MoD's farewell to welfare - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Tuesday 21 February 2012

MoD's farewell to welfare

The defence ministry's Department of Ex-Servicemen's Welfare (DESW) has emerged as a major hurdle in taking care of the welfare of retired soldiers

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 21st Feb 12

In the 1965 conflict with Pakistan, Vijay Oberoi, a young army captain from the Maratha Light Infantry, was shot through the thigh in a gunfight with Pakistani raiders in Kashmir. Bleeding profusely from a severed artery, Oberoi was brought to hospital; his life was saved but his leg amputated. In 2001, Lieutenant General Vijay Oberoi retired as vice-chief of army staff, having soldiered on for 36 years with an artificial leg. He did not receive a paisa extra in ser vice, and the ministry of defence (MoD) challenged his disability pension in the Supreme Court last Friday.

When General Oberoi was released from service, a medical board categorised him as 70 per cent war-disabled, entitling him to a modest pension benefit. But when the Fifth Pay Commission enhanced this to 75 per cent, that is, an increase of five per cent, the MoD flatly refused to pay. The officer approached the Armed Forces Tribunal (the AFT is the apex departmental court for military cases), which in 2010 directed the MoD to pay the enhanced rate. No way, muttered the MoD! Let’s drag on the case.

Ironically, this appeal was filed by the MoD’s Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare (or DESW, headed by secretary, ESW). Far from safeguarding the welfare of retired soldiers, sailors and airmen, many of them disabled from battle injuries or the bleak conditions of service, the DESW views its mandate as stonewalling, effectively holding off payment until an ex-serviceman claimant is either dead or broke. Examination reveals the payment of lakhs of taxpayer rupees to pricey lawyers, including the solicitor general, to stonewall the payment of tiny sums to genuinely entitled ex-servicemen. This strategy often brings the DESW uncontested “victory”, since most retired veterans cannot afford the cost of litigation in the Supreme Court.

It has also brought the DESW the moniker of Department of Eternal StoneWalling.

It is not difficult to see why the Supreme Court has backed General Oberoi on the first hearing, rejecting the DESW’s plea for a stay. The Fifth Pay Commission, in order to curtail medical subjectivity in computing disability percentages and to simplify and rationalise disability pensions, introduced the concept of “broad-banding”. All soldiers with up to 50 per cent disability would be paid 50 per cent disability pension; those between 50 and 75 per cent would be paid 75 per cent; and soldiers with 76 per cent or more disability would be regarded as 100 per cent disabled. Instead of welcoming the simplified arrangement, the MoD perversely restricted “broad-banding” only to soldiers who were prematurely invalided out of service, while withholding benefits from those who completed their service. The AFT swiftly rejected this discrimination, as did the Supreme Court in two rulings last year: K J S Buttar versus Union Of India and Union of India versus Paramjit Singh. But the DESW chose to waste the Supreme Court’s time anyway.

With generals treated thus, there is far less welfare for lower ranks. Take the case of “havildars” (sergeants, or three-stripers, the backbone of the army) who are sometimes rewarded with the honorary rank of “naib subedar” on retirement. The Sixth Pay Commission ruled that honorary naib subedars should get the pension for that rank, rather than havildars’ pension, which was the earlier practice. The DESW, however, only implemented it for post-2006 retirees. The AFT, however, extended this benefit to pre-2006 honorary naib subedars, a judgment that the Supreme Court concurred with. Against army advice, the DESW appealed to the Supreme Court. Appearing in the case, the solicitor general, briefed by the DESW, told the court (and this was included in the judgment) that the benefit was only for havildars who obtained honorary rank prior to retirement. In fact, as the DESW knows well, honorary naib subedar rank is only awarded after retirement. The Army headquarter’s plea that this be rectified has been ignored. To this day, honorary naib subedars remain tricked out of their pension by the DESW. What has been achieved except a further erosion of the MoD’s relationship with the military?

