Feel free to contribute on burning issues concerning the armed forces. Contributions would be acknowledged - Use the 'Comments' tab or email navdeepsingh.india[at]gmail.com. No operational/business/commercial matters to be discussed please. Legal advice/litigation related issues would strictly NOT be published or discussed or entertained. Information on this blog is opinion based and is neither official nor in the form of an advice. This is a pro bono online journal in public service related to issues, policies and benefits, and the idea behind it is to educate and not to create controversy or to incite. Be soft in your language, respect Copyrights.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

ALERT: Price slashed for my book “MAIMED BY THE SYSTEM” @ Amazon for a limited period during the Holiday Season (and another positive development)

First things first. It is learnt that the Raksha Mantri has today made a statement during Good Governance celebrations that he has instructed the Ministry of Defence to minimize litigation in pension matters. A good step, let us see how it pans out practically.

The price for my latest book “Maimed by the System” has been slashed for the holiday period on Amazon India. The offer shall remain valid from today till the First of January, 2015. The book is now available at Rs 449 compared to the street price of Rs 580.

It is a non-commercial project and part of its proceeds shall be used for the welfare of disabled soldiers and military widows.

Reports and Reviews on the book can be accessed through these links:

A preview of the preface of the book is as follows:


Nishchay Kar Apni Jeet Karon

Happy is the way to meet your burdens
No matter how heavy or dark the day
Pity on those with no hope for tomorrow
It's never as bad as it seems until we say

On this point of departure, let me iterate that it is hope and triumph that this book embodies, not despair. In your hands is a compilation of real stories of military personnel and their kin who had to put up difficult and protracted battles with officialdom, something they were clearly unprepared for, to claim their basic rights post disability, post battle and many posthumously.

These are stories that highlight our callous indifference to those who protect us. These are stories which ideally should awaken those who symbolise the system and also hold a fond hope that there would be no further need to publish another such book. These are stories that need to be told.

It is ironic that the ones who are entrusted with the duty of concern for the needs and requirements of our military veterans and their kin have abdicated that responsibility, leading to a sense of extreme discontentment and an unjust situation where benefits which should flow as a matter of right, come at a price. The price is heavy, for it costs us our national pride and faith in the system- that system which should steadfastly support those who serve it but has contemptuously chosen to stand in opposition, putting a stumbling block in their every prayer.

That is not to say that there has not been support. But the support which should emanate from within the system or from the public at large- the public which is quick to render theoretical lip-service but not on-ground support, is lacking. The support has only originated from judicial process and our media, both print and electronic. But that is clearly not enough.

These stories are simple accounts of difficult struggles that were eventually successful. These are real life chronicles of people who fought the system and succeeded. These are stories that eschew despair in the face of utter darkness; these are stories that ought to be heard because these are stories meant to inspire and not to deepen any sense of hopelessness.

Appended to these accounts is a section of Selected Works containing my detailed and popular writings on subjects intertwined with the central theme. These works already stand featured and published in various dailies, blogs, periodicals and journals. In some stories, these are cross-referred.

More than any other institution, as mentioned in the opening tribute, it is our Constitutional Courts which have rendered rock-solid support to our soldiers and their families in their genuine causes, especially disabled personnel and military widows, when they were abandoned by the system. Through the many summers of our independent history, the real public service in this has been effectuated specifically by the Delhi and the Punjab & Haryana High Courts- the former because of sensitivity and experience in dealing with these issues over time and over an extended canvas, and the latter because it is the Constitutional Court of States which have seen battle from the closest quarters.

But more than the support of the judicial process or the media, what is needed is a sensitive and sensitised political executive. The problem has always been that decisions are taken at the bottom and endorsed by the top and not taken by the top and percolated to the bottom. The closest topical example would be the salutary intention of the current Prime Minister to minimise litigation against military veterans and their families, an intention which is being held hostage by junior level staff of the incongruously titled Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare of the Ministry of Defence. The reason is simple: lower functionaries initiate file notings in such a manner that it becomes difficult for the decision-makers to avoid a negative decision. Files are framed in a one-sided mode so as to elicit a pessimistic response from the top. And then these functionaries are the ones who interact with the decision-making authorities regularly and hence are able to convince them by isolating them from the stakeholders by forming a regressive coterie. The answer to overcome this is simple. The political executive should apply mind on every ensuing decision which affects the lives of millions of veterans and their kin and such decisions should only be taken after discussing the concerned issue with stakeholders across the board and across the table providing them a chance to rebut the inputs of babudom which may vary from ambiguous to pure white lies.

