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Sunday, 9 October 2016

IN HOT PURSUIT OF PROMISES : A REALITY CHECK (Will this Govt issue orders for another ‘surgical strike’ on the anomalies/issues by engaging directly with the Armed Forces and leaving implementation to the bureaucracy?)

Indian Military Veterans

           Angst over the state of pay, allowances, pensions, and retirement benefits of serving personnel, Veterans, and widows of deceased personnel of the Armed Forces respectively has become, not unreasonably, in recent times a perennial condition. It appears that the Govt which is also the Competent Authority in bureaucratic language, does not find the restricted fundamental rights, and sacrifices of Armed Forces personnel adequate enough to justify matching by positive action the promises of equality and justice in benefits.


The marginal improvements in compensation often after protracted deliberations on files, some times nudges of the Courts, do not match the glory of those whose lives and limbs were lost or were at stake for the sovereignty of the nation.

The CLASSIFICATION, CONTROL & APPEAL RULES, 1965 definition is as follows: -
In exercise of the powers conferred by proviso to article 309 and clause 5 of article 148 of the Constitution read with Rule 6 of the Central Civil Services (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rules, 1965, and in supersession of paragraph 2 of the notification of the Government of India in the Department of Personnel and Administrative Reforms number S.O. 5041 dated the 11th November, 1975 as amended by the notification of Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions (Department of Personnel and Training) number S.O. 1752 dated the 30th June, 1987, and after consultation with the Comptroller and Auditor General of India in relation to the persons serving in the Indian Audit and Accounts Department, the President hereby directs that with effect from the date of publication  of this order in the Official Gazette, all civil posts under the Union, shall be classified as follows :-
Sl.No.
Description of Posts
Classification of posts
1.
A Central Civil post carrying a pay or a scale of pay with a maximum of not less than Rs. 13,500
Group A
2.
A Central Civil post carrying a pay or a scale of pay with a maximum of not less than Rs. 9,000 but less than Rs. 13,500
Group B

The file –pushers found it very simple and easy to bestow benefits like the Non-Functional Financial Upgradation (colloquially known as NFU) on themselves quoting the 6th CPC, and smug in the satisfaction that they made the recommendations, they ‘examined’ it, and they found it worthy of selective implementation with a definition of Organised Group ‘A’ services tailored to keep out the officers of the Armed Forces vide OM No. I-11019/12/2008-CRD issued by DOP & T on 20 Nov 2009. The ‘surgical strike’ in this OM was Para 1 (iii) “At least 50% of the vacancies in Junior Time Scale (JTS) in such services are required to be filled by direct recruitment.” JTS is the scale into which newly commissioned officers enter. In other words, does it mean that only 50% of vacancies will have to be set aside for newly commissioned officers and the rest will have to filled by promoting Gp B (JCOs) to JTS? 

Sadly, the Competent Authority (whether UPA-1 or UPA-2 or NDA-2) has not challenged this prejudice against the Armed Forces, the one institution that has defended the Nation’s sovereignty and integrity at the peril of their lives.
         
The growing disenchantment in now being reflected on the politicians who, though the Competent Authority, are led by the bureaucrats. The disenchantment is reflected in appeals before the Armed Forces Tribunals, High Courts, and the Supreme Court. It is also the reason for fratricide and disobedience of rules, regulations, even misappropriation. Shorn of the aiguillettes, collar tags, and dialectics, an objective analysis on CPC related matters shows that it is some what like the sequel to movies (the box office success ones) or serials on TV (that rely on TRPs), with one difference, the continuity is apathy.

Episode - 1 was the 2008 edition post the 6th CPC. The then Chiefs of the Armed Forces expressed their anguish and sought permission of the Govt not to implement the Govt’s orders (Resolution) on inconsistent recommendations of the CPC pointing out 46 anomalies (some of which are actually demands). The then Raksha Mantri gave assurances of redress and corrective action. The Govt went ahead and implemented the Resolution and left the Armed Forces and Veterans and Widows to approach the AFT and the Courts for redress.

A Group of Ministers (GoM) headed by then External Affairs Minister considered the apprehension and rendered a report. In the face of festering discontent, the UPA constituted two Committees chaired by the Cabinet Secretary (CSC) to consider the issues. Members of CSC 2009 and CSC 2012 quoted the report of the GoM quite extensively to back up their “Not Recommended.” Nothing more could have been expected from two committees of bureaucrats, even if headed by the Cabinet Secretary, for it would be blasphemous to think out of the ‘precedent’ box (that foundation of the bureaucracy) let alone think differently from a GoM.

