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 Legal advice/litigation related issues would strictly NOT be published or discussed or entertained.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.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Pre-2006 pensioners with less than 33 years of service

As everybody is aware, the orders regarding calculation of pension of pre-2006 retirees based on minimum of pay within the pay band rather than minimum of the pay band itself, with arrears from 01-01-2006 rather than 24-09-2012, have already been issued for all Central Government pensioners.

On a similar analogy, many decisions by various Benches of the Central Administrative Tribunal (and then upheld by the High Courts) have been pronounced delinking the service requirement of 33 years for grant of full pension for pre-2006 retirees at par with post-2006 retirees for whom there is no such requirement. Some Special Leave Petitions preferred by the Government against such orders were also dismissed, though not by way of detailed orders. Indeed, some of such appeals preferred by the Government remain pending before the Supreme Court as on date. 

The matter of issuance of orders in this regard for similarly placed retirees is currently being examined by the Department of Pensions & Pensioners Welfare, Ministry of Law & Justice and Ministry of Finance. The file is currently pending with the Law Ministry.

This is for general information in view of the multiple queries in this regard. 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Spare Military Casualties from Cynicism: My Response to an oped in ‘The Telegraph’

Spare Military Casualties from Cynicism: My Response to an oped in The Telegraph

Navdeep Singh

I, for one, am not emotive or touchy when negative articles and opinions are written about our Defence Services. I sincerely feel that the military forces should never be treated so hallowed so as to prevent the citizenry at large from holding a mirror to them, but then the mirror should be held not to shame but to trigger introspection and debate for our common good. This I say since the military, like any other institution, belongs to, and if I may say so, is answerable to the people of this country.

That said, the oped in The Telegraph titled ‘Martyr’s Rites’ published 7th Jan 2015, rankled, nay, hurt me.

Besides stating that Lt Col Niranjan EK of the National Security Guard lost his life due to his ‘stupidity’ (Yes, that was the word used), the opinion piece gets it wrong at many places. First things first. Battle is not mathematics. Nor is it a scientific formula. Battle is gray. Battle is ambiguous. Battle is bad. It seems that the mandatory Statutory Court of Inquiry into Colonel Niranjan’s demise too may not be necessary, now that the editorial team of the paper has reached the conclusion that he was at fault, providing a detailed list of his acts and omissions, and has also declared that the standards of discipline as well as security of the Indian Army have fallen. Further, the editorial has also pronounced the verdict that the ‘booby trap’ planted by the terrorists was ‘simple’.

The write-up further questions the honour bestowed upon the Late Colonel on his death, forgetting that such honour was not just the done thing in such eventualities but also in many other circumstances, including in certain situations for retired officers, people of eminence and even political personalities. To question whether he ‘deserved’ it, is nauseating, to put it mildly.
Now coming to main issue that I would want to address for clarity of the general reader.

Military operations, the world over, do not just involve bullets and bombs, as perceived by many. Military operations, from start till culmination, involve aspects that are at times invisible, volatile and fickle even for the elements who participate in them. It is redundant even to question whether the Colonel’s death was an operational casualty or not! Of course it was. To put it in simple terms, would he have died if the Pathankot terrorist attack had not taken place? Negative. Recently four of our soldiers died in an avalanche near one of the highest battlefields in the world, was it not an operational casualty? Of course it was. Surely they were not there on a picnic but were deployed for our defence in an operation notified in that area in the Gazette of India. To be killed by a bullet or the vagaries of nature is inconsequential when the task at hand is operational. A soldier falling down a gorge while patrolling in a counter-insurgency operation or an officer dying of cardiac arrest while deployed in one of the coldest battlefields or dying of a snakebite in a trench on the border, are all battle casualties, even as per regulations. So much so that the rules related to monetary benefits to such casualties ordain that even an element of negligence, if any, would not come in the way of such grants.

None could’ve describe it better than the Punjab and Haryana High Court in a case decided in the year 2010 when it recorded that an ‘act of heroism’ was an exaggerated expression and a person need not have his finger on the trigger or hurling a bomb so as to be entitled to benefits and any person who suffers injury, including an accident in an operational area, is a battle casualty. The Delhi High Court, in 2013, also reiterated that all personnel who are present in operational areas and whose aid and assistance is essential and perhaps crucial for success and those who imperil themselves, directly or indirectly, and are in the line of fire during the operations, would be covered under the category of ‘battle casualty’. In any case, for the gallant ones, the line between fearlessness and ‘stupidity’, as the editorial puts it, is pretty thin and breachable, and it is all very well to comment on it while writing a piece on a laptop in one’s room.

