Ex-Servicemen vent ire on appointment
By N C Bipindra - NEW DELHI
Published: 29th Sep 2013 08:11:54 AM
India’s 20 lakh retired servicemen are fuming over the Defence Ministry’s decision to hire former Joint Secretary (Pension) Harbans Singh, a retired Central Secretariat Service officer in the Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare (DESW), allegedly violating reemployment rules. The irony is that Harbans—accused of bias against ex-servicemen draws Rs 60,000 as contractual monthly salary from the Armed Forces Flag Day (AFFD) funds meant for their welfare and rehabilitation.
The Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement (IESM), a nationwide outfit made up of retired defence personnel, has shot off an angry letter to Defence Minister A K Antony against Harbans’ appointment. It cites his previous antipathy towards servicemen during his eight-year stint in the ministry. “The fact cannot be ignored by us that most pension disputes and anomalies in pension policy implementation arose during Harbans Singh’s tenure,” said IESM’s officiating chairman Major General Satbir Singh. It is the responsibility of the officer concerned to resolve matters concerning ex-servicemen speedily. Harbans has been re-employed on Kendriya Sainik Board (KSB)’s non-government contractual employment terms, but functions as an officer on special duty in DESW. His job is to fight court cases involving pensions and disability pensions of soldiers.
Copies of the letter have been sent to all three armed forces chiefs and secretaries of defence, personnel, ex-servicemen welfare and the KSB. Major General Singh noted that Harbans’ reappointment was “shocking” considering that he had already served in the DESW from 2003 to 2011, when he retired. He argued that the reappointment is against the government’s Rotational Transfer Policy. “This is illegal,” Singh said. The IESM has questioned the basis of the appointment made without issuing an advertisement for the vacancy in contravention of the Department of Personnel and Training’s (DOPT’s) guidelines on reemployment of retired officers as consultants. The body has demanded that Singh be immediately relieved of all duties and discharged from contractual obligations. Incidentally, he attends all official meetings and makes notings in the ministry’s files on ex-servicemen issues. He has also been provided a staff car.
Satbir Singh alleged that “anti-military” sentiment in DESW is acute. Apart from being an impediment to positive welfare policies for the military community, it also played “a damaging and sadistic role” by misleading even the Defence Minister that retired defence personnel were “greedy” and “do not deserve” what they have asked for. “It is shocking that this government is using soldiers’ welfare funds to fight court cases against their pension and disability requests. Thankfully, the IESM has taken up this issue,” said Major Navdeep Singh, a Chandigarh-based lawyer.
The proposal to appoint Harbans as OSD was put up for approval in November 2011 within eight months of his retirement in March that year, citing his vast experience in dealing with pension matters. His year-long tenure could be extended after a day’s break for another year.