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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Have you heard about Col AGJ Swittens?

There are some stories that touch your heart. This is one of them.

Col Swittens, who passed away in 2011, was a young Subaltern of the Gorkha Rifles when we went to war with Pakistan in 1971. He was the last Prisoner of War to get back to India.

He was taken PoW by the Pak Army and completely forgotten. It took a young Swiss lady from the Red Cross to wake us up back here in India.

What followed is a trail of red-tapism and insensitivity on the part of our establishment – political, military and bureaucratic. The treatment at the hands of our own Army was also nothing to be proud of and he was accused of having stayed back in Pakistan at his own volition.

Please read the “Story of the Last Prisoner of War” at www.classicstories.in to know more about our forgotten past.

Monday, May 21, 2012

IRDA chairman makes war heroes happy; says “Insurance companies should cover essential implants" (Through www.moneylife.in)

First an introduction. Ms Sucheta Dalal of www.moneylife.in has been taking keen interest in issues involving disabled veterans. Such support from citizens from different walks of life is heartening and morale-boosting for the veteran community. Major D P Singh, a battle casualty who lost his right leg in a mortar explosion has been bringing to light this issue umpteen number of times through his NGO ‘The Challenging Ones’.

Speaking at a Moneylife Foundation seminar, IRDA chairman J Hari Narayan said that the need for various implants is real and it has to be addressed as disability can happen due to accidents, medical condition or at birth.

In most cases, medical treatment under insurance does not cover prosthetics/artificial limb, when in fact, this is absolutely essential for an amputee to live a normal life. Col (retd) Satish Mallik, a Kargil war veteran and amputee himself, brought this to the attention of the insurance regulator at a special meeting organised by Moneylife Foundation on 16th May.  Col Mallik and Lt Col Prakash represented The Challenging Ones, a not-for-profit organisation that encourages and helps amputees not only to lead a normal life, but look beyond and participate in sports and other activities.

Col Mallik said, "There is need to cover repair and replacement of a prosthesis, if this is deemed appropriate by the insured's treating physician/prosthetist". He said that at present, only few mediclaim policies cover prosthetics and out of them only Max Bupa covers up to the sum insured. While the Employee State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) does give limited facility for fresh amputees, some group plans cover prosthetics for even existing amputees. "Individual mediclaim should cover fresh amputee and possibly existing amputees too", he requested.

Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) chairman J Hari Narayan immediately acknowledged the need for mediclaim to cover prosthesis. He said, "The need for various implants is real and it has to be addressed. Some mediclaim policies cover prosthesis and there is need for others to cover. We will advice companies about it. There is increasing need for various types of implants. Disability can happen due to accidents, medical condition or at birth. Prosthesis is essential part of the treatment for loss of limb. However, certain embellishments may be viewed as cosmetics and may not be covered and we too will not support it."

The Challenging Ones NGO gave a memorandum to the IRDA chairman requesting him to ensure that all insurance providers be mandated by regulations to offer mediclaim and accident cover policies to cover the cost of provision of prosthesis/ artificial limbs to the insured person, up to the sum insured and without any artificial cap.

The memorandum states that "The exclusions like war and war-like situations, natural calamity, act of terrorism may also be waived off to cover the provisions of Prosthetics under all medical/accidental insurance policies. This waiver may be given to the insurer on an enhanced/additional premium. Worldwide, in countries which have a market economy, insurance companies are mandated by regulations to provide prosthetic coverage under Medical/Accident insurance policies".

The Challenging Ones is a platform for the challengers (people call them physically challenged). It is a peer support group to hold hands of new amputees. It promotes sports for amputees.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Flash News : Limited Competitive Examination for the Indian Police Service stayed by the Central Administrative Tribunal

It is learnt that the Hon’ble CAT, Cuttack Bench, has stayed the examination that was scheduled to be held later this month.

The interim order has been passed on a petition filed by promotee officers of the State Police Service on the ground that the said examination shall hamper their prospects for appointment into the IPS in the regular course.

Issues related to LCE have been discussed earlier on this blog, here and here.

More when the news is confirmed and greater details trickle in.  

Monday, May 14, 2012

Central Govt soon going the Bihar way

….in a positive manner that is.

Taking a cue from the successful experiment initiated by the Bihar Govt, the Central Govt seems ready to set-up a call centre and portal dealing with RTI Applications and appeals.

Proposals for the same have already been invited by the DoPT as can be seen from this official notice.

The call centre would have special significance for defence and other uniformed personnel staying away from urban centres.

It is also learnt that e-payment for RTI fee for all organisations and departments would be made possible through the envisaged portal.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Darkness engulfs decision-making authorities in the Ministry of Defence

The decision making process at the Defence Ministry can put any organisation to shame.

Consigning all precedents of governance and administration to the bin, the Ministry is not being run by authorities competent to take decisions but by lower-level bureaucrats who have spent better part of their lives in the South Block and Sena Bhawan. What is shocking is that significant welfare related provisions related to the defence services which require a decision at Raksha Mantri or Government level including even those which have received an in-principle assent of the political executive, are junked by junior babus who do not even care to put up the file to their seniors and reject such proposals at their own end by initiating misleading file notings.

On this blog, I’ve many-a-times addressed the subject as to how lower level appointments of the MoD hijack the system and ensure that the defence services do not get what is due. Some of the blog-posts signifying the above can be accessed here, here and here where many readers have differed by stating that the onus is on seniors in the chain rather than the juniors.

Now comes direct proof related to something which is dear to every commissioned officer of the Indian Military – Non Functional Upgradation (NFU).

For the uninitiated, NFU basically implies that whenever an IAS officer gets empanelled at a particular appointment at the Centre, all other Group-A service officers are also upgraded to the same level after a period of two years from the date of empanelment, on a non-functional basis irrespective of whether they are actually promoted or not. For example, if an officer of the IAS of 1982 batch is empanelled as an Additional Secretary to Govt of India, then all other Organised Group-A civil officers of the 1980 batch shall also be placed in the ‘Addl Secy to Govt of India’ pay grade of Rs 67000-79000 (Higher Administrative Grade/HAG) which is the same as a Lt Gen of the Army. As a result, almost all organised Group-A civil officers are retiring with the pay and pension of a Lt Gen whereas less than 1% of defence officers are retiring in the said grade. Interestingly, in many arenas, civilian officers serving under senior military officers are drawing a much higher pay (and consequently pension) under the system of NFU than their seniors from the defence services.

As stated earlier, the Chief of Staffs’ Committee (COSC) had strongly conveyed to the Raksha Mantri the requirement of extending NFU to the defence services. This was followed by many letters and communications. Now comes the shocker. On endorsement of the proposal from the Services, the file was ultimately processed to the Pay/Services Wing of the MoD where a mere Under Secretary rejected the entire proposal in two short paragraphs covering one fourth of a page by concluding that the ‘proposal of the services cannot be agreed to’. The proposal which originated from the Apex body of the Services, the COSC and the PPOC, was junked by the lowest rung of the MoD who shockingly did not even consider it appropriate to send the file upwards to the Defence Secretary. The file was only sent for perusal upto Joint Secretary level and then the rejection letter was endorsed to the Services ostensibly on behalf of the Government by the same Under Secretary who had rejected the proposal in the very first note on the file.

Though the issue is not closed and the military top brass is alive to the subject, what the above shows is the kind of smartness being displayed by junior secretarial staff in hoodwinking the entire system. The political executive is blissfully unaware of what is happening around and the IAS & Military officers come and go.

More information would roll out in the near future. 

Who rules the roost – solely the note maker !

In Delhi, it’s wake-up time for the Minister, the Bureaucrat and the Fauji.