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Saturday, November 21, 2015

My total disagreement with Times of India’s report (and the 7th CPC) on our disabled soldiers (Updated)

I usually do not react sharply to press reports. Neither do I agree with many veterans when they say boycott “this paper”, boycott “that paper”, and so on and so forth. Many of you would not agree with me but I find such demands pretty immature, and nor does it make any difference if a few persons stop subscribing to a particular paper- hardly even a drop in the large ocean.

While I do support Freedom of Expression and reporting so very cherished in our democracy and also the Right to disagree and hold no grudge against any newspaper per se, I strongly oppose wrong reportage which may lead to rumour-mongering or spreading disinformation, especially in a cause that has remained very close to my heart.

I place today’s report of Times of India on disabled soldiers in the above category. Mind you, I am not talking of Times of India as a whole, but the above linked report only. 

I found it odd to see a mainstream paper indulge in a tirade against a category of veterans in need of the greatest sensitivity- our disabled soldiers.

There are many reasons for my dissent:

  • That the headline which states “Armymen took Govt for a ride for disability pension“ is not in conformity with the actual extract of the 7th Central Pay Commission (7th CPC) Report which states no such thing directly, which of course is not to absolve the CPC.
  • That disability pension cannot be claimed by taking the system ‘for a ride’. It is admissible to disabled soldiers as per Rules which provide for disability pension to most disabilities incurred while in service as interpreted even by the Supreme Court. The 7th CPC itself has called for a liberal approach by observing that there is a presumption of service-connection in all disabilities that arise during service. 
  • That just on the basis of a few bad sheep in senior ranks who may have indulged in wrong practices, the entire spectrum of disability pensioners cannot be commented upon in such a derogatory manner. The only category of disability pensioners, if any, that can be condemned is the one which may have feigned disability when there was none, but can benefits be denied to 99 entitled personnel only because 1 disentitled person claimed it in the perception of some? In any case, can a person feign disability or disease in today's time and age? If yes, then catch the person rather than making broad statements.  
  • That the data of the 7th CPC is based on one-way inputs of the Defence Accounts Department and the findings (though not in the essence as reported by the ToI) have been rendered at the back of the Defence Services. The data has been projected with a twist. If at all there has been an increase in the number of disabled soldiers, then the rising disabilities and stress levels and the need to improve health should have been a cause of concern rather than the fact that more personnel are receiving benefits. The data provided to the 7th CPC by the CGDA also could be incorrect in the sense that they may have included in it past cases earlier illegally denied disability benefits but later granted the same on Court orders or on change in policy. 
  • That it is a recorded fact that life expectancy of soldiers is lower than that of the general population, which itself shows the relationship of military service with the health profile of the men and women in uniform. All democracies are liberal in granting disability benefits to their disabled soldiers, both in injury as well as disease cases. The ToI report puts out a false projection which may harm the image of disabled soldiers.
  • That the hint of reversion to the slab system of fixed disability element for all ranks rather than the one based on percentage of pay due to the perceived misuse of the provision is condemnable because no such change has been recommended for civilians who continue to be on the percentage system. The Recommendation of the 7th CPC in this regard is hence not only discriminatory but reflects pure non-application of mind. The imputation of the 7th CPC that disability pension was substantially hiked by the last pay commission leading to a spurt in disability cases in senior officers is also incorrect since the last pay commission had merely brought disability rates for defence personnel at par with civilians who were already on 'percentage of pay' system for calculating disability pension. 
  • That rules for disability pension are the same for officers and other ranks and to suggest that the number of officers claiming disability pension has gone up is detestable. In fact, in the times of yore, officers used to hide their disabilities because it was thought of being “unmilitary” to be a disabled soldier, not anymore! And if the rules permit the grant of disability benefits in such circumstances and people have become more aware of their rights, then the 7th CPC or ToI had no business of adversely commenting on it.

