Brief on First Meeting of National Confederation of ESM Organisations with Hon’ble Raksha Mantri on 27 Nov 2018
1. Members of National Confederation of ESM Organisations (NCESMO) met Smt Nirmala Sitaraman, the hon’ble Raksha Mantri on 27 Nov 2018 in the conference room of Min of Def.
2. Prelude. Col TN Raman (Retd), a senior veteran of Chennai who has been championing the cause of veterans since the time of his retirement, propounded the concept of National Confederation to bring in unity among various ESM Associations who are working at cross purposes and are not able to get any benefits either from State Governments or Central Government. He suggested various ESM associations to maintain their identity but come under umbrella of National Confederation to project our grievances to Hon’ble Chief Minister of States and Hon’ble Raksha Mantri of Union Government.
Formation of NCESMO
3. Cmde Sudheer Parakala (Retd), Vice – President, TSEWA taking cue from the proposal of Col TN Raman (Retd) obtained permission from Core Committee of TSEWA to make an approach paper on NCESMO and circulated it to all important All India ESM associations. TSEWA Executive committee approved hosting of inaugural meeting of NCESMO in Secunderabad on 19 Aug 2018. Col TN Raman (Retd) was requested to preside over the inaugural meeting and seek permission from various ESM Associations to become member of NCESMO. 11 ESM Associations expressed their willingness to attend the inaugural meeting in Secunderabad. The details of these associations is given below:-
(a) Indian Ex-Servicemen League (IESL).
(b) Akhil Bharat Poorva Sainik Sewa Parishad (ABPSSP).
(c) Tri Service Ex-Servicemen Welfare Association (TSEWA).
(d) War Wounded Federation (WWF).
(e) Disabled War Veterans Association (DIWAVE).
(f) Ex-Servicemen Social Welfare Trust, Tirunelveli (EXWEL trust).
(g) War Widows Association (WWA).
(h) Armed Forces Veteran Officers’ Association (AFVOA), Chennai.
(j) Cumbum ESM Welfare Association (A.P).
(k) Tadepalligudem ESM Association, A.P.
(l) Begusarai Ex-Servicemen League, Bihar.
4. The authorized representatives unanimously approved to come under banner of NCESMO. They elected President, IESL as President of NCESMO and President, TSEWA as Vice – President of NCESMO.
In – House Meeting
5. Brig Kartar Singh (Retd), President, NCESMO collected agenda points from all 11 ESM Associations and selected 10 agenda points that are important and have a bearing on majority of JCO/OR and War Widows and forwarded them to the Hon’ble Raksha Mantri with a request to give an audience to NCESMO members to project grievances of ESM fraternity.
6. Smt Nirmala Sitharaman, Hon’ble Raksha Mantri was gracious enough to fix 1500 hrs on 27 Nov 2018 to meet the members of NCESMO. Immediately President, NCESMO advised all member associations to assemble for an in-house meeting in the office of IESL at 9, Nyaya Marg, Delhi at 1100 hrs on 27 Nov 2018. The following attended the in-house meeting: –
(a) Brig Kartar Singh (Retd), President, NCESMO.
(b) Brig CS Vidyasagar (Retd), Vice – President, NCESMO & President TSEWA.
(c) Cmde Suhdeer Parakala (Retd), Vice – President, TSEWA.
(d) Lt Gen Vishnu Kant Chaturvedi (Retd), IESL.
(e) Vice Adm Paras Nath (Retd), Member, Navy Foundation.
(f) AVM RP Misra (Retd), Member, Air Force Association.
(g) Col HN Handa (Retd), Patron, Disabled War Veterans Association.
(h) Capt Mahajan (Retd), President, Disabled War Veterans Association.
(j) Smt Damayanti Tambay, General Secretary, War Widows Association.
7. Brig Kartar Singh (Retd), President, NCESMO welcomed all the participants for the in – house meeting. He informed that it is advisable to work out the formalities as to who will explain the agenda points already forwarded to Hon’ble Raksha Mantri. All the participants were allotted one agenda point each. After quick working lunch, all the participants moved to South Block (gate no 11) at 1445 hrs on 27 Nov 2018.
Meeting with Hon’ble Raksha Mantri on 27 Nov 2018
8. Maj Gen NN Gupta (Retd), Senior Vice-President, ABPSSP, came straight to the Min of Def. All the participants were ushered into the conference room of Ministry of Defence. The following represented the Min of Def for the meeting: –
(a) Joint Secretary, Min of Def (ESW).