Such skullduggery naturally generates litigation; and the DESW is overwhelmed by the work that it creates for itself. Ninety per cent of all court/tribunal judgments that require implementation (and that is only because the DESW has exhausted every conceivable legal recourse) remain pending until the aggrieved ex-serviceman files a contempt or execution petition. This adds to the already groaning table of litigation.

The military has tried fruitlessly to reduce litigation by simplifying policy and by avoiding automatic appeals against adverse judgments. But the DESW has hardly helped. Replies to Right to Information petitions highlight multiple issues that the DESW has not resolved even after the secretary, ESW, has approved the military’s recommendations. Rudderless and besieged, the department tells lies even to Parliament.

The DESW flatly lied to the Rajya Sabha’s Committee on Petitions last December (see its 142nd report) on the issue of enhanced pensions, falsely stating that it was difficult to process the case for One Rank, One Pension (OROP) since defence pensioners’ documents are destroyed after 25 years. This is untrue; para 595 of the Regulations for the Army mandates the destruction of records after 25 years for non-pensioners only. But no action has been taken against the DESW officer who is responsible for lying to a parliamentary committee.

The DESW also lied to the parliamentary standing committee of the 15th Lok Sabha, understating the number of court/tribunal judgments that had not been implemented. It put the figure at 303, blaming the military. In fact, more than 2,500 judgments await implementation.

With MoD-military relations bruised by the conflict over the army chief’s age, Defence Minister Antony would put some balm on the wounds by examining the workings of the DESW.


  1. MOD is essentially the Ministry for Duds. The whole place reeks of red tape and apthy toward our soldiers; maybe each one these gentlemen who comprise the above mentioned ministry should be made to spend atleast 2/3rd of their service lives in frontline areas to give them a true taste of hardships and punishments our brave soldiers suffer.

  2. It is a matter of grave concern.

  3. If it was to increase the salary and compensations of MP's all it takes is just one day and it will be passed with all unanimity.
    Red tape and babudom has severely damaged all the institutions in India. MOreover most of these guys have no Moral code of conduct. It is shameful that an brave officer who lost his leg had to struggle which should be given to him with respect.

  4. Col. Shukla-
    Very good article, sir. Thank you for standing up for ex-servicemen.

    I know this probably sounds very naive; but is there some way you could get this article seen by our parliamentarians and such?

    Is there some way you could get an investigation started into DESW's lies to our parliament?

  5. MOD is a brainless wonder.But everything should be considered in perspective. The ruling elite is like that. They will splurge on CWG & Kalmadi will make crores. But when it comes to paying a few lakhs they act have an ostrich attitude.

    Army should fight out his cause. Otherwise who is going to fight for this country. Let China, Pak & everyone else come & breakup this country & our govt will play Nero

  6. Maybe our leaders are short-sighted, in that, they do not read and learn from lessons in history. A nation which ignores its armed forces, generally suffers defeat from external threats, as well as internal revolts. I wonder why stupid Indian citizens keep electing year-after-year the same political party to the center. That is the major cause of worry. Leaders are as confident as their constituencies allow.

  7. That's how the system has become, babus who dont know any thing soldiers & their suffering just take a decision in stroke of non time which changes lives of veterans. Change system of decision making. Just move the Head Office of Welfare board to JK or NE from Delhi. to even work frm the town their they will find it hard.

  8. I believe it is not worth serving the country (in any form) where corrupt, inept and insensitive people rule us. Only individual skill, bravery and sacrifice has kept this country together and I also believe will continue to keep it together in future too. Thankfully we have a facade called democracy where similar set of people get opportunity to loot in turns. The rulers still have colonial mindset in spite of being Indians once they taste power, they tend to think they are superior beings and think they belong to East India company and have eternal rights to loot.
    It is at most important to be financially savvy and make hay where when possible. If a corrupt system wants to play ball, it is worth being more corrupt than the system. So called moral and ethical ideals are not relevant when the fence eats the field.

  9. A very insightful article about the very crass and morass-ridden attitude of the babooos who have no inkling into their own work ethos.

