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  • Monday, 17 June 2019

    Bureaucracy deny veterans their due? A second struggle for OROP revision by ESM all over the country is in the offing

     Should bureaucracy deny veterans their due, Ministry of Defence, Comptroller General of Defence Accounts, One Rank One Pension, Nirmala Sitharaman

    In a letter dated 5 April, addressed to the Directorate of Ex-servicemen Welfare of the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the Comptroller General of Defence Accounts (CGDA), a part of the same ministry, has queried the logic of initiating the One Rank One Pension revision due on 1 July after directions were issued by the government.
    The directions of the government on the grant of OROP to military veterans stated this would be equated every five years. The last equation was done with the base of 1 July 2014. Para 3 (a) of the CGDA letter states, “Whether there is any logic to initiate process of OROP revision (equalization) once the pension of past and current pensioners has been equated on 01 Jan 16 by the 7th Pay commission.”
    This seems a case of creating confusion where none should have existed. The 7th Pay commission and OROP have nothing in common, nor were they even linked. The pay commission only revises existing salaries and pensions on a common factor, whereas OROP is meant to equate pensions of earlier retirees with present ones.
    Revision and equating are vastly different and done in different timeframes. Revision as per the dictionary means ‘correction/ alteration’, whereas equating means to make ‘uniform or equal’. The CGDA seeks to create confusion by mixing up the two words. The defence minister was convinced by his bureaucracy to establish a committee to work out modalities and method of next revision of pensions under OROP.
    It is surprising that he was not told the difference between revision and equation and its impact on pensions. The CGDA letter suggests a preconceived mindset of the bureaucracy aimed at delaying and denying rightful dues to veterans. While the letter innocently seeks clarification on the procedure for implementation of OROP, methodology for which formed the basis of the last OROP equation, its wording hints that OROP should not be granted as the pay commission does the needful at regular intervals.
    The CGDA is the same organization which three years after the implementation of the pay commission has been unable to fix anomalies in salaries which arose in its wake. It also seeks to offer this as justification to delay equating pensions. In any private organisation, such incompetence would have meant sacking of the top hierarchy, but the MoD defends and accepts it. Will the new rules laid down by the Prime Minister of inefficient bureaucrats being given ‘pink slips’ also apply to the CGDA? If it does, then multiple heads should roll.
    There have been many cases in the past when the CGDA has denied rightful pensions to martyrs and war veterans on flimsy grounds, compelling them to approach courts for justice. Nirmala Sitharaman, as defence minister, had on occasions promised to stop fighting wasteful cases of pensions in court, yet the organisation has not reformed.
    A recent case is most appalling. The case began in December 1999, when militancy was rising in the valley. An operation to flush out militants, infiltrated into an army unit in Baramulla, was launched. In the conduct of the operations, the company commander was injured in the thigh by a bullet fired by a militant from close range. He survived, but the bullet damaged his nerves leading to a paralysis of his left leg.
    The officer, a battle casualty, continued to serve with the injury and is now nearing retirement. His case for grant of war injury pension due to him as a battle casualty was sanctioned by Army HQs and sent to Principal Controller of Defence Accounts, (PCDA) Pensions, a part of the CGDA, in April this year. It was a simple case and should have been cleared. However, bureaucratic blocks began appearing.
    PCDA Pensions questioned Army HQs (vide their letter of 12 June this year), stating that unless additional documents including proceedings of the court of inquiry conducted in 1999, injury report and charter of duties of that period were not submitted, the case could not be processed. It has refused to accept that the officer was declared and served as a battle casualty since 1999. For the bureaucrats serving in the CGDA, the injury suffered and difficulties experienced through life by that officer have no relevance.
    If the authority to declare war injury pension to an individual is that of Army HQs, which does so after detailed scrutiny of records and analysis of the incident, then does it require another bureaucratic institution to conduct its own inquiry at the time of the individual being released from service, 20 years later? What would the PCDA gain by examining these documents? With a new defence minister sworn in, the bureaucracy and its offshoots have begun playing games once again.
    They have tried to mislead the defence minister and the nation by confusing equation and revision of pensions and in the bargain seeking to block release of OROP which was granted after a prolonged agitation by veterans. Are these actions a case of testing waters as the new defence minister settles in? The defence minister should not have been misled and compelled by his advisors to order setting up of a committee but instead given a simple direction to implement government orders.
    Unless the defence minister acts firmly, by either sacking the hierarchy of the CGDA for its failure to resolve anomalies even after three years, or for questioning government decisions, he would only face stumbling blocks throughout his tenure. He needs to send the right message immediately. The question is, will he?