(b) Director, Min of Def (ESW).
(c) Three Under Secretaries, Min of Def (ESW).
9. Attendance of NCESMO in all Future Meetings.Smt Nirmala Sitharaman promptly came to the meeting at the appointed time of 1500 hrs and greeted all the participants. After brief introduction of each of the participants from NCESMO, Brig Kartar Singh (Retd), President, NCESMO thanked the hon’ble Raksha Mantri for sparing some time to meet us from her extremely tight schedule. He informed that NCESMO has foot prints of ESMs and family pensioners in all States and UTs. The membership is about 7 lakh representing three services and all ranks. He requested in all future meetings, NCESMO be invited so that grievances of ESM community can be projected.
10. Hon’ble Raksha Mantri immediately directed her staff to register NCESMO as participant in all future meetings she will be holding with ESM Associations.
11. Agenda Point No 1: Implementation of Report of One Man Judicial Committee. Brig Kartar Singh (Retd), President, NCESMO explained the first agenda point. He informed the Hon’ble Raksha Mantri that Justice L Narasimha Reddy submitted his report on anomalies in implementation of OROP on 26 Sep 2016 to the Ministry of Defence. Even after two years, the Govt of India has not released the report. He further stressed that ESM community is unease with such abnormal delay.
12. Hon’ble Raksha Mantri informed that Justice L Narasimha Reddy covered not only anomalies arising out of implementation of OROP but gone beyond the terms of reference. This has caused uncertainty in the Min of Def as to how to implement those recommendations which are not part of OROP. Recently a committee of Joint Secretaries was appointed to go through the recommendations of OMJC. The Joint Secretaries of Min of Def (ESW), PMO and Min of Fin have assembled and went through the report. The financial implications are being worked out and she needs some more time. If the recommendations are within the existing rules and within her powers, she will not take much time to issue suitable orders. But if they are beyond OROP and beyond her powers, then she needs some more time to get approvals from competent authorities. She assured she will see that whatever is possible shall be implemented.
13. Agenda point No 2: Neglect of Special Category of War Disabled Veterans. Col HN Handa (Retd), Patron of Disabled War Veterans Association and disabled soldier of 1965 war (from 3/9 GR) informed that war disabled till Indo – Pak war of 1965 were invalided if they are found to be invalid. Many of them could have been retained in Armed Forces but as per the extant policy they were invalided out of service. They were mostly in the service of one to three years when they sustained injuries in the war mostly in 1947 – 48, 1962 and 1965. But to compensate them for early retirement, they were given benefit of maximum term of engagement (say 33 years) for pension when such disabled soldiers were invalided even if their service was just one to three years only. But with OROP the invalid pension is fixed with actual service which reduces pension of such invalided soldiers. They used to get higher pension corresponding to the maximum term of engagement (say 33 years) but in OROP his pension is fixed corresponding to actual length of service rendered for such invalided soldiers retired. He requested that the benefit of maximum term of engagement for such invalided soldiers be given while fixing pension even in OROP and thereafter. PCDA (Pensions) Allahabad without seeing the Govt of India letter No: 200847 / Pen – C / 71 dated 24 Feb 1972 granting maximum terms of engagement for fixing pension, issued Circular 604 taking away this benefit. The Circular 604 and such other circulars fixing pension of such invalided soldiers with actual service rendered at the time of invalidment be cancelled and provisions contained in Govt of India letter dated 24 Feb 1972 be re-introduced. There are not more than 4,000 such invalid soldiers who are at the fag end of their lives. They were not allowed to serve Armed Forces after sustaining injuries in war and compulsorily invalided with meagre pension at very young age.
14. Item No: 3- The Widows of such invalided soldiers. Col HN Handa (Retd) reiterated the pension of such invalid soldiers with their very short length of service is very low. On demise of their husbands, the widows are not given benefit of invalid element but only service element. Since their service has now been the actual service which generally is 1 to 3 years and in the ranks of Sepoys mostly, the widows get only 20% of what their husbands used to get. This has reduced most of them to penury. The number of such cases is very low i.e. not more than 4,000. The pension of such widows need to be enhanced taking invalid element also into consideration. Though, the former Defence Minister agreed in principle nothing much has come out. The pension needs to be enhanced to enable them to bring up their children and lead a dignified life. Some of the widows are in penury and are leading a pathetic life. The Nation is required to compensate sacrifices made by such valiant soldiers in war by rewarding for their meritorious services rendered to the Nation. Then only youth are motivated to join Armed Forces in larger numbers.
