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Are Ex-servicemen Enemies of the State?

Major General Mrinal Suman, AVSM, VSM, PhD


June 6, 2010

1 A Grave Concern armed forces.

The growing adversarial relationship between the No other country in the world is known to have
Government and ex-servicemen is a matter of grave conspired and connived so blatantly to deprive its
concern. own soldiers of their rightful dues. Even DA, pen-
For the last few years, an impression is gaining sion, gratuity and other related entitlements of the
ground that the Government is becoming increasingly affected officers were adversely impacted. With one
intolerant and biased against ex-servicemen and is clever stroke, the Government had nullified the rec-
treating them unfairly. ommendations of the Pay Commission.
The military is an instrument of the Government.
How can a Government let itself be seen as an ad- As all equivalence of appointments in the Govern-
versary of its own constituent? More so when the ment is based on pay scales, the bureaucracy em-
affected constituent consists of retired soldiers who ployed this stratagem to keep the comparative status
have given the best part of their lives to the nation of officers down. All pleas to the Government fell on
and now, in the twilight of their lives, look up to deaf ears.
the Government for support to be able to lead a re-
Major Dhanapalan approached Kerala High Court
spectable life?
for justice in 1996. The Court ruled in favour of the
They do not seek favour or pity but ask for com-
petitioner and directed the Government to refix his
passion, understanding and equity. They want their
basic pay with effect from 01 January 1986. Instead
Government to acknowledge the severity of their ser-
of accepting its mistake gracefully and ordering re-
vice conditions and their contribution to nation safe-
fixation of pay of all eligible officers, the Government
guarding.
appealed against the award to a larger Bench of the
The vindictiveness and wickedness with which the
same court. The appeal was dismissed.
Government is contesting court orders given in favour
of the ex-servicemen has shocked even die-hard sup- However, the Government was not done yet, and
porters of the Government. Three sets of recent cases brazenly filed an SLP in the Supreme Court. The
clearly show the Government’s intransigence and ob- e Supreme Court found no merit in the appeal and
duracy. dismissed it. The MoD grudgingly refixed the pay
The 4th Pay Commission had granted Rank Pay of Major Dhanapalan and sanctioned payment of ar-
in addition to basic pay for officers up to the rank of rears.
Brigadier. There was no ambiguity at all.
However, while fixing pay in the integrated scale, Although the issue had wider application, the Gov-
an amount equal to the Rank Pay was deceitfully de- ernment failed to show required magnanimity to ex-
ducted by the concerned bureaucrats from the total tend the same dispensation to other affected officers
dues, thereby causing heavy financial loss to the of- under the specious plea that the Court orders per-
ficers. It was an act of betrayal of the trust of the tained to the applicant only.

