Public figures from all walks of life have come together to write to the Prime Minister and defence minister on Armed Forces Flag Day (December 7), requesting them to ensure that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is sensitive to the requirements of soldiers, disabled veterans, and military widows.
The letter states that most of the MoD’s pending appeals in the Supreme Court are against the disability benefits that the courts and tribunals have awarded to disabled soldiers, which is enough to make the entire citizenry hang its head in shame.
“The anomalous policies should be resolved rather than the MoD’s initiating ego-fuelled litigation out of administrative egotism,” reads the letter.
The letter signed by personalities such as parliamentarian Rajeev Chandrasekhar; actor Kabir Bedi; war hero brigadier Kuldip Singh Chandpuri (retd); former navy chief admiral Arun Prakash; South Indian playback singer Chinmayi Sripada; former army vice-chief lieutenant general Pattabhiraman; journalists Sucheta Dalal and Nitin Gokhale; and many others states that the MoD appeals to the SC against disability benefits involving only a couple of hundred rupees, which is in contrast to the other departments.
The public figures point out that the lower bureaucracy secures the decisions they want from the political executive by showing it only one side, since the poor veterans and other stakeholders do not have access to the higher echelons of governance and so are unable to rebut and correct decisions.
Appreciating the stand of many MPs, including union minister Smriti Irani, on the subject, the letter says that the system denies disability benefits to soldiers based on hyper-technicalities. It adds that there is inherent stress and strain in military service, since the personnel operate away from family during most of the service in a regimented lifestyle under a strict disciplinary code.
“They are torn between domestic requirements that they cannot attend and the call of duty,” the public personalities have written, referring to decisions of the Supreme Court and the Punjab and Haryana high court in cases such as Dharamvir Singh, K Srinivasa Reddy, Umed Singh and Barkat Masih.
They highlight that the government has decided recently not to challenge the Bombay high court decision involving Rs 35,000 crore to not hurt business sentiment but the morale of the men and women in uniform is not paid attention to.