15. War Widows and Missing 54 Indian PWs in Pak Jails. Smt Damayanti Tambay, General Secretary, War Widows Association informed that Govt of India is looking after the war widows by granting them liberalized family pension. The State Governments too give some benefits. Some of them have been allotted petrol pumps and LPG agencies. Now a days compensation is quite huge and such war widows are leading better quality of life than war widows of 1947 to 1971. She handed over a number of newspaper cuttings of 54 Indian POWs still in Pakistani jails and requested the Hon’ble Raksha Mantri to make all out efforts to get them released at the earliest as most of them are in their 80s. Smt Damayanti Tambay also brought to the notice of the Hon’ble Raksha Mantri that Liberalised Family Pension to widows of soldiers Killed in Action as per the notification of Govt of India dated 24 Feb 1972 be issued and requested the Govt of India to issue orders to benefit war widows from war of 1947 onwards. She also mentioned that she herself and another war widow met the Hon’ble Raksha Mantri on 24 Sep 2018 and brought up this very issue to her notice but nothing seems to have happened thereafter.
16. Item No 4: Special Family Pension to Widows whose Husbands died in Harness. Brig CS Vidyasagar (Retd), Vice President, NCESMO and President, TSEWA explained that deaths occur in services due to various reasons and in varied conditions. The Govt of India looks after the widows of soldiers who die in war or war like situation as is happening now in J & K and North Eastern States. Such widows are given highest form of pension i.e. Liberalised family pension which is same as the last pay drawn of their husbands. They are able to bring up their children much better and are able to have better quality of life. The second category of widows is those soldier husbands who died while performing military duties. Such widows are granted Special Family pension which is 60% of Last pay drawn of their husbands. The last category is soldiers who die in service due to many reasons mostly caused by stresses and strains caused by military service and also working in harsh environment like in high altitude areas or jungles of North East where they can contract diseases like cerebral malaria. Such deaths are not declared as Attributable or Aggravated by military service. The Hon’ble Supreme Court in many cases have ruled that once a solider or an officer join Armed Forces and if there is nothing adverse found in their health condition, then any disability they suffer in service is attributed to military service whether such disability like death takes place in unit lines or on casual leave or even on annual leave. As per law of the land as enunciated by Hon’ble Supreme Court the term Not Attributable nor Aggravated by Military Service does not exist. Therefore, the Govt of India is requested to consider to grant special family pension to such widows to enable them to bring up their children and lead a better quality of life.
17. Item No 5: Reservist Pension. Brig Kartar Singh (Retd), President NCESMO explained that till early 1970s, the policy of colour service and reserve liability was prevalent. Those who completed their 9 years of colour service in Army and IAF were forcibly sent out on without pension unless their combined colour and reserve liability is 15 years. It was based on the British policy of use and throw out. There are many who fought three wars like 1962, 1965 and 1971, yet they were not retained in service due to the extant Government policy to send such soldiers who completed their colour service. They were given only gratuity. They were not given any alternate employment. Such personnel are not many and are in advanced age group of 75 and above. Most of them need medical care and they cannot get it as they are not members of ECHS. Most of them are neglected by their children and they have to fend for themselves in their old age. Later the Govt of India abolished reserve liability.
18. Cmde Sudheer Parakala (Retd), Vice President, TSEWA, further added that the Hon’ble Supreme Court in their latest judgment directed naval personnel who were sent out after completion of colour service of 10 years are to be granted special pension. The Govt of India, Min of Def has implemented the judgment. Such naval reservists are sanctioned special pension of Rs 9,000 pm. With this pension, such naval reservists are eligible to get ECHS benefit. Therefore, there is a strong ground for Army and IAF reservists also to be granted special pension. Many of them fought in three wars viz 1962 Sino Indian conflict, 1965 Indo – Pak War and 1971 Indo – Pak war.
19. Item No 6: Notional Benefit of Modified Assured Career Progression (MACP) to Pre – 2006 Pensioners. AVM RP Misra (Retd) of Air Force Association explained that Post – 2006, pensioners are getting benefit of MACP. A Sepoy who is not promoted as vacancies are very limited in the rank of Naik, were given pay promotion i.e. after 8 years of service if a Sepoy is not promoted then he is to be given pay of a Naik but he performs the duties of Sepoy only. If he is not promoted after completing 16 years of service he is to be given pay promotion of Havildar but he will continue to serve in the rank of Sepoy only. On retirement, such Sepoys draw the pension of Havildar. If such personnel unfortunately pass away untimely then their widows get pension of Havildar. There is a strong case for Pre – 2006 pensioners also to be given benefit of MACP.