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2 Clipped Wings 2006 and post-2006 Major Generals continues. Most
dishonestly, the Government decided to ignore the
Dismayed by the apathetic attitude of the Govern- principles enunciated by the Honble Court and ap-
ment, many officers knocked at the doors of various plied its directions only to the barest inescapable
courts in the country. The Supreme Court admitted cases.
a petition for transfer of all the writ petitions pending It was left to the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT)
before the various High Courts in 2007. The matter Chandigarh, when approached by the aggrieved par-
was heard and finally disposed of by the Supreme ties, to rule, vide its judgment dated 3 March 2010,
Court on 8 March, 2010. The Apex Court held that that the SC ruling dated 9 Sep 2009 be applied to
the judgment of the Kerala High Court was correct pre-2006 retirees as well and that the judgment be
and reasonable and as such the benefit of this judg- implemented in three months time.
ment be extended to all eligible officers of the Armed Concurrently, in another case, AFT Chandigarh,
Forces. Additionally, the Apex Court awarded 6 per vide its judgment of 8 March 2010, ruled that the
cent interest on the amount due to the officers. state cannot lay down different criteria for grant of
The level to which the Government can stoop can pensions to officers, JCOs and Jawans on the basis of
be gauged from the fact that it has recently moved cut-off date of retirement.
an application in the Apex Court for directions seek- No defence person can draw less pension than his
ing modification/ directions/ recall of the said order junior in rank irrespective of the date of retirement.
of 8 March 2010. It is obsessively resisting grant of All pensioners of the same rank and service irrespec-
overdue arrears to its officers despite clear-cut court tive of the date of retirement are entitled to the same
directions. pension. The above directions were ordered to be
implemented within four months.
Although the Supreme Court has been counsel-
3 Fix Pensions ing against frivolous and unjust litigation by govern-
ments and statutory authorities in a callous and high-
In the case of Union of India and Major General Vains handed manner, it is learnt that the Government is
and Others, the Supreme Court had, vide its judg- planning to appeal against the above judgments - a
ment of 9 September 2009, directed that the pay of sad illustration of pettiness getting better of a sense
all pensioners in the rank of Major General and its of equity and justice.
equivalent rank in the two other Wings of the De- Strangely, it does not appear incongruous and ab-
fence Services be notionally fixed at the rate given to surd to the Government that it pays lesser pension to
similar officers of the same rank after the revision of a Havildar than a Jawan who is two ranks his junior.
pay scales with effect from 01 January 1996. Similarly, a Brigadier is getting lesser pension than a
The Apex Court ruled that similarly placed officers Colonel, only due to different dates of retirement.
of the same rank should be given the same pension
irrespective of the date of retirement and that no de-
fence personnel senior in rank can get less pension 4 Title Case
than his junior irrespective of the date of retirement.
Thus, principles governing fixation of pension were The case of C S Sidhu, a Short Service Commissioned
unambiguously laid down by the Apex Court. Officer whose right arm had to be amputated due
The Government should have accepted the above to an accident while serving on the border in high
directions in the correct spirit and applied them altitude area in November 1970, is symptomatic of
across the board. Instead, it continued with its hos- the disdain and viciousness with which an apathetic
tile approach and grudgingly readjusted pension only Government treats its brave soldiers.
of pre-1966 and their equivalents in Navy and Air His pension was fixed at Rs 1000 per month. Di-
Force. Disparity between pensionary benefits of pre- rections of the Punjab and Haryana High Court to

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pay higher pension were challenged by a unabashed returned by the dismayed ex-soldiers to the Presi-
Government in the Supreme Court. dent of India on six occasions as a mark of protest
While dismissing the appeal on 1 April 2010, a against their total neglect. Medals earned during ac-
bench of Justices Markandeya Katju and A K Pat- tive service are the proudest possession of soldiers
naik slammed the Government for treating army per- and their being driven to surrender them would have
sonnel like ’beggars’ in respect of emoluments and made any government sit up and take note. But the
pension and asked the authorities to adopt a more Indian Government, true to its wont, remained un-
’humane approach’ towards those bravely defending concerned.
the country’s borders. This episode will certainly go down as a dark chap-
’If a person goes to any part of Delhi and sits for ter in the history of Independent India, wherein ex-
begging, he will earn Rs 1000 every day and you are soldiers were treated so disdainfully.
offering a pittance of Rs 1000 per month for a man It is a matter of shame that the Supreme Com-
who fought for the country in the high altitudes and mander of the armed forces, the President of India,
whose arm was amputated? Is this the way you treat has not been able to spare a few minutes to meet a
those brave army officers? It is unfortunate that you delegation of ex-servicemen despite repeated requests
are treating them like beggars.’ observed the Court for a meeting. She can meet all and sundry but not
in verbal comments while passing the order. the soldiers due to whose sacrifices India continues to
It noted, ’The army personnel are bravely defend- exist as an independent nation.
ing the country even at the cost of their lives and Compare this with what President Obama said
we feel they should be treated in a better and more at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention at the
humane manner by government authorities, partic- Phoenix Convention Center on 17 August 2009, ’You
ularly, in respect of their emoluments, pension and have fulfilled your responsibilities. And now a grate-
other benefits.’ ful nation must fulfill ours. And so long as I am
In its written order, the Apex Court stated, ’We President of the United States, America will always
regret to say that the army officers and army men in fulfill its responsibilities to you’, he declared.
our country are being treated in a shabby manner by He termed America’s commitment to its veterans
the government. In this case, the respondent (Sidhu) as sacred bonds and a sacred trust Americans are
who was posted at a high altitude field area and met honour bound to uphold. It is no wonder that Amer-
with an accident during discharge of his duties was ica has been the undisputed world power whereas ev-
granted a meagre pension. This is a pittance (about ery foreign invader succeeding in enslaving India.
Rs 1000) per month plus D.A...If this is the manner
in which the army personnel are treated, it can only
be said that it is extremely unfortunate. ’ 6 The joke’s on us
Purportedly to solve the problems faced by ex-
5 Hostile Attitude servicemen, a new Department of Ex-Servicemen
Welfare (DEW) was raised in the Ministry of De-
Having failed to move the Government to accept their fence in 2004 with much fanfare. It had the ostensi-
genuine demands, ex-servicemen felt compelled to re- ble mandate of dealing with resettlement, welfare and
sort to peaceful protests like ’dharnas’. pensionary matters of ex-servicemen. But the DEW
Not a single Government leader or functionary has turned out to be a cruel joke played on the hapless
thought it necessary to meet the protesting ex- ex-servicemen by self-serving bureaucracy. DEW is
servicemen to understand their problems. Nearly headed by a bureaucrat and there is no ex-serviceman
6,000 ex-servicemen signed in blood to express their in the whole department at all. The opportunity has
frustration. The Government remained totally in- been utilised to create another Secretary level ap-
sensitive and indifferent. Over 22,000 medals were pointment. Needless to say that without first-hand

