Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, expressing concerns over reports suggesting that the NDA government has decided to downgrade the status of military officers compared to their civilian counterparts.
Raising the issues of reduction of disability pension and the “anomalies” in the one rank-one pension rolled out by the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government, he said these developments have “adversely affected” the morale of the armed forces soon after they conducted surgical strikes against terror launchpads across the Line of Control (LoC), the de facto border between India and Pakistan.
“I am saddened that in the last few weeks actions taken by the government, far from reassuring the soldiers, have indeed caused them pain and hurt,” Gandhi said in the October 28 letter to the PM.
“Just days after our soldiers conducted the surgical strikes, the disability pension system was converted to a new slab system, that in many instances drastically reduces the pension received by these brave men in case of a disability,” he said.
The defence ministry had earlier this month referred the representation of the armed forces for a percentage-based system rather than a slab-based one for determining disability pension to the Anomaly Committee of the 7th Central Pay Commission.
The decision followed widespread criticism over a move that introduced a slab-based system, as recommended by the 7th Pay Commission, for determining the disability pension for defence forces.
The Congress vice-president claimed that the roll out of the 7th Pay Commission continues to keep the defence forces at “disadvantage and further exacerbates” the disparity between them and civil employees.
“To add to that we learnt through the media that the government has downgraded the status of our military officers’ vis-à-vis their civilian counterparts in a letter dated 18 October 2016,” Gandhi wrote.
The rank controversy erupted after hindustantimes.com broke the story on October 24. On Friday, the government took a U-turn and decided to form a panel to look into the row after it had ruled out any re-look at the new norms that angered the armed forces.
“And finally contrary to what was promised, One Rank One Pension (OROP), as implemented by your government, does not fully meet the genuine demands of our ex-servicemen and they have been forced to come out on the streets to make their voice heard on this vital issue,” Gandhi said.
The government had appointed a one-man judicial committee to look into the anomalies in the implementation of OROP following widespread protests. The committee, under L the chairmanship of Narasimha Reddy, the retired Chief Justice of Patna high court, submitted its report to defence minister Manohar Parrikar on Wednesday. The panel had held hearings in around 20 cities and towns across the country and interacted with cross sections of ex-servicemen.
“As a responsible democracy we must make sure that the brave soldiers who put their lives on the line for each one of us, feel the love, support and gratitude of 125 crore people,” the Congress leader said.
Wishing the Prime Minister on Diwali, Gandhi urged him to ensure that the soldiers get their due as they risk their lives each day to defend the nation. “It is our duty to show them that we care for them and their families, not only through our words, but also through our actions,” he said.
“As we celebrate Diwali, and rejoice in the victory of light over darkness, let us send this message to our soldiers that our gratitude is expressed both in words and in deed. This is the very least we owe to those who give up their today to secure our tomorrow,” Gandhi said while concluding his two-page letter.