LET THE PEOPLE OF THIS NATION REMEMBER
"THE DAY THE SOLDIER HAS TO DEMAND HIS DUES WILL BE A SAD DAY"
ESM and the Malady
RN Radhakrishnan (Rtd Maj Gen)
It is time that we recollect the words of Kautilya spoken to Emperor Chandragupta Maurya about 2000 ago, and reflect on those words. I thank Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi who first quoted these words from ‘Arthsas’tra’– “The day the soldier has to demand his dues will be a sad day”. The words of Kautilya addressed to Emperor Chandragupta Maurya are echoed by Dr Harsh V Pant a professor, King’s College London in an article titled ‘Here's a Civilian Perspective on Indian Soldiers’. He says, ‘A country makes a sacred contract with its soldiers.’ …. ‘A country that refuses to respect this contract with its armed forces will eventually end up getting forces that will not respect the nations' aspirations.’
Well! We the veterans of the Indian Defence Forces have been ‘demanding our dues’ through various means. The President promised in the floor of the House that the Government would be looking into these demands. The promise has been kept. The Government has awarded parity in pension (PIP) to the ESM community – the community that made vociferous demands, the community that belonged to pre 2006 era. But the parity is among the ESM community of that era and not with the ESM of post 2006 era.
The Government has perhaps taken the words of wisdom quoted above literally. Yes, they can rightly claim that the demands of the serving soldiers have been satisfactorily met with. Their pay and retirement benefits are hansom. But, whether the spirit of the sacred contract to provide for the ESM even after retirement has been upheld with regard to the ESM of pre 2006 era, is a question that cannot be very satisfactorily answered by the Government.
The ills that bother the ESM community are many. I list a few below:
· The first of course is the Absolute Parity in Pension, defined explicitly as “two soldiers of each rank with same length of service are entitled to the same pension”.
· The denial of collective bargaining power to help the community of the serving soldiers is the root cause for the inability to study, understand and seek remedy to all anomalies and grievances.
· The denial of job security, to term it more sophisticatedly ‘Assured Continued Employment’ till the age of superannuation, has relegated the soldiers on retirement to a neglected community that had to be taken care of by welfare measures, such as
o creating Directorate of Resettlement, Department of ESW, Ras’’triya and Kendriya Sainik Boards
o and raising funds through Flag Day Collection
· The efficiency of these measures is matter of great concern.
· The payment of pension has been the biggest bugbear. Pensioners esp the family pensioners are deprived of their due by the various Pension Disbursing Authorities and scant monitoring done by the CDA Pension adds to their woes. Whenever revision takes place through Pay Commissions the effect, which is very confusing even to the PDA, is not made known to the pensioners transparently and systematically by the Government, thereby resulting in wide spread short payment of pension.
· Family pensioner who is entitled for 60% of the total pension of the pensioner is denied by introducing the condition that the family pensioner is entitled for either of the military or reemployed pension not both.
· The next of course is the most laudable but unduly delayed Medical Care for ESM. The very concept is so much procedure oriented with checks and counter checks that the purpose for which it is introduced is not being served in a fair manner.
· The monitoring of the reemployment of ESM does not exist and therefore, reemployment is a challenge to the ESM with the result that many defence pensioners who are not wise of the ways of civilian systems lose the battle and do not get reemployed. Post meant for ESM is more often reverted to civilian posts and duly filled up.
· Retired senior officer cannot be trusted for even certifying bone fide status with regard to the ESM, who have to run after VAO, Magistrates and the Assistant Directors of local KSB.
Thus we are reduced to a pitiable state and most of the Commissioned Officers by virtue of self acquired financial security do not much care to get involved in the activities of various ESM associations. Fortunately a few generally JCOs and NCOs have taken upon themselves and organize to redress grievances of the ESM community. Of course, a few Commissioned Officers are known to have associated with these associations. Strangely even there, I find a high proportion of Officers who came ‘from the ranks’ as the elite officers tend to describe them.
Whereas the Cabinet Secretary was asked to address the OROP issue presumably with reference to ESM, the CS has gone to address the pension issue and make it better for the post 01-01-2006 but pre 01-08-2008 retirees by removing the embargo of 33 years of qualifying service. Even the case of Lt Gen got its importance not due to our efforts but I believe due to the pressure that came from the civilian lobby.
Let us pause and recapitulate our past efforts and the results. More than three decades of demanding OROP and the concerted efforts in the recent past one year from various quarters have led to the present situation of utter indifference on the Government side. The Government seems to the claim that our demands have been met with and that the ESM who deposited their medals must now take them back. The message is loud and clear. The Government is not impressed with our efforts.
Therefore I suggest that we all get together and work out a strategy under one banner, the banner may be that of “Coordinating Committee of Indian Military Veterans’ Associations”. The structure and charter can all be worked out if the four big ones like this idea and are willing to give it a fresh look.
Meanwhile if you have the time and the inclination, please go through my article ‘This is what I have to say’, forwarded sometime back, in Aug 2008.