Fighting to survive

NO country should have large numbers of disabled ex-servicemen, war veterans and army widows attending court hearings to fight for their dues after being prematurely boarded out from the armed forces.

NO country should have large numbers of disabled ex-servicemen, war veterans and army widows attending court hearings to fight for their dues after being prematurely boarded out from the armed forces. The courts have resolved many of the cases but the number of pending ones is now estimated to have crossed a dangerous watermark, not a healthy sign for any country that values its veterans. Worse is that complaints from these powerless and the vulnerable are based on a noting system that works its way up the chain of command. The system rarely gives a personal hearing to the contention of a raw deal by the widows, disabled and the veterans.

In this context, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s decision to set up a committee of experts to minimise litigation is welcome. The panel consists of the familiar and consistent fighter for their rights Navdeep Singh and the ‘blade runner’ DP Singh who was given up for dead during the Kargil War. It also includes former officers who had served as the Military Secretary and the Adjutant General. The setting up of a committee is a step down for Modi, who in the run up to the general elections last year, was confident of having all the solutions to take care of grievances of the armed forces fraternity, serving and retired.  The blithe promise to implement the one rank one pension (OROP) to win over 25 lakh retired personnel and their dependents to the BJP's cause is a case in point.

Both Modi and Parrikar have realised that it is not enough to govern on the sole basis of wisdom emanating from think-tanks aligned to the Sangh Parivar.  The committee has been given a free hand to come up with suggestions to make the system more even-handed and humane in resolving the grievances of those caught in the slipstream of the country’s war machinery. With the mountain of cases off their backs, the Defence Ministry and its departments should be able to devote more time to core issues. 

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