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.
The book can be procured through an easy process at the above slashed price and free home delivery, including through the Cash on Delivery option, from Amazon India by clicking here.
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?