20. Brig CS Vidyasagar (Retd), Vice – President, NCESMO added that if a Sepoy who retires in Jan 2006 gets pension of Havildar if he puts in 16 years of service. But if a Sepoy retires just one month prior i.e. in Dec 2005 with 16 years of service, he gets pension of Sepoy only as MACP is not applicable to him. If he dies, his widow gets pension of widow of Sepoy only. In OROP and in 7th CPC, the difference in pension of widow of Havildar and Sepoy is quite high. For no fault of Pre – 2006 Sepoys and Naiks, they suffer till next pay commission in 2026. In OROP in 2013 there are no Sepoys and Naiks who retired in these ranks as all of them got benefit of MACP from Jan 2006. Therefore, Pre – 2006 Sepoys and Naiks were not benefitted by OROP. In 7th CPC their pension of Dec 2015 was enhanced by 2.57 times. Thus, the difference in pension of Pre – 2006 Sepoy and Post – 2006 Sepoy is quite huge. OROP – 2018 again will not benefit such Pre – 2006 Sepoys and Naiks as none of the soldiers in 2018 retire in these ranks due to MACP and they all get pension of Havildar. But this benefit is not available to Pre – 2006 Sepoys and Naiks. Their pension will be enhanced only in 8th CPC i.e. in Jan 2026. On humanitarian grounds, all Pre – 2006 pensioners also be given benefit of MACP.
21. Item No 7: NFU for All or None. Lt Gen VK Chaturvedi (Retd), former DGMP and of IESL explained that Armed Forces are the only Class A Service who are denied NFU. The Min of Def has also challenged the judgment of AFT Delhi to grant NFU to Defence Services personnel in Hon’ble Supreme Court. Either all Class A services be given NFU or none be given as per recommendation of 7th CPC.
22. Brig Kartar Singh (Retd), President, NCESMO further added that the Defence Services Regulations, 1962 specify Armed Forces as Superior service even over the Class A civil services. But it is surprising to see that Superior service is denied NFU whereas Class A services are given NFU. This is demotivating bright youngsters to take up Armed Forces as their career. The financial outgo if NFU is sanctioned is not beyond the paying capacity of Govt of India.
23. Item No 8: Build ECHS Wings in Service Hospitals. Cmde Sudheer Parakala (Retd), Vice President, TSEWA explained that Corporate hospitals are denying admission to ECHS patients on specious ground that there are no vacant beds. The unscrupulous specialists terrorise the ECHS patient that if he does not undergo operation immediately, he will die next day. The poor ECHS patient is forced to be admitted as a civilian by selling whatever he has for his medical treatment. The reimbursement is only as per CGHS rates which are very low. He further informed that the revenue head of budget of ECHS is about Rs 4,000 crores and capital head of budget is Rs 40 crores. When Govt of India is spending such enormous amounts on health care of Ex-Servicemen and their wives every year, it is recommended that Min of Def should explore the possibility of constructing ECHS hospitals in the vacant land available in MH complexes or in the cantonments. Armed Forces have huge bank of retired specialists and super specialists who are gobbled by the Corporate hospitals. Such retired doctors of Armed Forces are very happy and willing to work in such ECHS hospitals. Even ECHS members would prefer ECHS hospitals any day than going to Corporate hospitals who fleece them with unwanted diagnostic tests and other medical procedures just to inflate their medical bills.
24. Item No 9: Avoidable Litigations by Appeals on Judgments of AFTs. Brig Kartar Singh, President, NCESMO requested that once AFTs give a favourable judgment, then the same be implemented for all similarly placed individuals. If the Govt of India challenges such judgments of AFTs in Hon’ble Supreme Court, very few ESMs are in a position to defend their cases due to very high legal costs. The veterans are of the feeling that their own Government is challenging some benefit given to them by AFTs by dragging them to Hon’ble Supreme Court. It is therefore requested that once AFTs give a judgment in favour of veterans, the same be implemented to all those who did not go to any court of law.