Rather than commenting in vacuum that there was lack of discipline on the part of the late officer or that the Army is being reduced to an object of ridicule, we would have been rather fortunate if the oped had set its energy on calling for better equipment for our foot soldiers and restricted itself to the improvement in procedures to prevent such casualties in the future, since after all, what are we going to do with all those Missiles and deterrent hardware which in reality we are never going to employ, if the men and women on the ground go to battle without basic necessities or safety! Instead, The Telegraph indulged in cynicism about the life of a soldier we just lost in a terrorist attack and before the dust in the lives of the families of all those we lost could settle, took the path of tastelessly and insensitively calling out and stating that “an officer like Niranjan should be taken to task even after his death”.

If this is the reaction a military casualty is going to elicit, I wonder where we are headed. But then there is solace in the thought that it was just an opinion.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Rank Pay: The engulfing evil

Much has been written about the constant downfall of military ranks vis-a-vis civilian counterparts over the years. Of course, the anomalies of the 7th Central Pay Commission are topical and central to every discussion.

Many of us however do not realize that the root cause of the lost of sheen in this regard has been a concept that was sold as a victory for the forces after the 4th CPC- the Rank Pay. The hit has been so bad that multiple litigation and tumult later, the position has not been redeemed.

The genesis of the problem also lies in the clamour of the defence services to show that they are different or superior than others, and then trying to look for the applicability of amusing concepts which ultimately ship them afar from reality. Rank Pay was one such concept.

Prior to the 4th CPC, the pay scales of the defence and civil services followed a similar pattern. This changed with the 4th CPC when an integrated running pay scale was introduced for all ranks from Second Lieutenant till Brigadier with an additional element of Rank Pay. The civil services of course remained in fixed scales as earlier.

The concept of Rank Pay blurred the comparison between the defence and civil officers and also created a problem in fixation of pay and pension that continues till day even three decades later, notwithstanding a Supreme Court verdict.

So much so, that the 6th CPC, on Pages 73 and 74 of its Report, presented a twisted comparison of civil and military scales wherein the Senior Time Scale (STS/Under Secretary to Govt of India) which was reflected with a Captain till the 3th CPC was suddenly shown at par with a Major after the introduction of the Rank Pay. It is yet another story that the 6th CPC created this imaginary comparison without the support or reference to any executive order which lowered the status of a Captain from the STS to below the STS, but with time this incorrect comparison was solidified. The after effect of the Rank Pay was also that while the 3rd CPC Civil Selection Grade Scale of 1650-1800 got placed in Pay Band-4 with Grade Pay 8700 by the 6th CPC, our Lt Col with the 3rd CPC Scale of 1750-1950 got placed in Pay Band-3 with Grade Pay 7600 (Later upgraded to Pay Band-4 with Grade Pay 8000). The same incorrect comparison has continued with the 7th CPC without removal of the earlier anomalies. More on this can be discerned from my following blogposts in the aftermath of the 6th CPC:

And it is not always the civil establishment that is to blame for the mess. Even we have continued to send mixed signals to the environment at large without sitting back and taking corrective measures. While we claim that Lt Cols are equivalent to Superintending Engineers, we at times post even Time Scale Full Colonels as Garrison Engineers which is a post tenable by Major-equivalent Executive Engineers from the civil side. While the appointment of Assistant Garrison Engineer is tenable by civil officers with Grade Pay of 4600 and 5400 (which is a Grade Pay enjoyed by a Subedar and Lieutenant respectively), we continue posting senior offices of the rank of Major to the same appointments. We have allowed officers of the Armed Forces HQ Civil Service of Joint Director rank (Grade Pay 7600) to be granted the “local” designation of Director while posted in the Services HQ while we post our own senior Lt Cols with Grade Pay 8000 as Joint Directors within the same Services HQ. This despite the fact that a Group of Ministers headed by the then Finance Minister, Mr Pranab Mukherjee had recorded that a Lt Col outranked a Deputy Secretary to Govt of India/Joint Director and therefore was to be paid more than the said grades after which the Pay Band for Lt Col was upgraded to Pay Band-4. Hence, over the years, we have ourselves solidified or accepted wrong equivalence and even an incorrect pay parity which continues to haunt us.

But while there is a requirement to strongly stand up for our rights without being servile and subservient, at another level, there is also a requirement to remain humble and not project ourselves as some holy superior beings who need to be treated differently by the society as if the world at large owes us something. Had the defence services continued with the normal scales as applicable to other civil services officers, things would not have come to such a pass. It is always better to remain considerably close to the system of pay and allowances of other Government services rather than clamour for special dispensation. I also feel that at times there is any element of disrespect shown towards other professions by the serving and retired community which is counter-productive and which must be curtailed. Chain mails regarding the pay and allowances of the men and women in khaki is just one example of it. There has to be mutual trust, respect and understanding between various services and the military staff must also carry the civilian staff with them and treat them with due regard and attempt to resolve their genuine grievances wherever they are serving under defence officers. After all, everybody is serving the same flag and the same country!