Truly speaking, repulsive are the emails circulated by retired veterans condemning the grant of the newly conceptualised status of ‘Ex-Central Police Personnel’ to former personnel of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) akin to the model of the status of ‘Ex-Servicemen’ to former defence personnel.
Only because the Government has been insensitive to certain issues concerning defence veterans does not mean that we go around ranting about benefits being granted to others. Some veterans have even pointed out that such personnel would ‘eat away’ the vacancies of ex-servicemen who retire at a much younger age. But is this fear well founded? Not at all. The simple answer is that firstly there is no proposal to treat such personnel as ‘Ex-Servicemen’ or to place them at par with defence veterans – they would be treated as a separate category, and secondly, even otherwise since such personnel retire well in their 50s there is no question of any clash with defence personnel retiring in their 30s and 40s. Moreover the benefits which are to be granted by the States cannot be dictated by the Central Government and would be decided by States independently. It is also very important to note that many States already provide multifarious benefits to personnel and ex-personnel of CAPFs. Even the Centre is providing many similar benefits and facilities and those shall be merely formalised by the introduction of the new concept.
It is universally known that personnel of the CAPFs operate in trying conditions and very difficult and risky circumstances with disturbed family life. Yes, there are certain allowances in the arena of which they are better placed than defence personnel but the quality of life needs much improvement. In this light, if the Ministry of Home Affairs is doing its bit in improving upon the conditions of service of CAPFs, then what is required is whole hearted support from the defence community and not the opposite. It’s painful to observe the disparaging comments on the efforts of the MHA in improving upon the state of affairs in the CAPFs.
This brings me to another point. Though in many issues the efforts of the Government have been wanting in the welfare of defence veterans, the public at large mostly has been sensitive to the requirements of men and women in uniform. Even civilian pensioners and pensioners’ organisations have been generally supportive of additional benefits to defence pensioners, though they may have demanded parity with defence pensioners in certain aspects. There has never been any significant opposition from civilian pensioners on the applicability of a (better) varied formula for Other Ranks and JCOs to cater for their early release from service or curtailed tenures. And hence that very minimal courtesy is expected from the defence community too towards others. Even today, a group of civilian pensioners by way of a circulated mail has congratulated defence pensioners on the rank pay case. Always projecting defence personnel as being different and special and removed from the general society can be hugely counterproductive. The issue was also briefly touched by me in an OPed published in ‘The Tribune’ earlier this year.
Veterans should ask for what is logically due to them, but not by running down other institutions and not by seeking to withdraw benefits granted to personnel in other services. A little more magnanimity is required and I’m sure we can rise to the occasion.
On a lighter note, the situation reminds me of this phrase, those who can read Punjabi would get it !