    Saturday, 15 June 2019

    Rajnath forms committee to work on modalities of revising pension under OROP

    Business Standard 
    has constituted a committee to work out the modalities and methodology of the implementation of next revision of pension under (OROP), the Ministry said in a statement on Friday.
    "reviewed the working of DESW including the welfare schemes being extended to the ex-servicemen, widows and dependents. A committee was also constituted today to work out the modalities and methodology of the implementation of the next revision of pension under OROP," the statement said.
    All three services will have their representation in the committee which will give its report within a month.
    According to the statement, the was briefed by various officials.
    "In a free-flowing interaction, Minister expressed his general satisfaction but also gave certain directions to the department and sought a response in a time-bound manner," the statement said.

    Thursday, 13 June 2019


    Sri Rajnath Singh.                                            
    Defence Minister of India.
    Through: PA to Defence Minister.                       
                                                                                 13 June 2019
    I, on behalf of millions of Ex-servicemen and their families of India congratulate you for adorning the prestigious mantle of Defence Minister of India. We feel that after multiple changes on the important post of Defence Minister in the previous government, the new government on its onset has put the baton to the able and strong hands of an ironman. We admire you as a man of principle, who has in-depth knowledge and insight into Defence preparedness of India as well as the problems of serving men and Ex-servicemen.
    Sir, from the viewpoint of an ex-serviceman may I be allowed to raise a few concerns of ex-servicemen and veer naris  which are listed below. These are the concerns of the serving soldiers as well, as today's serving soldier would be tomorrow's ex-serviceman.
    1.  OROP Revision: 
    The last government implemented OROP with effect from 01.07.2014 and notified in clear terms that OROP be revised after every five years. The revision of OROP ought to be implemented  automatically from 01.07.2019. But sadly, no preparatory work could be initiated by Controller General of Defence Accounts (CGDA) for want of policy direction from Ministry of Defence.
    Sir, as per the reply I received from CGDA (by my RTI application), CGDA has raised multiple queries to Ministry of Defence about the modality of implementation, the base year of calculation etc, for which they are yet to get any reply. In such a situation the OROP revision is heading for an indefinite delay.
    2. One Man Judicial Commission Report:
    Sir, I do not want to elaborate on the constitution of OMJC and subsequent fate of its report in the hands of high level scrutiny committee. The report still remains under examination and none of us know why is it delayed indefinitely. I understand that the Government has every right to accept or reject a commission report. But if some of the recommendations of the OMJC are accepted by the Government, it is logical that they should be reflected in the revision of OROP. Keeping the report under a wrap will only complicate the whole process.
    3.  Multiple Court Cases:
    Sir, I regret to mention that in many occasions ex-servicemen had to knock at the doors of a Court of Law to get their rightful dues. And even after getting a favourable judgment, the benefits were extended to the litigants only and no universal orders / notifications were issued by the authority to extend the benefit to similar cases. Sir, is it possible by thousands and thousands of affected ex-servicemen spread over the rural areas of our country to seek remedy from a court of law?
    4. Equal MSP:
    Sir, Military Service Pay was introduced by VI Pay Commission. By definition this benefit was extended to all jawans, officers and MNS (Military Nursing Service) considering the rigour and dangerous service conditions of military service. The VII pay commission also recognized this and recommended MSP as a unique element of pay for defence services. Now all JCOs and other ranks get equal MSP irrespective of their rank or basic pay.
    But there exists wide difference in the quantum of MSP among jawans, MNS and Officers. A personnel in MNS, who is never exposed to any combat duty or any dangerous situation gets almost double the amount received by a jawan. An officer gets almost three times more than a jawan. It is an irony that a jawan who is at the forefront of war or war-like situation and who is in the first line of enemies' and terrorists' fire gets the least MSP. Respective Pay Commissions overlooked this great anomaly and the Government never stepped in to correct it.
    Sir, these are the major concerns of ex-serviceman community. There is growing indignation amongst ex-servicemen that every political party swear by the patriotism of Armed Forces, but when it comes to the welfare and benefit of its personnel, the government often buckles under the pressure of civilian bureaucracy  and deny them of their rightful dues.
    Sir, we strongly believe and hope that with the fine acumen of a strong administrator like you most of the above anomalies will be rectified soon.
    Jai Hind.                                                                   
    Yours Faithfully 
    Manananda Biswas
    Vice Chairman,
    JCO/ORS Veterans Welfare
    Association of India