Sunday, July 25, 1999
THE soldier proposes and the bureaucrat disposes, while the wily politician watches the shoddy drama in which cold water is poured over his (politicians) warm promises by the bureaucrat. Sadly, the soldier who thinks nothing of his life when it comes to evicting the intruders from Kargil to restore the territorial integrity of the country is repeatedly made the victim of this drama.
In his recent letter to the Defence Minister George Fernandes, the President of the Indian Ex-Services League (IESL), Brigadier (retd) Mohinder Singh, writes: "I am writing this to you with concern and grief in respect of "one rank, one pension" for the ex-servicemen after reading the Government of India, Ministry of Defence letter no 1(1)99/D(Pen/Services) dated June 7,1999. It is most amazing that as late as April 29, 99, during my meeting with your goodself, you had assured me that you will ensure the grant of "one rank, one pension scheme" to the defence personnel.... On my expressing fears during my meeting with you that as your government had been defeated and the implementation of the one rank, one pension scheme may not materialise, you had categorically told me that you had already discussed this matter with the Finance Minister and that nothing will stop the implementation of the scheme for the defence personnel, as it was not a new proposal and the government had already committed itself to it."
Brig Mohinder Singh also says in this letter: "How can the serving soldiers have any faith now in tall commitments being made regularly by the Prime Minister, your goodself and other heads of the government?"
In 1989, former Prime Minister V. P. Singh had said that his government "stood committed" to this demand. What followed was the appointment of "Jaffa committee" which gave a bureaucratic burial to this demand. What this committee had said was that if this demand was accepted, the other services would also come up with similar demands.
This time again the demand has been shot down by the Ministries of Finance and Personnel on the ground that it would lead to the corresponding demands by the bureaucrats.
Leave alone granting "one rank, one pension", the cruel joke played by the bureaucrats on the defence pensioners is that by issuing the June 7 letter, they have not given to the latter even 50 per cent of their pay as pension which was given to all other Central Government pensioners in December, 1998. This is because defence personnel up to the rank of Naib/Subedar cannot complete 33 years of qualifying service to earn 50 per cent of their pay as pension due to their early retirement.
George Fernandes said at Anandpur Sahib on April 10 that the "one rank, one pension demand had been accepted in principle and its implementation was a matter of only a few days".
Dont forget, Mr Fernandes, it is the bureaucrat who calls the shots and unless he grants this pension to himself, he will not give it to the "faujis".
Soldiering and agriculture were known to be the traditional professions of the people of Punjab. But with the imposition of land ceiling a few decades ago, resulting in fragmentation of land holdings and with the quota of recruitment having been slashed to 2 per cent of the recruitable male population (RMP) of the state in the early eighties, the employment opportunities for the youth had almost dried up. What added to their paranoia was absence of any major industries in Punjab. Unemployment was one of the main reasons why the youth turned to militancy.
To partially offset the disadvantage of unemployment, a centre for training and employment of Punjab youth (C-PYTE), with its training camps at Kapurthala, Ludhiana, Nabha, Faridkot and Longowal, was established in 1990. Of the 58,000 young men who have undergone military-cum-technical training at these camps, 34,000 have been absorbed in various government/semi-government departments, industrial houses and in the Army and paramilitary forces.
Mercifully, the Assam Rifles have also started recruiting the Punjab youth since the last few years. The Assam Rifles recruiting team led by Col Dhan Raj visited the Kapurthala camp from July 5 to July 10. Though the number of vacancies to be filled was only 150, response to enrolment was so overwhelming that more than 5,000 youth turned up at this rally.
The C-PYTE has succeeded to a large extent in opening a new avenue for the training and employment of the Punjab youth, thanks to the team of dedicated ex-servicemen who are looking after the training and administration of the camps.
The children of defence personnel are greatly disadvantaged in their education. Ask any child studying in 10+2 the number of schools that he or she has changed. The answer about will be 6 to 8 schools. This is because of the too frequent postings of the armed forces personnel all over the country.
Despite the disruption in their education, the defence children have to compete with those children who hardly change any school up to 10+2. Since the defence personnel are not financially so well off as to afford their childrens education in good schools at one place, the disadvantage of moving children every two years or even earlier, has to be accepted.
While framing rules, the states totally forget the category of defence personnel. They reserve 80 per cent vacancies in their professional colleges for those students who do their 10+2 from the same state. For example, if a student has studied in Chandigarh for two years prior to appearing in the PMT or CET, he or she will be entitled to a reserved Chandigarh vacancy. An outsider on the other hand has to compete for the 20 per cent unreserved vacancies.
The states should allow
the children of the defence personnel who are domiciles
of the state to compete for the state vacancies i.e. for
80 per cent reserved seats and not for the outsiders 20
per cent seats. The peculiarities of the harsh terms and
conditions of service of the defence personnel must not
be ignored. On the contrary, they should be given an
advantage because they bring credit to the state by
upholding the integrity of the country.
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