Sunday, March 13, 2011

Justice And The Armed Forces: A Mirage

I enclose herewith a copy of the letter I have sent to Mrs Sonia Gandhi, with copies to the RM, Mr Antony and Chairman, Chiefs' of Staff Committee, ACM Naik.
I doubt if any earthshaking effect will come out of this letter but we have to keep on chipping at this boulder till it is a pebble and can be disregarded!
Wish more of us were to do it.
Lt Gen SK Bahri PVSM (Retd)

Justice And The Armed Forces: A Mirage
I had written a letter to you on 14 Jun 10 on the above subject (click here) and was hoping that you as Head of The National Advisory Committee, a body which is trying to give justice to people who have long been denied it, will respond favourably to the request of the Armed Forces. You passed my letter on to the Ministry of Defence for necessary action. To my surprise I got a reply from JS (Pension) dated 11 Feb 11 (click here to read the JS reply).

The JS could not have replied in a more bureaucratic manner. Wasted a whole sheet of paper telling half truths and provides garbled information, taking me to be an ignoramus who can be fooled, just as this babudom has been doing to our hapless country for the last 60 years. Not realising that I served my last four years in Army HQ and am quite aware of bureaucratic subterfuges. No wonder the Services chafe against such Joint Secretaries, who consider themselves equal to a Major General but we would be loathe to equate him to a Major!

Firstly, he talks about the Govt having filed an appeal (IA No 9/2010) seeking modification of the Supreme Court order dated 8 Mar 2010. He talks as though it affects the pay and allowances of many serving/retired officers favourably and, so asks us to await the Court’s order that will be delivered on 24 Feb 11. He does not reveal that his Ministry is fighting tooth and nail the Supreme Court order of 8 Mar 2010, only because it is favourable to the Officers. During the hearing on 24 Feb 11 the Supreme Court termed the affidavit filed by the MOD as contemptuous and disregarded it. The typical attitude of the Govt, about which I had complained to you and Mr Veerappa Moily. I have a feeling that when the matter is heard in 8 Mar 11, the Supreme Court will flay the Govt with full fury for prevaricating against soldiers who are defenceless in their own country.

I can understand the bureaucracy being jealous of the Services (despite the babus and some of the the media trying to run them down) but it seems the political masters (including the Supreme Commander), despite pronouncements to the contrary, think on the same lines. An organisation which binds the country together, works selflessly in extreme conditions and maintains high standards of probity amidst the all pervading corruption, is being singled out for denying its legitimate dues. Is it because the Services do not form a vote bank?

Secondly, the JS is miserly with truth when he says that Cabinet Secretary’s Committee although “did not recommend One Rank One Pension, substantial improvement in the pension of Commissioned Officers and PBORs have been recommended”. Whereas the Committee flatly recommended that there is no need to treat the Armed Forces officers differently from the civilian officers. The JS then goes on to quote letters which have no relevance to the Committee’s recommendations on officers’ pensions. I would recommend to the Minister of Defence that action should be taken against this civil servant for not giving answers based on facts.

Lastly, I have a question on the staffing pattern of the MOD. Why is it that the Department of Ex Servicemen Welfare and the Department Of Pensions under it, do not have any representatives of the Services? In our Country the heads of the Minority & SC/ST Commissions or the Minister of Minority Affairs is always from the affected parties, but the Department of Ex Sevicemen Welfare is headed by an IAS officer and there is not a single defence officer in the Pension Department. Do you believe that Armed Forces officers cannot be relied upon to do a job honestly, impartially and diligently? Or is the IAS the only service which produces honest, impartial and diligent officers? It is this unwillingness to hear the affected parties which is responsible for the governance deficit in our country.

The Armed Forces need answers and they will not be fobbed off by bureaucratic shenanigans as attempted by Mr Harbans Singh, JS (Pension).
With warm regards.
Yours sincerely,
(Lt Gen SK Bahri)

Mrs Sonia Gandhi
Chairperson UPA
10 Janpath
New Delhi 110001
Copy to:
  • Mr AK Antony
    Honourable Minister of Defence
    9 Krishna Menon Marg
    New Delhi 110011
  • Mr Harbans Singh
    Joint Secretary (Pension)
    Ministry of Defence
  • Dept of Ex Servicemen Welfare
    DHQ PO
    New Delhi 110011
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