The RM disappointed the Armed Forces by being too insipid and timid, but things have not improved considerably. His classic was “Wait” when NFU issue was referred to him in minute on MoD file provided in a reply (F No. 35 (11)/2013/D (Pay/Services, received vide ibid reply date 08 Oct 2013).

 The UPA Govt announced approval for One Rank One Pension (OROP) on 17 Feb 2014. OROP was presented, perhaps as a reaction to the pre-election promises which raised hopes and aspirations from September 2013 onwards.

Implementation of OROP is cited as one example of ‘caring for Armed Forces Veterans’ by this Govt and though it was denied for 67 years by the previous governments including NDA–1, (which brings me to that mischievous thought – if OROP was prevalent till 3rd CPC as is bandied about, how is it 67 years!) 

Some Veterans raised aspirations, often coloured in hues of misrepresentation [before 3rd CPC pension was 70%, that OROP was in existence when actually it was Standard Pension i.e One amount (Rs 300) for One rank (Capt) irrespective of the qualifying service above 20 years)], and mis-quoting of Koshyari Committee report’s recommendation on annual equalisation (The Koshyari Report only records the  submission made by Army and Air Force representatives for either a 5 yearly equalisation or Pay Commission to Pay Commission equalisation. Neither of them is in the recommendations of the Koshyari Committee Report at Para 11) and much else.

for information through the RTI Act, 2005 brought out the script, the screenplay and the comments and opinions of various officers up the chain in the decision making apparatus known as MoD. It will, if the pattern of Episode – 1 persists, show that Armed Forces placed a list of anomalies/demands, the Govt/MoD conceded some, the Govt/MoF overruled some of those, and finally a sagacious decision will be taken to pass the responsibility to the 7th Central Pay Commission for a ‘holistic view.’ On reads how ‘holistic’ that view was.

History will, however, record a first to the credit of this Govt. It is the setting up of the One Man Judicial Commission (OMJC) to adjudicate on Govt order on OROP. The OMJC is an improvement on the Cabinet Secretary Committees (CSCs).

So, other than OROP (or its diluted or adulterated version, depending on the opinion of reticent or vociferous critics) what are the other promises that this Govt has fulfilled? Pension fixation w.e.f 1.1.2006 instead of 24.9.2012? No, that was a consequence of a Supreme Court ruling in S-29 pensioners’ case. What about deletion of the pro-rata deduction for pre 1.1.2006 pensioners as it was applicable to post 1.1.2006 pensioners? No again, it was the Supreme Court’s order in the MO Inasu case. 

Episode – 2 is the 2016 edition, with one change in the script. The present Chiefs of the Armed Forces express their anguish and have sought permission of the Govt not to implement the Govt’s orders (resolution) on inconsistent recommendations of the CPC pointing out another list of anomalies (some of which may again actually be demands). The Raksha Mantri gives assurances of redress and speedy corrective action. The Govt goes ahead and issues the Resolution and leaves the Veterans and Widows to approach the AFT and the Courts for redress. The one change in the script is that a serving officer has approached a High Court for redress.    

          Future requests for information through the RTI Act, 2005 will bring out the script, the screenplay and the comments and opinions of various officers up the chain in the decision making apparatus known as MoD. It will, if the pattern of Episode – 1 persists, show that Armed Forces placed a list of anomalies/demands, the Govt/MoD conceded some, the Govt/MoF overruled some of those, and finally a sagacious decision will be taken to pass the responsibility to the 8th Central Pay Commission for a ‘holistic view.’

          It will need the Govt’s decision, like the strike on terrorist launch pads, to achieve any effect on the bureaucracy. In the strike on the terrorists’ launch pads, the Govt trusted the capability, the ability, and the intelligence of the Armed Forces to deliver the desired results, befitting a Govt that means what it says and is ready to take a hard, deliberate, and well thought of decision, including using the perfect tools (the Armed Forces in this case). The Armed Forces vindicated the confidence of this Govt.

Will this Govt issue orders for another ‘surgical strike’ on the anomalies/issues by engaging directly with the Armed Forces and leaving implementation to the bureaucracy. 

Will the Govt to live up to the promises made to the Armed Forces by another ‘surgical’ decision? 

Hold your breath & watch this space.

Jai Hind, Jai Jawan

(Source-Aerial view)

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