Ditto for the military bureaucracy. Senior military appointments must go deep into issues which have a bearing on others and not simply rely on what is put up from below. There have been instances wherein within the military, directions of even the Chief of the Army Staff in favour of disabled soldiers have been ignored and opinions of mere Under Secretary level officers have been granted primacy and allowed to prevail. It is time to grow a spine and stand up for your own, it is time sadism and peer jealously are curbed and positivity and sensitivity encouraged and inculcated. Passion for one’s work and compassion for one’s comrades is the clarion call. Believe me, it is the most agonising experience to see the Army itself blindly oppose its veterans, disabled soldiers, military widows and their kin in Courts and other fora on the pretext of defending ‘Government Policies’ rather than making attempts to stand up for their own fraternity and vociferously vouching for a change and rationalisation of such anomalous and spiteful policies. Even delegated powers are not put into motion, and displaying lack of confidence, unnecessary clarifications are sought from others which are bound to result in negative responses. And what is the point in having judicial bodies at all in a democracy if policies framed by the executive are to be treated as so sacrosanct? Are we bound by the principles of equity, justice and law as laid down by Constitutional Courts or by limited knowledge and sadistic opinions reflected by junior staffers on files? It is time to shun timidity and look into such issues through the hurt of those who are pained and not via the pen of a babu.

A beginning has to be made somewhere and it is you and I who have to march towards a constructive foundation.

Yes, the system is you. The system is I.

Let us transform it. Let it not maim anymore.

The lines in the beginning were sung by Prince. And before I sign off, he sings again-

In your life did you just give a little?
Or did you give all that you had?
Or were you just somewhere in the middle?
Not too good, not too bad?

Monday, December 22, 2014

The web of babudom

On the Supreme Court’s dismissal of the en masse litigation filed by the Ministry of Defence against its own disabled soldiers, I had stated in my last blogpost that the new government had lost a good opportunity of earning goodwill of soldiers and military families and that junior babus of the ironically titled Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare (DESW) should never again be given a chance to let down defence veterans and consequently the entire nation with their sadistic egotism.

People have differed with my thought-process stating therein that the top echelons of the government were not aware of the issue and had they been made aware of the same, action would have definitely been initiated in this regard and consequently bureaucracy tamed.

There is no doubt that the military enjoys a better standing with the current regime but whether the higher strata of governance was duly informed about the games of the DESW or not is the moot question, and in this regard, I would like to put across to you the following instances:

....And much more.

Besides, as we all know, the issue has been raised time and again in national media, including mainstream news channels.

What more was required?

It is clear that it is an iron fist and directives from the top that are required to break the negative web of babudom, both military and civilian, to ensure that problems are resolved and not perpetrated. It is also highly desirable that the three Chiefs apprise the PM and the Defence Minister directly regarding issues confronting our men and women in uniform.

Wake up, sleeping beauties!!! 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Dismissal of en masse appeals filed by Ministry of Defence in the SC against disabled soldiers: A great opportunity lost of earning goodwill by the top political executive, and the need for care in the future

It is well known that the current political regime is proactive and deeply concerned about the welfare of men and women in uniform. It is also well documented that both the Prime Minister as well as the Defence Minister are sensitive towards the fact that military veterans in this country are perturbed by the functioning of the Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare (DESW) and also the litigation unleashed by it on disabled soldiers, poor pensioners of lower ranks and also military widows. Not only that, this issue was also raised in the Parliament and very recently by known public figures. I had also sent a confidential note to all concerned, including the defence services, requesting action in this regard. But of course, this issue is not as glamorous or brownie point oriented like say the OROP.

Keeping in view the fact that the manifesto of the ruling party spoke of minimizing appeals filed against military veterans by the Govt, many veteran organizations wrote to the PM and all concerned apprising them of some ruthless decisions taken in the past, not by the political executive but by the bureaucracy at the lower levels in tandem with some staffers of the defence accounts department who cannot think beyond the literal interpretation of Govt policy which it feels is sacrosanct even if it is struck down by Courts or contravenes law, logic or basic common sense. Unfortunately, in our system, any illegality or illogical action can be defended with a noting sheet by the civil as well as military bureaucracy leading to wrong inputs to those occupying posts at the top who do not have time or inclination to hear the other (affected) side of the story.