    Those dimwits would fit perfectly in any insurance company which without fail looks into loopholes to deny payment. The morally bankrupt officers in the MOD would lie or even look for non-existent clauses in the collective agreements to deny the very jawans what is due to them.

    More articles exposing all the filth that has insidiously crept into MOD would be most welcome as eye openers which would hopefully create the much needed pressure to wake up these nincompoop baboons in babudom.

  10. Nice and touching articles. Please publish this news papers and in other websites.

  11. To the point and very short comment "Kangress the bastardo..."

  12. Just walk down few steps on the side of millennium pier on the bank of Thames bang opposite to London eye, you will find a small but sober memorial built to remember those who have sacrificed their lives for the nations or listen to any speech of President of America they never forgets to mention their brave soldiers fighting to secure the future of America. these are the two examples from two very powerful countries of the world and they very rightly deserve that place, not because they have brave soldiers nor is the case that only there soldiers are brave but because they are the people who remember those who have fallen in the line of the duty, they are the on who celebrates armistice day more than Valentine day and strange it may sound but its true. Here we have a bunch of love crazy people so crazy and so idiot that they don't even understand the simple marketing concepts, and in this carpet bombing done by Bollywood and greeting card companies, soldiers are left behind and it is 26/11 or Kargil that wakes us up. At times I tend to thank Pakistanis for there mistakes as they managed to remind us our nationalism which in every case is very short lived.
    Now, nation and nationalism has become a matter of shame and if you to feel it, ask any youngster if he ever listens to his national anthem or any other patriotic song like he does other bollywood number and if he can tell you the true reason, it would be because he is scared of the fact that people might laught at him or listening a patriotic song "out of season", and like everything else, even patriotism in India has shrunken to seasons and market, we have a patriotic movie every at the interval of every five years because there is enough space for ti to make money, we have candle light vigils in burst, first for Jessica, after a while Arushi then certain Anna moved in and took the stage and believe it or not country gets what it deserves, not what it wants.

  13. And the Supreme commander of India's Armed forces is oblivious to this apathy towards her army or is she too daft to understand the negligence. She should at least of out shame and as a propoganda for herself, take shelter in the supreme court ruling in favour of the armed forces personnel with regards to 6th pay commmision , comment or beg the defence ministry to stop its trickery and fraud.

    Is the PM, Defense minister etc capable of understanding the consequences of such fraud committed by the ministry of defense.We are already facing shortage of personnel in the armed forces due to such frauds committed openly. The babus only claim to fame is to butcher justice against the armed forces personnel, cause their inertia and wisdom cannot make them uphold anything when dealing with real agenda vis a vis foreign relations,politicians and their real job.
    Add to this the insult of idiotic maneuvers like banning the AFSPA and aiding separatist and pseudo secualarist like Miss Roy etc.
    I dont think India deserves any armed forces, cause starting from the top, her supreme commander is a mute, dumb and an irresponsible person who does not even know her job profile

  14. The more critical we and media gets, babudom will get all the more thick skinned. If the political class can push for conscription, maybe it will lead to greater sensitivity. Otherwise it will be a failed case and with total bankruptcy in governance, rebellion is not far away

  15. Good cause taken up Colonel... kudos for it

  16. Colonel,
    Good job ! It is not enough to bristle with indignation; we must do as much as we can, as you have done!
    A relentless campaign that effects electoral prospects must be drummed up ! The next step is to get the major political parties include these "grievances" of the ESM in their election manifestoes. All the Best.

  17. Very good work giving publicity to such (shameful, frankly) issues. BTW the following two (very old!) Rediff articles nicely capture how this permanent meddling problem of civil-bureaucrats-screwing-up-the-military in the Indian armed forces is a legacy of our dearest first prime minister Nehru and his protege (and architect of the 1962 debacle) Krishna Menon:

  18. sad and makes me wonder why do soldiers continue to fight for us....?? dont you??

