The Indian Ex Servicemen Movement, an organization representing military veterans, has written a strongly-worded letter to Defense Minister AK Antony on Thursday, protesting the employment of a retired Central Secretariat Services bureaucrat by the Kendriya Sainik Board (Central Soldiers’ Board) as an Officer on Special Duty (OSD) in the Pensions Division.
The official, Harbans Singh, retired as Joint Secretary (in situ) Pensions, Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare (DESW) on March 31, 2011.
What has irked the veterans community is that, after reemployment, his salary is being paid from the Armed Forces Flag Day Fund, which is meant for the welfare of widows of martyrs and disabled soldiers. The sense of anger over this appointment and the use of the fund for the payment of the INR 60,000/- salary and provision of a staff car to the official has been aggravated because veterans have had grievances against him for long.
“How can someone who goes against the interests of ex servicemen and soldiers be appointed to the Kendriya Sainik Board and that too have his salary be paid from the Armed Forces Flag Day Fund?” asks Major General Satbir Singh, who wrote the letter to Antony and is currently the Chairman of the Indian Ex Servicemen Movement.
General Satbir Singh told StratPost that details of the appointment were only discovered recently from the response to a Right To Information (RTI) application. “It has however now appallingly come to notice that the officer has been re-employed to fight court cases against soldiers and disabled soldiers and is being paid salary out of Armed Forces Flag Day (AFDD) Fund which is ironically meant for the welfare of widows of martyrs and disabled soldiers,” he writes in the letter.
Major Navdeep Singh, a lawyer based in Chandigarh, says, “AFFD funds are meant for welfare of martyrs’ families and disabled soldiers, not for employing people and that too for purposes which are against the causes of those very martyrs and soldiers.”
The advocate, who has had many run-ins with the defense ministry over veterans’ pensions and benefits, says, “The DESW should particularly be manned by people who are sensitive to pensioners and disabled personnel, and not those who spread negativity or imbibe an inherent sadistic viewpoint. Also, the defense minister and Secretary ESW should ensure that the views of all stakeholders are taken into consideration before taking any decision and should not be blinded by file notings initiated from down below. ”
A copy of the appointment letter issued by the Kendriya Sainik Board dated January 24, 2013 viewed by StratPost says:
That you will be paid fixed salary at the rate of Rs 60,000/- (Sixty Thousand Only) inclusive of all emoluments per month from AFFD Fund which is not a government fund. Your job is contractual.
A 2011 defense ministry file noting viewed by StratPost refers to the ‘acute shortage of staff in Pension Division’, which has been ‘struggling to cope up with increasing number of court cases’. The noting issued by the DESW says “Post 6th Pay Commission, there has been a large increase in the number of pension grievances. After the setting up of Armed Forces Tribunal, the work pertaining to pension disputes has increased manifold.”
It also says:
It is proposed to appoint Shri Harbans Singh, who retired on 31st March 2011 as JS (Pension) in this Department and has offered his services after retirement….Considering his experience and the senior position handled by him, he may be engaged by KSB on a fixed salary of Rs 40,000/- PM to be met out of AFFD Fund.
General Satbir Singh writes in his letter, “Most of the disputes and anomalies of pensionary provisions have arisen during his tenure and his anti-military veteran views are well known in ex-servicemen circles,” also adding, “He has been illegally re-employed in the Ministry of Defence to fight court cases involving pension and disability pension against soldiers. All files are put up through him and he has also been representing the Ministry of Defense as an Officer on Special Duty (OSD) in various meetings held with various departments. While he is known to be negative to the cause of military veterans, he is still made a part of all official processes and meetings.”
He also pointed out that the official has been ’employed on the strength of the Kendriya Sainik Board on non-govt contractual employment terms but is actually functioning as OSD in DESW/MoD’. “No advertisement was issued before reemploying him and his reemployment is also in contravention of DoPT Guidelines on reemployment of retired officers as consultants,” he says, adding that the official has also been ‘granted an extension till January 2014’.