On the last blogpost concerning the committee constituted on the directions of the Prime Minister, some have shown utter discontentment and lack of any hope from the said working group. Some organisations have rejected the group even before the initiation of its functioning. While the distrust vis-à-vis some certain of bureaucracy is understandable to an extent, painting the entire set-up and also the serving military community as being ‘selfish’ and concerned about its own needs and requirements would not be in order.
And is this approach correct? Needless to say, the formation of the committee is a much welcome step and the credit for it goes to the Pay cells of the three services, mainly the Army Pay Cell, to have adequately highlighted at the right places the requirement of resolution of many pertinent anomalies. It may be pointed out here that earlier the formation of an ‘anomalies committee’ had been summarily rejected by the MoD but the Pay Cells and the current senior incumbents of the AG’s branch still managed to convince the Raksha Mantri of the requirement of redressal of these anomalies.
There is some deficit under the present circumstances and some loose ends that need the attention of the PMO, the Cabinet Secretary and the Services, some of these are :
(a) No stake holder is a part of the committee. Since the committee has been granted the authority to co-opt additional members, the thrust should be on the request to have minimum of four members from the military committee – one serving, each from Army, Navy and Air force and one veteran. It may be recalled that similar committees for civilian employees function democratically with a 'staff side' and 'official side'.
(b) When a Parliamentary Committee has already looked into the demand of One Rank One Pension (OROP) and recommended the same, would it be ethical for a committee of bureaucrats to examine the same demand? Wouldn’t this send a wrong message? Who is more important to the PM, the voice of elected representatives of a democracy or a body of career bureaucrats?
(c) There are many other important anomalies that remain unaddressed. How will those be addressed and by whom? Who decided that these were the only 9 issues that required redressal? Who picked up these 9 from the long list of ‘core issues’? One such very important issue is the issue of broad-banding of disability percentages which affects 80% of all disabled veterans in India and which has led to a spate of unwanted litigation, this issue is the most important stand-alone subject today which requires serious attention rather than rounds of litigation.
(d) Though despite internal inertia by lower echelons of the MoD, the committee has been established, but would it function on its own merits with proper application of mind by the members with independent inputs invited from all concerned or would it again fully depend upon the Pension and Pay/Services Wings of the MoD which have been at the forefront of stonewalling and putting up misleading notes to confuse the top leadership.
Some questions remain unanswered and the constitution of the committee is not perfect as far as its members are concerned, but I would request the defence community to be optimistic on the subject and not jump the gun till the time the recommendations are submitted. Also the Services HQ are at this time tirelessly working towards the objective and need our encouragement in this regard, not negative vibes.
Let us keep our fingers crossed, be optimistic and hope for the best. Still otherwise, this committee is not the last word even if does not entirely meet the expectations of the military community.