In effect, the following table would show the incongruity of the recommendations of the 7th CPC in this regard:

(100% Disability)
Current rates as on date under the 6th CPC 
Rates now proposed by the 7th CPC
Lt Gen
Rs 52,560

Rs 27,000
Head of Central Armed Police Force
Rs 52,560
Rs 67,500

The above is the reason why I keep reminding some veterans again and again, that while you only remain focussed on eye-catching issues such as OROP and continue issuing diktats and questioning the integrity of all those who disagree with you, we are ignoring the most pertinent subjects that affect us insidiously. And this includes the plight of disabled soldiers and the loss of the fundamental right of the military community to approach the High Court that is available to all other citizens.

I would suggest that focus be brought back on other important issues too, apart from OROP, and not by way of agitation or by infighting or by questioning the integrity of those who disagree, but by way of education and engagement with the system by convincing them, and if not, then by way of exercising remedies permissible under law.

Update No 1: After the morning's skewed report, the Times of India has done another story on the subject, this time much balanced and mature, which can be accessed here.

Update No 2: Please also note that there are text messages doing the rounds in my name on the Pay Commission Report. Please be warned that all such messages are fake and figment of imagination of some fertile mind(s). I do not write alarmist messages as a principle and all my thoughts and views are officially made available here on this blog or on my facebook page or on twitter. 


Anonymous said...

it was expected that people and media will raise issue about orop to all even after serving 60 years but it seems expenditure on defence personnel only matters to all. similarly extension of csd canteen facilities to retired defence civilians also recently does not seem to cause anyone any issue. however it seems that agenda seems to be only target defence personnel...

Unknown said...

excellent article maj navdeep - please send a rebuttal to the editor of TOI......we have so much to learn from you!!thank you

Anonymous said...

You have brought out a very important issue.
You will of course be aware that any degree of disability pension results in the entire pension becoming tax free by virtue of a Finance Ministry notification. Though the notification is very old, it became well known only recently. Consequently the instances of senior officers developing disabilities in their last year of service went up to the extent of being noticed by the CDA and has therefore been echoed in the CPC. And of course the gun is fired from the shoulder of the AMC.
Perverse incentives give rise to perverse outcomes. And this is a classic example of the same. In fact if the tax benefit had been restricted to the disability element of the pension, none of this would have happened.
An AMC officer.

Unknown said...

thank you so much for putting the things in right perspective

Anonymous said...

Well covered, Navdeep. Thanks. Also, it is a sad commentary on how much we have to fight just to get justice. Am totally convinced that we fight an unwinnable war.

colonel j s chauhan said...

agree with you

Rahul said...

Very well written Maj Navdeep. I am fully with you on your disagreement with TOI Article. We all were shell shocked to read such an immature writing by a 'mature' media.
Getting disability is not in hands of soldiers or officers. It is decided by the medical boards and which are really very strict in granting it. Getting into lower medical category also means, no promotions, no career advancement, no to many good postings including foreign ones. On always loses, which is not the case with politicians and Babus. Inreasing number should be iterpreted as more tougher service conditions and stress, not as precieved by CPC.
We will sanitise our groups in social media regarding your Update No 2, regarding the fake messages being circulated on your name.

Unknown said...

Sir, Your reaction is appreciated which is based on facts and your vast experience on the subject matter. You correctly said officers used to hide disabilities and with the increased awareness about health and best treatments for various diseases available they prefer to get treatment for disease like blood pressure, hypertension which in the past they used to ignore. Moreover, the data given by pcda to 7th CPC pertains from the year 2006 onward and why not figures of disability pensioners not available with def department prior to 1 Jan 2006 (Para 10.2.18). They should have taken figures of past 20 years and then make a comparison chart to bring out the true picture. However you covered it well that it is not their business. About shifting to slab system for def personnel only on the presumption of misuse of provision. Surprising no such comparison data for civilians who got disability on percentage basis earlier then def personnel. I agree military community need to focus such issues equally like one of OROP. I thank for your efforts to get justice for def personnel.

yogi2g said...

