Sunday, April 10, 2011

Equating the civil service with military service is odious, repugnant and grossly misleading

Letter to PM by Lt-Gen Harwant Singh (Retd ), PVSM, AVSM
You may kindly recall that I met you as part of an ex-servicemen delegation in Punjab Raj Bhawan during your earlier visit to Chandigarh. You were most gracious and gave me a patient hearing. I brought to your kind notice the unfair hand dealt to ex-servicemen by the Sixth Pay Commission. In specific I mentioned the case of Maj-Gens who had been given pension which was less than that granted to brigadiers. You were quite surprised at this information and told us that this was not known to you.
I further mentioned that these Maj-Gens, after serving the country for nearly four decades looked forward to a peaceful retired life, instead the Sixth Pay Commission drove them to the courts and after doing the rounds of Punjab and Haryana High Court for three long years, they obtained a just dispensation. However Ministry of Defence had gone in appeal to the Supreme Court against the High Court verdict. This step by the Government ( MoD ) conveyed to us the impression that Maj-Gens should continue to get pension less than what is rightly due to them. I requested you to have this step by the MoD looked into and the appeal before the Supreme Court withdrawn. You very kindly agreed to have the case examined. A brief on the subject was handed over to your staff. It is possible that back in Delhi, the case was never brought to your notice by the PMO staff. In the meantime the Supreme Court turned down the MoD’s plea and yet again MoD put in a review petition.
It later transpired that the MoD had also made Army Headquarters party in the appeal before the Supreme Court. This has created serious misunderstanding and misgivings amongst the veterans as to the attitude of military authorities toward the veterans. Since there is great bonding between the serving and retired in the defence services, unlike in any other service, such a development does not augur well for the overall cohesiveness and mutual trust within the defence services.
Government has given some relief (not One Rank One Pension (OROP)- as being claimed by some self appointed government spokespersons) to soldiers, NCOs and JCOs, obviously in an attempt to draw them out of the on going all India ex-servicemen’s peaceful protests. Therefore, we have a situation where the top-most echelon of the army is on OROP and lowers ranks have been given certain amount of financial relief, whereas the rest of the officer cadre has simply been left out. While the officer cadre welcomes, whatever financial relief is offered to soldiers, NCOs and JCOs, such a policy of divide and rule being practiced by the government strikes at the very roots of military’s cohesiveness, effectiveness as a fighting force and can have disastrous consequences for national security.
Government has, from time to time, followed policies which tend to lower morale of officers and soldiers. More recently, MoD has contested every single order passed by the high courts in favour of the veterans. This stance of the MoD, of ignoring fair and just demands of veterans in the most cavalier manner will surely have an adverse effect on those presently serving in the military. After all those in uniform to-day are the veterans of tomorrow.
Government has been falling short of its promises to the veterans, ignoring even the recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee of Defence for grant of OROP, on the mischievous, ill founded and specious argument that if OROP is given to ex-servicemen, other government servants will demand the same. The rationale for the demand for OROP is early retirement (where nearly 80 percent retire at the age of 35-37 years and another 15-16 percent between the ages of 42 and 58 years,) and the promotions or career advancement is extremely limited (as a functional imperative) vis-à-vis their counter parts in the civil services. So any attempt at equating the civil service with military service is odious, repugnant and grossly misleading.
We request you to kindly do find time and look into some of these issues and see that your government deals a fair hand to the defence veterans.

Doctor Manmohan Singh
Honb’le Prime Minister of India
Prime Minister’s Office
South Block
New Delhi 110011
Copy to
Chief of the Army Staff
South Block
New Delhi 1100 11

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