It is indeed ironic.
The pension wing of the Ministry of Defence, now under the so called Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare (DESW) has cheated military veterans and their families since long. It is however sad that these downright deceitful actions did not elicit any protest from the Services HQ, who, especially during times of yore, either did not have the capability of keeping a sharp eye on issues concerning defence veterans, or were not clued up or were simply too timid to react.
Whatever be the reason, I am pointing out four out of many such instances of how Cabinet decisions have been openly given the kick by a few junior level functionaries of the Ministry of Defence leading to denial of crores of rupees to poor unsuspecting veterans and their families:
1. Pensioners other than commissioned officers who retired prior to 10-10-1997 : When the 5th CPC was implemented with effect from 01-01-1996, a gazette notification was duly issued which stated that though the scales were being mentioned for ranks other than officers, the Ministry was carrying out trade rationalisation and removing anomalies from the said scales and the scales would finally be implemented once the said rationalisation was complete and that the said anomaly-free scales would replace the anomalous scales with effect from 01-01-1996. However, when the anomalies were removed and the new scales were finally implemented, these were implemented w.e.f 10-10-1997 through Special Army Instruction (SAI) 2/S/98 and were not implemented w.e.f 01-01-1996 as already approved by the Cabinet. The retrospective implementation w.e.f 01-01-1996 notified vide a Gazette notification was conveniently forgotten. Later when pensions were improved from time to time, the said improvement was based on the anomalous scales of 1996 rather than the anomaly-free rationalised scales introduced in 1997 which were in fact to take effect from 1996 thereby replacing the old anomalous scales. Many decisions in favour of pensioners were rendered by High Courts on the said issue and affirmed by the Supreme Court but still the Ministry did not take any action on the subject. The situation was finally rectified by the Defence Ministry w.e.f 01-07-2009 thereby denying our pensioners the correct pension from 01-01-1996 till 30-06-2009. The Ministry not only managed to flout and contravene a gazette notification issued after approval of the Cabinet, but also managed to disregard directions of our Constitutional Courts.
2. Removal of requirement of 10 months’ service in a particular rank to earn the pension of that rank: The 6th CPC abrogated the requirement of the 10 months’ formula and provided that pension shall be calculated on the basis of 50% of the emoluments last drawn unlike the position earlier where service of 10 months in a particular rank was required to earn the pension of that rank. The same was made applicable to both pre and post-2006 retirees by the Government. Prior to the 6th CPC, the pensions of Personnel Below Officer Rank (PBOR) were calculated on the basis of the maximum of the pay-scales which was different than the system followed for all civilian employees and commissioned officers of the defence services for whom the pension was calculated on the basis of the minimum of pay scale. Accordingly, again to provide an edge to PBOR as was the case till 6th CPC, the Government constituted a committee under the Cabinet Secretary who opined that the pension of pre-2006 retirees should be calculated based on the notional maximum within the new 6th CPC scales corresponding to the maximum of pre-6th CPC (5th CPC) scales as per the 6th CPC switch-over fitment tables thereby extending the edge granted to PBOR which was applicable to them earlier. This new stipulation was made applicable with financial effect from 01-07-2009. The said report was accepted by the Cabinet. However, when the DESW of the Ministry of Defence issued the implementation letter, they on their own again added a line re-introducing the 10 months stipulation back into the pensionary provisions for pre-2006 retirees which in reality now stood abrogated for pre-2006 as well as post-2006 retirees after the 6th CPC. Meaning thereby, that if a Naib Subedar had served only for 6 months in that rank prior to retirement, he would be granted the pension of a Havildar, and not a Naib Subedar. The interesting part however remains that even the notings sent to the Cabinet for approval of the Committee’s recommendations contained no such stipulation and the same was mischievously added by lower and mid-level officials of the Ministry of Defence without any reference to the Committee of Secretaries or to the Cabinet, which itself is a serious mischief in an elected democracy.
3. Grant of pension limited to maximum terms of engagement rather than 33 years as applicable to all government pensioners : It is commonly known that earlier, pensionary tables for defence personnel used to be prepared only till the maximum possible service in each rank since individuals were compulsorily retired on attaining the maximum terms of engagement. However, the 4th Central Pay Commission recommended that full pension should be fixed on the basis of 33 years of service including weightage and proportionately reduced for lesser length of service. The system of 33 years is followed as on date for all pre-2006 pensioners. However still, the Defence Accounts Department continued paying pension in accordance with the maximum terms of engagement for each rank and not based on 33 years of service as applicable after the 4th CPC. For example, if a Naik had served for 28 years, or if a DSC Naik had say 30 years of combined service of two spells, they were only being paid a pension for 22 years of service on the specious pretext that the maximum terms of engagement possible for a Naik were 22 years. This was later questioned and quashed by Courts being against the notifications issued after various CPCs which contained no such prohibition. Now last year, the cabinet improved the pensionary benefits of Sepoys, Naiks and Havildars by increasing their weightages. The Govt was then asked to issue a letter. The letter was issued, but again mischievously, in Para 8 of the Letter dated 17 Jan 2013, a line was added by the DESW that the pension shall be revised subject to the maximum terms of engagement for each rank. Giving a benefit to some by one hand and taking it away with the other. This prohibition was never a part of the Union Cabinet’s decision or the recommendations of the Committee of Secretaries on the basis of which this Govt of India letter had been issued but was made a part of the draft letter prepared by the Defence Accounts Department. From where did this line creep in mysteriously and illegally? As on date, all govt employees are being paid pensions in accordance with the length of service rendered by them, however Other Ranks of the defence services are being paid only in accordance with the terms of engagement applicable to their ranks from time to time rather than their actual service. This is not only unfair, but also patently illegal.
4. Enhancement and fresh Categories of Casualty Pensionary Awards including Disability, War Injury and Liberalized Pensionary Awards, introduced after the 5th CPC : The 5th CPC had introduced certain new categories and enhanced the existing casualty pensionary awards w.e.f 01-01-1996. These were extended only to post-96 retirees vide a Govt of India letter for civil pensioners issued on 03-02-2000. The same stipulations were later extended to post-96 defence pensioners by the MoD vide a letter dated 31-01-2001. Later, the benefits were extended by the Govt of India to pre-96 pensioners vide another letter issued on 11-09-2001 and a copy of that letter was sent to MoD for implementation. The MoD however sat on the letter and never issued similar instructions for defence pensioners. Till date, w.e.f 01-01-1996, pre-1996 retiree defence pensioners have been denied the benefits of the Govt of India letter dated 11-09-2001 despite the fact that the Department of Pension and Pensioners’ Welfare (DoPPW) has reminded the MoD time and again to do the needful. One stipulation of the letter of broad-banding of disability percentages was implemented by the MoD for pre-1996 retirees but only with effect from 01-07-2009 thereby denying such disabled personnel the arrears from 01-01-1996 till 30-06-2009, which of course had been released and paid to similarly placed civilians.
Yes, all of you were cheated. And the most striking feature of this sadism is that the particular officer in DESW who was responsible for many of the above actions and is also a signatory of a majority of these letters, is now dealing with the process of implementation of One Rank One Pension (OROP). He is still functioning in the DESW on re-employment, after retiring from regular service.
Unless veterans are on the same page and cease and desist from their internal battles, and the Services HQ acquire expertise and knowledge, overcome timidity and involve stake-holders, no progress can be expected.
The state seems much better in the Pay Commission Cells of the Defence Services at this point, but only time would tell if the hammering can be reversed or if further hammering can be arrested.
Best of luck!
Best of luck!