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Friday, 18 March 2016

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7th Pay Commission: Defence services personnel dissatisfied over abolition of disability pension

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The armed forces feel the earlier 'slab based system is more equitable.
Members of the armed forces are expressing disappointment and dissatisfaction over the recommendation of the 7th Central Pay Commission (CPC) regarding abolition of the "percentage based" disability pension and restoration of the earlier 'slab based system' which, it feels, is more equitable.
Many in the forces, both serving and retired, find the rationale of only singling out the armed forces and retaining the percentage based computation of the disability pension for paramilitary personnel and government employees to be discriminatory.
The commission has based its recommendation on a premise that there has been an increase in disability pension cases within the defence forces. To reach to this conclusion it has relied on data provided by the Comptroller General of Defence Accounts (CGDA).
The data provided by the CGDA could be incorrect insofar that it may be inclusive of past cases of denial of disability benefits that have found relief from the Armed Forces Tribunal and those who have benefitted from the change in policy.
If at all there has been an increase in the number of disabled soldiers, then the rising disabilities and stress levels and the need to improve health should have been a cause of concern rather than concluding that more personnel are receiving benefits.
"It is also a well recorded fact that life expectancy of soldiers is lower than that of the general population, which itself points to need of sensitivity towards the health profile of the men and women in uniform," says Brig. (Retired) Atul Nagpal in an article that he has written on the subject.
"While governments the world over are liberal in granting disability benefits to their disabled soldiers, both in injury as well as disease cases, the pay commission of India is going ahead with a clause of reversion to a slab system of fixed disability rather than the one based on percentage of pay," adds Nagpal.
In fact, defence forces had sought removal of the Neither Attributable Nor Aggravated (NANA) clause applicable to its personnel. On the basis of this highly controversial clause a soldier is denied disability element in his pension if the injury sustained by an individual is declared NANA by service conditions. This holds good even in cases of sustaining severe injuries on account of which an individual may get invalided out of service.
A person thus invalidated and placed under the category of NANA is denied the benefit of any kind of pension if he has less than 10 years of service. In case he has service more than 10 years then he is granted pension but denied the disability award.
A civilian/paramilitary personnel, on the other hand, on sustaining similar injury, enjoys the benefit of completing his full prescribed length of service and that too with complete in-service benefits, including disability benefits.
This is on account of civilian/paramilitary employees being brought under 'The Persons with Disability Act, 1995'. Armed forces personnel are exempted from the provisions of this Act. The resultant situation is highly unfavourable to defence personnel vis-a-vis their civilian/paramilitary counterparts.
Instead of a positive move forward in removal of the NANA clause as was expected the 7th CPC has attempted to turn the "percentage based" disability pension system to the detriment of the services.
Many feel that this flawed dispensation is bound to have a detrimental effect on the morale of the troops. They opine that with such unfavourable anomalies further aggravated by unfavourable pay commission recommendations not many would come forward to join the armed forces.

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