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.