The issue of broad banding affected quite a few disabled soldiers.

The Fifth Pay Commission had introduced the concept of broad-banding to minimize medical subjectivity and rationalize mistakes of medical boards by providing that those with a disability below 50% would be granted a disability element by treating it as 50%, those with 50%-75% would be granted the benefit of 75% and above 76% would be considered as 100%. However while implementing the concept, the Defence Ministry granted it only to post-1996 personnel invalided out on medical grounds and not to pre-1996 or those who were released with disability pension on superannuation or completion of terms, though all categories were equally afflicted with the problem of medical subjectivity. Military pension rules however provided that defence personnel released in a low medical category were deemed to be invalided out of service for purposes of disability pension.

There was a series of litigation thereafter wherein various benches of the Armed Forces Tribunal, High Courts and then the Supreme Court in a detailed decision (Capt KJS Buttar Vs Union of India) held that  pre-96 disabled personnel and those released on completion of terms or superannuation could not be deprived of broad-banding. One of the lead cases therein was that of Former Army Vice Chief Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi, war disabled in the 1965 Indo-Pak War. The then Chief of the Army Staff, Gen VK Singh, rightly and strongly directed that appeals should not be filed in such cases and the decisions needed to be fully accepted and implemented by the establishment.

The filing of appeals in the broad-banding matter even after the decision of the Supreme Court in Capt KJS Buttar’s case displayed a strange kind of incorrigibility. The continued filing of appeals even after the Review Petition of the Defence Ministry was dismissed by the Supreme Court in January 2014 in Capt KJS Buttar’s matter reflected administrative arrogance which surpassed all lines of institutional decency. The sustained filing of civil appeals against disabled and war disabled soldiers in the Supreme Court much after the new regime had taken over was perplexing too since it was diametrically opposite to the sentiment of the new Govt. In the bargain, thousands of appeals were filed and tagged together wasting crores and crores of taxpayers’ money. Your money, my money. Would the citizens of any nation allow their taxes to be used to unleash terror on disabled and war disabled soldiers?

One always thought that with a strong political will in place, the lower level bureaucracy would be tamed. With so many verdicts on the same subject in favour of disabled veterans and with the expressed sentiment of the present government, I personally expected a decision at the highest level to the effect that such appeals filed at the behest of the DESW and also elements of the military establishment would be withdrawn.

Ultimately, like always, it was the judiciary that came to the rescue when the Supreme Court dismissed more than 800 appeals filed by the Ministry of Defence and the Army against its own soldiers. Though it has brought relief to disabled and war disabled solders, in it the Govt has also lost the opportunity of earning a whole lot of goodwill, a chance that should have been grabbed by simply suo moto withdrawing these unethical appeals from the Supreme Court. The anti-veteran sentiment of the lower bureaucracy has let down the political executive but that is for the higher echelons to realize.

I hope the Govt gives no more occasion to junior babus of the ironically titled Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare to let down defence veterans and consequently the entire nation with their sadistic egotism. I hope next time the Govt is faced with a situation like this, it takes the side of judiciousness, logic, sentiment and sensitivity and not morbid file notings put up by a babu sitting in a dingy office somewhere attempting to decide the entitlement of thousands of those who sacrificed their comforts in their prime, for all of us.

Ungrateful we are indeed. 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

A unique, humble and politically neutral appeal to the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister by public figures regarding our veterans, disabled soldiers and military widows:

7th DEC 2014

When you go home, tell them of us and say
For their tomorrow, we gave our today



1.    At the outset, we would like to emphasize that this request of ours is politically neutral and without any political connotations and we are making this effort on the Armed Forces Flag Day  with an optimism stemming out of your known concern for men and women in uniform.

2.     In the last few years, the country has witnessed humongous amount of litigation initiated by the Government against its own disabled soldiers, old military pensioners and military widows. In fact, it is well known that most of the Civil Appeals/SLPs filed by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and pending in the Hon’ble Supreme Court are against the disability benefits awarded by Courts and Tribunals to disabled soldiers- an actuality which is stark and alarming enough to make the entire citizenry hang its head in shame.