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experience, DEW has degenerated into another bu- They must be exposed for their nefarious act and
reaucratic quagmire where no proposal ever fructifies. shamed publically as anti-national elements for de-
A comparison of DEW with the US Department of moralizing the armed forces.
Veterans Affairs (DVA) will be enlightening. All the Secondly, officials who recommend filing of revision
top officers of DVA are ex-servicemen. It is headed by petitions should be identified and made accountable
the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, General Ric Shin- for wasting public money and bringing disrepute to
seki, a lifelong soldier and a wounded warrior from the Government.
Vietnam. Under the direction of the President, he Finally, all judgments issued in favour of ex-
is responsible for administering benefit programmes servicemen should be implemented in letter and spirit
for veterans, their families and their survivors. He in a convivial manner, without any past rancor.
is a member of the President’s Cabinet. His Deputy Today, ex-servicemen are a disillusioned and disap-
Secretary, W. Scott Gould is a veteran of the U.S. pointed lot. They feel let down by their Government.
Navy, having taken active part in Operation Noble Their exasperation and plight of helplessness can be
Eagle and Enduring Freedom. He was awarded the best described by recalling the poignant lines of lyri-
Navy Meritorious Service Medal. John R. Gingrich, cist Anand Bakshi:
Chief of Staff of DVA, is an artillery officer having ’When an enemy inflicts a wound, a well-wisher
retired in 2001 as a Colonel after completing 30 years comforts the heart;
of service. Most of the subordinate functionaries also But when a well-wisher inflicts a wound, who will
possess military experience. Regrettably, the Gov- heal it?
ernment has failed to appreciate the intensity and If a boat is trapped in midstream, helmsman can
criticality of the relationship that ex-servicemen en- row it ashore;
joy with the serving soldiers. It is a unique umbili- But when the helmsman sinks the boat, who can
cal cord that binds the two into an everlasting bond. save it?’
Not only are the ex-servicemen treated as repositories **************************
of unit traditions but also considered as conscience-
keepers of the battalions. In no other organisation
are the retired personnel treated with so much of re-
spect and due deference.
Therefore, the way a Government cares for its ex-
servicemen has a profound effect on the morale of
the serving soldiers. Shabby and apathetic treat-
ment meted out to ex-servicemen by an ungrateful
Government can never motivate a soldier as he sees
himself as an ex-serviceman of the future. He starts
entertaining doubts about Government’s sincerity in
fulfilling its commitments to him after superannua-
tion.

7 What’s it worth?
It is time the Government reviews its stance and tries
to regain its lost credibility amongst ex-servicemen.
For that, it should institute proceedings against the
officials who connived to deprive the officers of their
Rank Pay.