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 ?