|The Author is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army|
The Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare (DESW), Ministry of Defence, vide its Notification No. 16(3),2017/D (Pen/Policy) dated January 29, 2019, signed by Manoj Sinha, Deputy Secretary to Government of India, has notified the Chiefs of Army, Navy and Air Force about Implementation of Government decision on the recommendation of the Seventh Central Pay Commission regarding Provisions regulating Casualty Pensionary Awards for Defence Forces pensioners / family pensioners. The letter quotes a number of earlier notifications and then goes on to say that "in partial modification of above said orders, it has now been decided that following minimum ceiling shall be applied to the under mentioned casualty pensionary awards: the Disability / Liberalized Disability / war injury service element as the case may be, shall be subject to minimum of 18,000/- per month irrespective of degree of disability of the pensioner; in case of disability pension where permanent disability pension (i.e. total service element plus disability element) shall not be less than 60% of the reckonable emoluments as mentioned in above mentioned orders, subject to a minimum of 18,000 per month; the amount of special family pension, admissible to families of Armed Forces personnel, shall be subject to a minimum 18,000/- per month, and; the amount of liberalised family pension, admissible to the child / children of Armed Forces personnel, shall be subject to a minimum of 18,000/- per month.
The notification further says that the provisions herein shall take effect from January 1, 2016, and that this has been issued with concurrence of Finance Ministry of MoD vide their ID No. 10(16)2018/Fin/Pen dated December 26, 2018, and that Hindi version will follow. While talking of the minimum pension of 18,000/- per month, Manoj Sharma has stated "it has now been decided...". But the question is who is it that has taken that decision "now"; is it Manoj Sinha himself, someone else from the DESW, MoD, MoD (Finance), Defence Minister, who? Very cleverly, it has been stated "this has been issued with concurrence of Finance Ministry of MoD vide their ID No. 10(16)2018/Fin/Pen dated December 26, 2018". But the question is when did DESW ask for concurrence? The reason for these observations is that the Department of Pensions of Pensioners' Welfare (P&PW), Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions, Government of India, vide their Notification No. 1/4/2016-P&PW (F) dated October 12, 2017 addressed all ministries and departments (obviously including MoD and DESW) had already notified Special benefits in cases of death and disability in service - Revision of Disability Pension / Family pension under CCS (EOP) Rules of Pre-2018 disability pensioners / Family Pensioners in implementation of recommendations of 7th Central Pay Commission - which too specified subject to a minimum of 18,000/- per month.
The Notification No. 16(3),2017/D (Pen/Policy) dated January 29, 2019 by the DESW gives an impression that this is a bonanza being given to the Armed Forces in wake of approaching elections. But closer examination reveals that Armed Forces have been denied the benefit all these months, while all other government services benefited from the Pensions of Pensioners' Welfare (P&PW), Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions, Government of India, vide their Notification No. 1/4/2016-P&PW (F) dated October 12, 2017. It may appear a minor issue for the bureaucrats ensconced in their cozy offices, but it meets a very big difference to the disabled soldiers and widows given the rising costs of living. Just by saying that provisions of the notification to take effect from January 1, 2016 is not enough because the arrears will be subjected to income tax, which should not have happened if implementation minimum of 7th CPC was done.
The bigger question is, isn't the DESW doing this by design and what is involvement of the Defence Minister in this regard, who on assuming the present appointment had announced that welfare of soldiers and their families will be one of her top priorities. Ironically, the Defence Minister herself told Parliament last year that legal cases by MoD against pension of widows and disabled will not be withdrawn. The Department of Ex-servicemen (DESW) in MoD perhaps takes decadent pleasure through such actions. DESW is posted with no military veteran and no government is ready to reorganise it. Legal cases to deny pension/disability pension to widows and disabled are continuing. MoD employs a battery of lawyers paying 2 lakh to each for fighting such cases out of defence funds despite not having won a single case to-date and despite the Supreme Court rapping government and imposing fines of 10 lakh each in two cases. Solicitor General of India himself is fighting appeal for disability pension by an Air Forces pilot who suffered spinal injuries ejecting from a fighter aircraft. What can be more shameful for a nation? Defence Minister can hardly shirk responsibility for all this.