Thursday, September 9, 2010

Our Veterans Short Circuited?

Our Veterans?
Our MPs celebrated the unanimous passage of the bill for three-fold enhancement of their pay and perks with yet another undignified rampage in the well of the House. One was struck by the stark contrast between the facile manner in which our elected representatives approved their own pay rise, and the disdain with which the bureaucracy and politicians have been treating the pleas of ex-Servicemen, the nation’s war-wounded and the widows of soldiers; for their just dues of pension and allowances.

Once he doffs his uniform, an ex-Serviceman (now re-designated Armed Forces Veteran) is technically liberated from the restraints of military discipline, and is free to adopt the demeanor and behaviour of any civilian on the street. But deep inside, the veteran’s soul cringes at the thought of conducting himself in a manner which, in earlier days, he would have associated with civilian agitators and unbecoming of his uniform. But it seems that he has been left with no choice.

He has found that the staff of the Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare, created in 2004, is staffed 100% by civilians, who either do not comprehend or are indifferent to his problems. Therefore his representations to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) gather dust for years, before being dismissed in a perfunctory and bureaucratic manner. One rank one pension (OROP) has been a major demand of the veterans, which has been hanging fire with the government for many years. Assurances have been given by successive governments – only to be reneged upon.

Despite repeated pleas by the Chiefs of Staff, based on bitter experience of the past, the government in 2005 adamantly refused to appoint a Service representative on the 6th Central Pay Commission (CPC). As expected, the Commission’s report contained flaws, anomalies and, as some believe, many provisions deliberately incorporated by the bureaucracy to depress the pay and status of armed forces personnel vis-à-vis their civilian counterparts. At the repeated behest of the Chiefs, the government reluctantly convened a committee to review the anomalous CPC recommendations; again, inexplicably, without any armed forces representation. Predictably, the committee failed to resolve many tangles and left the serving as well as retired personnel dissatisfied. On a number of issues relating to pension and allowances the veterans were left with no choice but to approach courts of law. After years of expensive litigation the courts did give gave redressal, but the MoD fought them tooth and nail through appeals to higher courts. In two instances where the Supreme Court eventually gave decisions in the veteran’s favour, the government of India has stubbornly refused to implement them! Can there be a more blunt expression of contempt for its soldiers, sailors and airmen by the State? Yes there can... read more click link... Our Veterans

By Adm. (Retd) Arun Prakash

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