25. Item No 10: Crippled AFTs. Vice Adm Paras Nath (Retd), President, Navy Foundation informed that out of 17 benches with a capacity of 34 members judicial and administrative as on date, only 15 are posted. This forces many of AFTs not able to hear cases on daily basis. The judicial and administrative members are carrying out firefighting operations by moving from one AFT to another. AFT Jaipur authorised two members but none is posted. There is a circuit bench at Jodhpur which comes under AFT Jaipur. Due to non-availability of judicial member and administrative member, most of AFTs have become non-functional. Since the tenure is well known to the Ministry of Defence, efforts must be made to select and appoint judicial and administrative members well in time so that none of the AFTs become non – effective.
26. Reply by Hon’ble Raksha Mantri. She thanked NCESMO for bringing out so many grievances to her notice and some of them are known to her. She assured there will another meeting which she will preside over and by that time some decisions on issues raised by NCESMO would have been taken. She informed that minutes of meeting will also be issued. When she was informed that some ESM Associations from South India could not come to attend the meeting on 27 Nov 2018 due to short notice, she said she will give one month notice when next meeting is scheduled. She stated in Govt of India, one has to follow the rules and regulations which take some time. If any of the grievances can be redressed using her own powers, she said she will do it after knowing the financial effect. If it is beyond her then she needs to get clearance from the competent authorities which will take some more time. She assured some of the grievances will definitely be resolved before the next meeting.
27. Veterans Day. Maj Gen NN Gupta (Retd), Senior Vice President of ABPSAP sought permission from the chair to put across one point on Veterans Day. He suggested that 14 Jan is not suitable for celebrating veterans day. It should be a prominent day like 16 Dec where in children and youngsters are motivated to take part in veterans day celebrations.At this stage Cmde Sudheer Parakala (Retd) informed that in South many festivals like Pongal and Sankranti are celebrated on 14 Jan. Therefore there is a need to reconsider 14 Jan as the veterans day.
28. Vote of Thanks. Brig Kartar Singh (Retd), President, NCESMO thanked her for giving one hour time to us to hear our grievances very patiently and giving some hope that some of them will be resolved to the satisfaction of veteran community. He further added since NCESMO has large foot print all over India, this organisation be invited for all future meetings.
29. Group Photo. On request from Brig Kartar Singh (Retd), the Hon’ble Raksha Mantri posed with all members of NCESMO for a group photo. The names of the members are from Left to Right:-
(a) Brig CS Vidyasagar (Retd), President, TSEWA, Vice – President, NCESMO (b) Cmde Sudheer Parakala (Retd), Vice President, TSEWA (c) Vice Adm Paras Nath (Retd), President, Navy Foundation (d) AVM RP Misra (Retd), Air Force Association (e) Smt Damayanti Tambay, Gen Secy War Widows Association (f) Smt Nirmala Sitaraman, Hon’ble Raksha Mantri (g) Col HN Handa (Retd), Patron Disabled War Veterans Association (h) Brig Kartar Singh (Retd), President, NCESMO & President IESL (j) Lt Gen Vishnu Kant Chaturvedi (Retd), IESL and (k) Maj Gen NN Gupta (Retd), Senior Vice President, ABPSSP.
30. Impressions. The general impression all of us got from the one hour meeting with Hon’ble Raksha Mantri is that she accepted our request for NCESMO to be the leading organisation for consultations on ESM issues as it has All India foot print. NCESMO has been assured that they will be invited in all future meetings. Since most of the demands in this meeting are for JCOs / OR and their widows, the financial outgo on each of the recommendations is likely to be high which might be delaying implementation. Like any party in power, it is hoped this Government also will announce some goodies before model code of conduct for 2019 general elections is announced by Election Commission of India.
31. Some members may want instant results. It is not possible as this is the first meeting and we did not want the atmosphere to be vitiated. The talks over one hour were held in very cordial and congenial manner. You must understand no minister ever commits unless the Govt of India followed laid down procedures of consulting various ministries and see how the financial implication is to be taken care of. There could be similar demands from other pension organisations though the conditions in which Armed Forces operate is entirely different. Therefore it is our request that veterans should be patient and hope the Govt of India will implement some of the grievances projected which will bring lot of relief to JCOs / OR and their widows.
32. It is imperative that all ESM Organisations come under one umbrella of NCESMO without losing their identity so that unitedly NCESMO will be in a position to redress grievances of ESM Community at the State Level and the MOD Level.
33. If you see the agenda points, there is very little for Officers as we did not want the Hon’ble Raksha Mantri to get feeling that NCESMO is only for Officers’ welfare. It is hoped if major recommendations of OMJC are implemented, many anomalies affecting Majors, Capts and disabled offices will be taken care of.
Brig CS Vidyasagar (Retd)
President, TSEWA & Vice President, NCESMO