confronted in their case as well. It was also pointed out that the Army itself was suffering from an acute shortage of officers which was much greater than that in the IPS, and it would not be prudent in the overall national interest to poach on the Army’s officer strength. The argument against the discharged officers of the Short Service Commission was that apart from the difficulties in imparting meaningful training to them in conceptual and practical skills of crime investigation etc. aspects of policing at their late age, it had also to be kept in mind that those who were not found good enough by the Army for further retention, may hardly be found useful for the IPS.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The difference is in the attitude….

Why is it that the service benefits of serving personnel and pensionary benefits of veterans continue to get stonewalled even when ordered by the Courts and Tribunals ?

It is a plain attitudinal problem.

It has been discussed here before that unfortunately defence personnel are treated as adversaries, rivals and competitors by junior level appointments in the MoD who do not let logic or truth prevail by way of misleading the senior functionaries who are actually the competent authorities in taking decisions.

A glaring extreme would be the functioning of the Pension wing of the Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare of the MoD vis-à-vis the Department of Pension and Pensioners’’ Welfare (DoPPW) of the Personnel Ministry which handles pensionary benefits for civil employees.

Major pensionary decisions are taken by DoPW in a democratic manner by involving all stakeholders and by holding regular meetings with organisations of serving and retired employees, meetings which are at times chaired by the Personnel Secretary and even by the Minister. The Citizens’ Charter of the said department would reveal that the vision of the department is to “ensure a life of security, dignity and respect for central govt pensioners”. The department has totally dedicated itself to promoting welfare of pensioners and ensuring prompt revision of polices wherever required. Time frames for all functions have been conceptualised which are always adhered to. RTI requests are responded to within less than one week and in a very transparent manner. On the other hand, the Pension wing functioning under the DESW of the MoD has not even (yet) resolved certain anomalies existing since the 5th CPC (and at places even from the 4th CPC). The attitude is extremely anti-veteran and negative and it seems that anomalies are permitted to flourish in a designed manner. RTI requests are not replied at all or responded with utterly misleading information which could be labelled as white lies. While the DoPPW tries to minimise the effect of cut-off dates after various pay commissions or decisions, its MoD equivalent deliberately brings in cut-off dates in all its letters and policies. A most recent example would be a letter issued by the MoD on 29-09-2009 permitting disability pension to voluntary retirees but making it applicable only to those who retired after 01-01-2006. However on the other side, the DoPPW introduced the concept of Constant Attendance Allowance (CAA) for disabled civil pensioners on the lines of defence pensioners but made it applicable to all eligible civil retirees irrespective of date of retirement with arrears from 01-01-2006. Hence even a freshly introduced benefit has been applied by the DoPPW proactively to all existing eligible pensioners while the MoD has chosen to deny the benefits of an already existing policy to pre-2006 retirees.

Not just on the pension front, even for benefits of serving personnel there is always resistance from within the system specially in cases involving court verdicts. And ironically this resistance sometimes comes from within the uniformed services also as an off-shoot of bitter infighting. To take an example, whenever in cases of pay or allowances a verdict is rendered in favour of an officer by a any Court or Tribunal including the highest Court of the land, the immediate reaction is that of the ‘judgement being against govt policy’ thereby leading to filing of ego-based appeals and reviews in Courts without analysing the entire issue holistically or dispassionately on merits. And when a judgement is finally implemented, it is only done so for the person approaching the court rather than universally. Well, we need to take a cue from the civil side. Here is a circular issued by the DoPT recently extending Special Incentive Allowance @ 15% of basic pay to the non-executive staff of CBI which was ordered on the basis of a Calcutta High Court judgement rendered on 28-04-2011. Three points stand out in this circular – firstly, a judgement rendered for a single person has been very fairly implemented for all, secondly, it was not challenged in the SC in a routine manner, thirdly, the judgment was rendered towards the end of April and has already been extended to all affected in early October. This shows fairness in response and should be emulated by the MoD as also the Services HQ. What is hurting us most is the false sense of pride that some of us get by picking out faults or ‘ghundis’ in positive proposals. I myself have seen officers approaching their seniors with notings reflecting why a thing cannot be done rather than examining ways and means reflecting how it could be done. And such people think as if they are displaying their intelligence by fishing out loopholes. Sorry, but by having such an approach we are continually axing our own feet.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Need to keep our eyes shut !

I hereby change track.

Let us keep our eyes shut to evade embarrassment.

I’m referring to this IANS report on re-employment of veterans in the Indian Railways.

Six decades into independence and we have not been able to ensure decent post-retirement avenues for our veterans, who, in certain ranks retire 25 years earlier than their civilian counterparts.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Need to keep our eyes open - Part III

I have been forced into Part III of this post. And I am sub-dividing it into three :

1. Readers would remember this earlier post on UCO Bank. The said bank has again issued an advertisement for Security Officers seeking defence officers with 5 years’ commissioned service or Inspectors (equivalent to Subedar) from the CAPFs. Even Sub Inspectors with 8 years’ service have been made eligible. For the same posts, most of the other banks follow a QR of 5 years’ Group A service in the rank of Assistant Commandant / ASP or above for the same post. The advertisement has appeared on Page 10 of the latest issue of Employment News (01-07 Oct 2011).

2. An advertisement for the appointment of Canteen Manager at Yol Cantonment @ Rs 7000 per month has prompted the owner of a security firm to write a strongly worded letter to local military authorities. The provocation – our very own people have sought retired officers of the rank of Col / Lt Col / Maj for the job carrying a remuneration of Rs 7000. The security firm proprietor, a retired army officer, has pointed out that even security guards are paid more than this and steps like these would lead to degradation and exploitation of our own. He is right !

3. The Intelligence Bureau (IB) has sought officers of the rank of Major (GP 6600) for appointment as Security Officers / Tech (GP 5400) in the latest issue of Employment News on Page 14. The QR for the same post on the civil side is that a civil officer holding a post equivalent to a Lieut (GP 5400) can apply and so can a civil employee with 5 years of service in a post equivalent to a Subedar (GP 4600) or with 8 years of service in a post equal to a Naib Subedar (GP 4200). Hence in the ultimate analysis, a Major is being offered an appointment tenable by his civil equivalent of a Naib Subedar.

I have stated it before in my earlier post referred above, I’ll repeat it again – corrective action is not possible till the time the Services HQ postulate a dedicated cell to keep an eye on such issues.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

For those who are eagerly waiting for the promulgation of the ‘status-correction’ High Powered Committee

Readers would recall that during the rank-equation chaos days after the 6th CPC, the PMO had ordered the constitution of a High Powered Committee to resolve command & control and status issues vis-à-vis civil officers including those of the CAPFs and the IPS. The PMO had not issued any orders related to the members of the committee.

The HPC has not been formulated or actually constituted till date. Many of us remain eager for its formulation in the hope that the HPC would go on to resolve and restore the lost status and sheen of the forces.

I am personally of the opinion that we should not clamour for the committee.

Why you may ask ?

Because, in consequence to the directions of the PMO, the Finance Minister had issued a note to the MoD asking them to constitute the committee, a look at the members directed by the FM would be interesting :-

The Cabinet Secretary as the Head of the Committee with the Defence Secretary, the Home Secretary, the Secretary (Personnel) and Secretary (Expenditure) as members.

Now what do you expect out of a committee which does not even have one member from the actual stake holders, that is, the Defence Services ?

Zilch. Don’t wait for it.

And by the way, what is the locus of the FM in directing the composition of the committee ? Is it even a subject matter of the Fin Min ?