The Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement (IESM) has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, asking him to consider a series of long-standing demands of Indian veterans.
The IESM wrote to Modi about the ‘implementation of concept of One Rank One Pension (OROP) and withdrawal of all appeals initiated in the Supreme Court by the last government against disability benefits granted by Armed Forces Tribunals and High Courts to disabled and war disabled personnel’.
Writing also to Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Arun Jaitley, who is both finance minister as well as defense minister, the veterans group has listed nine issues which require the attention of the new government.
Starting with OROP, the letters ask for the issue of the ‘government order for implementation of OROP as per approved definition’.
Notably, they also ask for the ‘immediate unconditional withdrawal of ALL pending appeals filed by the Ministry of Defense against disabled soldiers, war disabled soldiers and military widows in the Supreme Court and review of all other appeals filed against other defence pensioners by an independent committee with due representation of stake-holders so that policies can be rationalized’ (emphasis original).
The veterans group has asked for the establishment of a Military Veteran’s Commission. Major General Satbir Singh (retired), Chairman of IESM, told StratPost that his organization has asked for the setting up of such a body after assurances were received on this from Rajnath Singh, as BJP president, before the Lok Sabha elections.
General Singh said the IESM has demanded the setting up of a statutory commission, ‘headed and manned by ex-servicemen’, on the lines of the National Commission for Women and the National Minorities Commission to ensure the welfare of ex-servicemen. While pointing out that the number of ex-servicemen and and their dependents number over 30 Lakh, he says that the defense ministry’s Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare (DESW) does not assure their welfare and goes ‘against their interests’. “All the cases we have won in the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) over even petty pension issues are appealed against by DESW,” he said.
“We want to remind the prime minister and the home minister: please fulfill your promises,” said General Singh.
Further, the veterans’ body has asked for ‘Job employment upto 60 yrs, that is, upto the age of retirement on the civil side, for all ex-servicemen at levels commensurate to their last held levels in the defence services’. General Singh says this could be in any stream of government including central services, police and paramilitary organizations and Public Sector Units (PSUs).
Another long-pending demand is to bring the ‘Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) under the Ministry of Law and Justice rather than the Ministry of Defense as is the case at present, in line with the decision of the Supreme Court in Union of India Vs R Gandhi [2010 (6) SCR 857] since the current functioning of the AFT displays acute conflict of interest since the AFT is supposed to pass all orders against the MoD and the same MoD happens to be its parent/controlling/administrative Ministry.’
“It is also requested that AFT be given powers of civil contempt to ensure implementation of its orders since currently the AFT is toothless and cannot get its orders implemented,” says the IESM.
To ensure the welfare of military veterans the IESM has demanded the inclusion of a ‘member of the armed forces and a member of the military veteran community into the 7th Central Pay Commission that has already been notified’.
The IESM has also asked for the ‘grant of Non-Functional Upgradation (NFU) to commissioned officers at par with other equivalent Group A civil officers’ and ‘grant of third Assured Career Progression (ACP) to Other Ranks (OR) before retirement at a very young age between 35-40 years. It may be recalled that the 3rd ACP is currently theoretically admissible to Other Ranks after 24 years of service by which time most of the OR have already retired.’
Finally, the veterans body has asked for improvement in the Ex-Servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS). General Singh says that the veterans’ scheme allows for only a third of the budget provided to the Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS) applicable to civilian employees of the central government. ECHS, he says, budgets for INR 3150 per beneficiary per year, while CGHS budgeted INR 10,700 per beneficiary last year. He says that since the number of beneficiaries of ECHS are above 44 Lakh and likely to cross 1 Crore in the coming years, ECHS needs to be revamped, both, in terms of budget as well as administration, to facilitate the empanelment of more hospitals under the scheme.
1 Lakh = 1 Hundred Thousand
1 Crore = 10 Million