  19. I am convinced now that the Politician is not the "cancer" but the bureaucrat. He always was and will continue to be. British India was always ruled by the bureaucrat and the ICS extended this legacy with the IAS doing a brilliant job in the past 60 odd years to bring our country to this state.I have yet to fathom why an IAS officer ( can you really consider him a professional?) lords over ESM welfare. The Democratic Leader of the world presently USA has a retired General or Equivalent heading that organisation.
    Our country is amazing.Ajay I hope your next project would be the hugh amounts that accumulate at the CSD and how they are distributed or whisked away.


  21. Well done Ajay
    Keep pushing genuine intrests of ESM. Sometimes even our own serving brothers stonewall ESM. I am sure even in the case you mentioned there would be many comments in files by uniformed men supporting civilian thinking and against the intrest of we retired. If we are able to gain full support of serving uniformed men, MoD will have to follow suit.

  22. All the Babus starting from the IAS cadre to the lowest in the echelon, treat their jobs as a "Kursi" to support for their holy arses from 9 to 5 (that is only for those who have some time discipline). work comes very low in their priorities. They have so much to do otherwise; gossiping, local office politics, power mongering, self image building,side businesses, money making, etc...etc.
    Where is the time for doing any thing good for the society at large (tax payers providing their respective salaries and pensions), let alone the armed forces.
    We in the armed forces also are responsible partially, by eroding our own values and getting into the Babu's shoes' or domain of bribery and corruption.
    Babus do not care whether the service person being blocked from getting some legitimate privilege by them is an upright gentleman who had gone through enemy fire or is just another man without a face.
    "Kursi" is dear and as long as the tax payers pay for the same, they will do anything to hold on to that "Kursi". Long live the Babus who try and thwart every move for providing some legitimacy to the three Services claims towards welfare. Let them live in hell.

  23. Can this article be emailed to all the Hon'ble Members of Parliament -both the Houses, and their Chairmen and Deputy Chairmen, as also to the Hon'ble Chief Justice of India and Attorney General. This will surely make some impact, rather than simple comments in our own computers. This may be forwarded through e.mail,respectfully. Regards,Gurdip Singh

  24. Dear Receiver

    First up all I wish to say that in India if one of the most useless President of India, the Supreme Commander of Indian Armed Forces is ruling but she do not have any time to see the welfare of Indian Armed Forces and Ex serviceman but she have sufficient time to visit Foreign countries and having tea parties with cricket team at Mumbai and not at New Delhi, if she takes little interest on the issue of OROP the matter is resolved for a long back, I also wish to say that the Patti (Dog) Chidambaram is a Union Home Minister(American sided Man), one of the most useless Prime Minister of India we could not expect any thing as he is always at Foreign Countries (Abroad) no time to sit at India to resolve the issue of ex serviceman and serving personnel

  25. Some comment on the several times the Solicitor General does not appear, due "prior commitments" or "personal reasons" in which he represents the petitioner in IA.9/2010 of TC (P) 56/2007 i.e. Rank Pay Case.

    Air Mshl (retd) S Y Savur PVSM AVSM

  26. We can keep writing such blogs, it will make no difference to these babus or politicos. But let these issues be debated over television media by Arnab/Rajdeep/Barkha over two three days and watch the reaction.
    Are we naive to expect that such blogs will effect the beaureaucrat! The whole parliament stood up in unison when someone stated facts about the number of criminals being members of the august house to protect its honour. So let ex servicemen be damned

  27. Dear all,

    The whole bad work is being initiated by Mr Harbans Singh OSD Pensions and Ms Malathi Narayanan Under Secretary to Government of India who are sitting at Department of ex Serviceman welfare is totally against the welfare of Ex Serviceman and enemy for welfare of Ex Serviceman I consider that to kick out these basterds from chair and replace good and well minded man to be sitted.

  28. The office of ex-servicemen Department should be manned by ex-servicemen only. This the Defence Headquarters should prevail on the Govt. A little bit of training and our ex-Defence personnels can learn the job in no time and will prove more professional. This will ensure a fairness to the ex-servicemen.

    Also a separate Pay Fixation Committee should be the norms for the Defence forces.


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