3.     Most of these appeals are filed in the Hon’ble Supreme Court by the MoD on the pretext that court decisions favouring disabled soldiers are against “Government policy” and some officers seem to suggest that irrespective of the arbitrariness or the illogical nature of some policies, it is their sacred duty to defend them till the Apex Court rather than undertake an honest exercise to resolve anomalies in such policies or making them humane or realizing that there must be something amiss in such policies if the same are being repeatedly commented upon adversely by judicial bodies. Moreover, many decisions rendered by Courts and Tribunals in favour of soldiers are not implemented by the MoD without even obtaining a ‘stay’ from a higher judicial forum.

4.      It is also observed with concern that appeals on similar legal issues are repeatedly filed by the MoD citing artificial distinctions even when a particular matter has already been settled by the Hon’ble Supreme Court or a High Court. It is further a matter of concern that some of such appeals involve a pittance, to take an example, there are appeals filed by the MoD against the enhancement of disability element of pension granted to Sepoys by High Courts/Armed Forces Tribunals @50% disability rates in lieu of 40% rates- a total basic pension amount of Rs 310/- (Rupees Three Hundred and Ten) per month. There are other appeals challenging the award of 20% disability element amounting to Rs 702/- (Rupees Seven Hundred and Two). Comparing it with the litigation threshold of other Ministries again paints a grim picture since establishments such as the Income Tax Department do not approach the Hon’ble Supreme Court unless the amount involved is more than Rs 25,00,000/- (Rupees Twenty Five Lac).

5.      It is also unethical that in the course of such moves by the MoD, the lower level staff has drilled into the minds of the higher bureaucracy and the political executive that soldiers are being ‘greedy’ with their demands. These are one-sided decisions obtained from the political executive by painting a unilateral picture since poor soldiers and military veterans and other stakeholders do not have the ear of the higher echelons of governance and are unable to rebut incorrect facts ultimately leading to skewed decisions. As per media reports, the Government has recently (probably rightly) decided not to appeal to the Hon’ble Supreme Court against a decision of the Hon’ble Bombay High Court involving an amount of Rs 35,000 Crores, in order to support the morale of business houses investing in India and also the overall business sentiment, but we would like to point out here that the morale of our men and women in uniform is also of utmost importance to us as a nation, and we, the citizens, and the Government, are expected to stand behind them rather than stand against them in an adversarial role. It is painful to even imagine the agony caused to poor soldiers and their families who, from far off places, are forced to litigate by the MoD till the Hon’ble Supreme Court with meagre resources.

6.    Disability benefits are granted quite liberally in all democracies but in India these are made subject to many Ifs and Buts leading to a hyper-technical and literal approach rather than a liberal approach as is intended by the rules. For example, many disabilities such as psychiatric and cardiovascular disorders are termed as “Neither Attributable to, Nor Aggravated to military service” resulting in denial of disability benefits not realizing that irrespective of whether a person in deployed in field or peace, there is inherent stress and strain in military service coupled with the fact that a person operates away from family during most of his/her service in a regimented lifestyle under a strict disciplinary code. Within the system, there is denial of benefits at many stages starting from military medical boards to administrative authorities, who, at times even easily blame ‘domestic reasons’ for stress related disorders again not realizing that a person remaining away from family due to the very nature of military service is torn between domestic requirements that he cannot attend to (as other common citizens can) on one hand and the call of duty on the other. Such issues have already been favourably emphasized by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the two recent decisions of Dharamvir Singh Vs UOI (Civil Appeal 4949/2013) decided on 02 July 2013 and K Srinivasa Reddy Vs UOI (Civil Appeal No 5140/2011) decided on 09 Oct 2014 and by the Hon’ble Punjab & Haryana High Court in Umed Singh Vs UOI (CWP 7277/2013) decided on 14 May 2014 and Barkat Masih Vs UOI (CWP 1792/2013) decided on 23 May 2014. In fact, in most operationally active armies, any disability arising in a person while in military service or during authorized leave is deemed and presumed to be related to service unless caused due to gross negligence or substance abuse.

