The defence community would be pleased to know that the Prime Minister’s office has directed the constitution of an anomalies committee to look into many vital anomalies affecting serving and retired personnel and also their families.
The best part of the directions signed this week is that the committee is to submit its recommendations within a month and the implementation of the accepted recommendations may also be announced on 15 August 2012, thereby marking a radical signal of positivity.
Though a chunk of the bureaucracy in the Ministry of Defence was not inclined to let any such committee come through, this has been possible due to multiple channels of Track-II diplomacy and the stellar efforts of the Pay Cells of the three services which evoked direct response from the Raksha Mantri who then took it upon himself to get this committee approved from the Prime Minister personally and directly without being blinded by comments of lower bureaucracy of the MoD.
The only negative offshoot is that the committee does not have any serving or retired military member and that a proper consultative process was not initiated before identifying the anomalies which required immediate examination. Ideally, the stake-holders should have been a part of the process. However, the saving grace is that the committee has been granted the authority to co-opt any additional member if required. The Committee shall function under the Cabinet Secretary with the Defence Secretary, Secretary Ex-Servicemen Welfare, Secretary DoPT, Expenditure Secretary and Principal Secretary to PM, as members.
Howsoever we may view the development, many important issues such as Non-Functional Upgradation, enhancement of pensions of widows, One Rank One Pension, dual family pension, fixation of pay of Lt Cols/Cos/Brigs, enhancement of Grade Pays, universalisation of scales, grant of HAG+ to all Lt Gens, removal of pay anomalies of other ranks etc have been listed in the charter of the committee. Five anomalies concerning serving personnel and four concerning veterans and pensioners shall be taken up. One surprise (and actually infructuous) entry in the list of anomalies is that the committee would be looking into the issue whether a handicapped family pensioner could be granted family pension on marriage since as per the current interpretation, family pension to handicapped family pensioners is discontinued on marriage. However this issue already stands addressed by the Hon'ble AFT in the case of Vinod Kumar Vs UOI and the judgement also already stands implemented and hence the inclusion of this point in the committee seems totally redundant once it has been judicially adjudicated.
It is however surprising that while the PM had directed that the constitution of the committee may be publically announced, the same has not been done by the staff at MoD till date despite the fact that the directions were conveyed by special courier (by hand) to the MoD for immediate action by the PMO.