Balanced, incisive and forceful rejoinder to the twisted article and bad call by 7 CPC. Bravo, Navdeep.
If civ pensioners are going to be on percentile scales it is an injustice specially to war disabled- -must be contested by all means by you and all fair-minded crusaders for justice!

ChandranMethil said...

The first priority should be always and every time be given to disability arising out of enemy action in a conflict situation. I don't think anyone in his right senses would object to that. The pension should be given swiftly and generously. There are then disabilities due to motor accidents,disability due to sports/games etc. These should be calculated with the same precision and investigation that is carried out in civvy street by taking into account the amount of disability and the income of the disabled.Finally,there are a few grey areas like malingering,post-traumatic syndrome etc, which are difficult to quantify.In times of conflict these cases tend to increase and careful investigation by several disciplines will be necessary to form a diagnosis.Probably,this is the area where is much discontent as investigations and consultations take a long time to pinpoint the antecedents of the case.

RC said...

Dear Maj Navdeep,

Thanks for your efforts in highlighting the issues of disabled soldiers.

The 7th CPC has recommended the slab system for disability pension. This will result decrease in disability pension being received by the disabled veterans. A real example is of a Lt Col in receipt of Rs 4972/- as disability pension. With DA it comes to Rs 10888/-. As per the new recommendations it will get reduced to Rs 9000/-. You have already highlighted it giving the example of a Lt Gen and comparing it with his equivalent in CPMF.

The recommendation is not only biased against the services/veterans but results in a situation where an existing allowance gets reduced for veterans. Probably an unique recommendation of existing allowance getting reduced while every other allowance goes up.


Parijat Punj said...

Very well worded as always and informative

kvg said...

Dear Maj Navdeep Sir,
I agree with you. even today there is an article which says defence officers get 40% more than others and at the end says it is 7%. This kind of articles are fed by the vested interests and I really do not understand how a paper of national repute can resort to this kind of journalism.

KV Girish

ESMA said...

this lower level real army men, like havildhar naik ,subedhar's are not at all benefited by hike , like up to havildhar is getting 3510 as 100%, and almost 90%of them awarded by 20% disability , so they are going to get 3510X 20% = Rs 702/- with time time da, this money is not enough to purchase 1 bag of pedigree.
or up and down auto charges to ECHS hospital .

But in the case of officer this hiked to 27000, it is nice amount ,and as a normal men logic , if bullet is hited on the leg of Sepoy or COL both are having same pain, same medicine , and chance of probability to get injury is 56times more to Sepoy , ( as per the strength combination ratio )still poor Sepoy are not getting their dues .i feels that, "some one is stealing cheese from from bread of the Sepoy ".
majority is looser in this case .

Ravi Bali said...

Dear Navdeep,

I have highest regard for you for your independent views on Defence matters.
Recently I found that there are longish mails on Social media with negative contents. The tone of the messages is suspicious. Please let me know if you have sent out any messages on social media on 7th pay commission other than the once on your blog? It is important because I feel that Anti National elements are spreading lot of negativity to de-stablise armed forces. Some sane voices are needed to reverse the rapidly deteriorating situation.


Arun Sen said...

I have a great deal of respect for you. .. Maj Navdeep. In today's Army you remain a mature, intelligent n an astute voice. I am glad to have you on our side.

Warm Regards...

swamy said...

Kudos, sir.
Let the great lord give you and your family and friends all the strength you need.

karunakaran a ex havildar said...

dear sirs,

during battle some misfortunate soldiers are losing limbs, resultant disability, how we are going to measure the degree of amputation of limbs, irrespective of the rank all suffer same bodily pain and loss of limbs, I do not find any justified cause in disparity in the award of disability pension to the disabled soldiers on account of war or war like situation or counter insurgency,the award should be equal and at par, no rank pay basic or any other component should not be indexed to award disability pension