7.        It would also be appropriate to recall that appreciably many MPs cutting across party lines have taken up this issue in the past, including Ms Smriti Z Irani, who did so in August 2013, in the following terms:

“...though the rules of granting disability pension are inherently very liberal and also endorsed as such by the Supreme Court in the recent judgment of Dharamvir Singh Vs. Union of India, yet many cases of disabilities arising during military service are restrictively and hyper-technically declared ‘neither attributable to, nor aggravated by military service’ by the MoD leading to denial of disability pension to disabled soldiers. Also, military personnel with non-service related disabilities discharged with less than 10 years of service are not entitled to any form of pension leading to denial of the right to live a life of dignity, whereas the employment of civilian employees on being disabled is protected under section 47 of Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995 enabling them to earn full pension. Majority of appeals and SLPs filed by MoD before the Supreme Court are against their own disabled soldiers on the specious ground that courts and tribunals have granted relief against Defence Ministry’s policy. More than one lakh retired defence personnel have been affected.

            Ironically, far from safeguarding the welfare of retired soldiers, sailors and airmen, many of them disabled from battle injuries or the bleak conditions of service, the DESW stonewalls and holds off payment until an ex-serviceman claimant is either dead or broke.

            In view of the above, I urge the Government to intervene in the matter to resolve the issue and ensure that soldiers who made sacrifices for the nation get their rightful and respectful due...”

8.      For the defence community, the ruling majority party had also kindly included “minimizing of appeals” as one of the points in the defence section of its manifesto and even You Sir (the Hon’ble Prime Minister) had objected to litigation involving disabled soldiers in your first campaign in Rewari in Haryana. It is hence legitimate to expect that both of you, that is, the Hon’ble PM and the Raksha Mantri, would be forceful enough to make the MoD realize the morbidity and the anti-veteran character of their attitude in making disabled, war disabled, maimed, handicapped and infirm soldiers the target of such sadistic ego-fuelled litigation which emerges not out of genuine legal points but out of administrative egotism when mere common soldiers, especially of the lower ranks, manage to get relief in Courts against the mighty system, the MoD.

9.         With this sanguine hope, all of us hence appeal to you Hon’ble PM and Raksha Mantri ji, to initiate the following steps:

A.   Direct Ministry of Defence to withdraw litigation initiated against our disabled soldiers & military widows related to the subject of their disability and pensionary benefits at the earliest.

B.     Constitute a committee, with stakeholders and independent experts as members, to resolve all other policy anomalies which have given rise to litigation in issues concerning military veterans and widows.

C.     Ensure that officers serving in the Ministry of Defence in general, and Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare in particular, are sensitized towards the needs and requirements of the military community and realize that it is their first pious obligation to serve soldiers, veterans and their families, giving them due respect and dignity which they deserve.

Thanking you in anticipation


Endorsed by

Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Member of Parliament

211, North Avenue
New Delhi – 110011

(The above address may be used for communication related to the subject)


2. Kabir Bedi, International Actor, Cavaliere Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana

3. Brig Kuldip Singh Chandpuri (Retd), MVC, VSM, War Hero, Battle of Laungewala 1971 Indo-Pak War

4. Admiral Arun Prakash (Retd), PVSM, AVSM, VrC, VSM, Former Chief of the Naval Staff

5. Justice Ghanshyam Prasad, Former Judge, Patna High Court, Former Member, Armed Forces Tribunal

6. Lt Gen S Pattabhiraman (Retd), PVSM, AVSM, SM, VSM, Former Vice Chief of the Army Staff, Former Member, Armed Forces Tribunal

7. Vijay Gore, IAS (Retd), Former Additional Chief Secretary Govt of Karnataka

8. Lt Gen PC Katoch (Retd) PVSM, UYSM, AVSM, SC, Former DGIS, Indian Army

9. Chinmayi Sripaada, Award Winning Singer, CEO Blue Elephant, Former RJ & TV Host

10. Lt Gen Milan Naidu (Retd), PVSM, AVSM, YSM, Former Vice Chief of the Army Staff, Former Member, Armed Forces Tribunal

11. Sucheta Dalal, Managing Editor Moneylife, Founder Trustee Moneylife Foundation, Padma Shree Awardee

12. Nitin Gokhale, Journalist, Author, Defence Analyst

13. Maj DP Singh (Retd), 100% Disabled Kargil War survivor, First amputee marathon runner from India, Triple Limca Record holder, Inspirational Speaker

14. JP Singh, IAS (Retd), Former Member Public Service Commission

15. Rahul Ravindran, Actor

16. Jaskirat Singh Nagra, Vice President Continental Device India Limited

17. Navdeep Singh, Lawyer, Author