Those who have negotiated a bureaucratic jungle can easily feel the pain of our brave soldiers who get disabled while defending their nation, and then undergo bigger torture at the hands of bureaucrats for their paltry dues.
We should have a simple rule: A soldier getting discharged from service on medical grounds will get a pension equal to 75% of his last salary, and those with 100% disability will get pension equal to their last salary. And matter should end there.
“When the Supreme Court on December 10 dismissed more than 800 appeals filed by the Ministry of Defence against decisions of High Courts and tribunals awarding disability pension benefits to disabled and war disabled soldiers, many wondered: how many times will the courts have to rule against the MoD for the latter to desist from filing these appeals against its own men.
Thousands of disabled soldiers fight painful legal battles against the MoD’s Department of Ex-servicemen Welfare (DESW) to upgrade their pensions, often for paltry sums ranging from Rs 155 to Rs 1,000 a month. Many impoverished ex-servicemen have died before they got their dues, several others have abandoned their cases since they could not afford expensive legal battles against government lawyers.
Major Navdeep Singh, a lawyer who has taken up scores of such cases, says, “Though the SC has given relief to disabled and war disabled soldiers with its decisions, successive governments did nothing about it. The present government could have used the opportunity to earn the goodwill of military veterans by suo moto withdrawing the pending appeals but it too didn’t.”
It all goes back to the Fifth Pay Commission in 1996, which introduced the concept of ‘broad-banding’ while calculating the disability element of a soldier. The Commission provided that those with a disability of anything below 50 per cent would be granted a disability element at the rate applicable to 50 per cent disability. Those with 50 to 75 per cent would be granted the benefit of 75 per cent and above 75 per cent would be considered as 100 per cent. The idea behind the concept was to minimise subjectivity by medical boards.
While implementing the concept, the MoD granted it only to post-1996 personnel invalided out on medical grounds and not to pre-1996 or those who were released with disability pension on superannuation, retirement or completion of terms. In almost all these cases, the MoD refused to implement the broad-banding, which meant that a soldier with, say, 30 per cent disability only got disability pension at the rate applicable to 30 per cent and not 50 per cent as the Pay Commission had recommended. When the soldiers approached the court and got a verdict in their favour, the MoD would appeal in a higher court.” (from the news item.)
Read the whole report here.