Ex-Servicemen Train Guns on Disability Pension Cut
Even as surgical strikes were carried out across the LoC, a Business Standard report by retired Colonel and defence analyst Ajai Shukla on Monday said that the government had silently slashed the disability pensions for injuries incurred in the line of duty.
According to the report, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) issued a letter with a new set of rules for disability pensions for the armed forces, accepting the 7th Pay Commission’s recommendations.
The report adds that earlier, military personnel crippled by battle injuries or by injuries directly attributable to military service were entitled to a pension based on a “percentage system” that corresponded to the last pay drawn. The new rules, the report says, will mean the pension getting calculated based on “a far less generous slab system”.
Until the September 30 notification, officers and soldiers who had suffered 100 percent disability in battle were entitled to a disability pension that matched their last pay drawn,” the report says. “Under the new rules, a soldier with 100 percent disability will find his monthly pension slashed from Rs 45,200 to a mere Rs 27,200. A major with 100 percent disability will find his pension slashed by over Rs 70,000 a month.
A few hours after the report broke, The Times of India carried a counter-report, quoting government sources who categorically denied that the pensions had been slashed. The government has not issued an official notification in the matter yet.
The news created quite a social media storm. Responding to it, and in a bid to explain the disability pensions, former lawyer and military reservist Major Navdeep Singh, took to Twitter to put out a clarification.
- Singh clarifies that while the government has not changed the ‘War Injury Element’ for defence personnel or civilians, the disability pension has been drastically reduced.
- He adds that a civilian injured in his office will now get more than his defence counterpart injured in the same (non-operational) circumstances. The controversy is restricted to disability pension, not war injury pension.
- While the slab system might be beneficial for lower ranks, the gap will significantly increase for higher ranks.
Even as Singh sought to clarify the disability pension, The Quint spoke to a few ex-servicemen about what they think of the government’s notification.
‘Single-Most Condemnable Move’
In a blog piece dated 30 September, Major Navdeep Singh condemned the move.
He then explains that the 6th Pay Commission had removed an anomaly wherein disability pension was being earlier calculated based on percentage of pay for civilians but on slabs for defence personnel. This was obviously discriminatory. The 6th Pay Commission, therefore, brought civilians and defence personnel at a par, after which in both cases the disability pension was directed to be calculated on percentage basis (30% of emoluments for 100% disability).
The problem now is that they have gone back to the slab system.
Government Can’t be Discriminatory
Explaining that the recommendations have changed the disability pension (which means pension on any kind of disability caused in non-combat operations), a retired general told The Quint that the anomaly is stark.
“The problem lies with the fact that non-combat disability rates have been fixed –Rs 27,000 for officers, Rs 17,000 for Junior Commissioned Officer and Rs 12,000 for those belonging to ‘Other Ranks’ (OR), For civilians, it’s still 30% on the last pay drawn as before. And all these rates apply to 100% disability.”
Talking about the discrimination at play here, he added that the government needs to address this issue and not make let this discrimination between military and civilian personnel continue.
The Need to Look at the Larger Context
While many have taken to social media to condemn the recommendation, Air Vice Marshal (retired) Kapil Kak spoke to The Quint about the “elephant in the room”.
The disability pension has to understood in a larger context of the approach of the government –including pensions, equal pay for equal years of services and lot of more issues. It’s not only this government that’s attitude has been a problem. All governments , including the Congress and NDA have been instrumental in this. There has been a progressive denial of justice to the Armed Forces.
He further added that the pay commission anomalies started with the last (6th) pay commission itself, which had a major impact on the armed forces.
The pension is even lower than a civilian. A civil servant hurt in an accident gets more disability allowance that a serviceman sitting in Siachen. I mean, please explain that? How can they do that? This is part of a horrible civil-military relationship which hasn’t been remedied over the past few years.
‘It Reflects Lack of Sensitivity’
The decision to slash the disability pension for military personnel is both draconian and “equivalent of a ‘surgical strike’ on the unsuspecting Indian soldier,” for retired commodore C Uday Bhaskar.
Bhaskar further told The Quint:
This is not the first time things have been unfair for the Armed Forces as successive pay commissions that have been slanted against the soldier including the way in which NFU (non-functional upgrades) have been denied to the armed forces and the lowering of their status vis-a-vis their civilian counterparts in the government.
For Bhaskar, the disability pension cut also comes as “the ultimate insult”.
People Jumping the Gun?
Amidst the outrage pouring in about the news, a section of the ex-servicemen community thinks that people might be drawing conclusions without getting the facts straight.
A retired Vice-Admiral on condition of anonymity told The Quint that there is an anomalies committee that is looking into all the errors and anomalies in the 7th Pay Commission’s recommendations. The notification about the disability pensions, is therefore, according to him only an interim one.
“In my understanding, this is not the final solution, but an interim one. As its festival season, they thought they should release this for now,” he said.
“I think people are jumping the gun and politicising this because it will make news,” he added.
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