After surgical strike hype the Ministry of Defence issued a letter that dramatically reduced pensions for soldiers disabled during military service. What an irony this decison was taken just after the day of Surgical strike by our army para-commandos. It is an insult to their service and patriotism.
On September 30, the day after India began celebrating the successful “surgical strikes”, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) issued a letter that dramatically reduced pensions for soldiers invalided out of the army after being crippled by battle injuries or by injuries directly attributable to hazardous military service.
It was just as well that the commandos returned without significant casualties. If a young soldier with severe injuries – what cold medical jargon terms “100% disability” – from that operation had been invalided out from service, he would have found his monthly pension slashed from Rs 45,200 to just Rs 27,200 – down by Rs 18,000 a month.
The team leaders in the “surgical strikes”, majors with ten years of service, have been hit even harder – with pension for 100% disability slashed by over Rs 70,000 a month. Junior commissioned officers, the spine of the army, are also badly affected. Naib subedars with 26 years of service will find their 100% disability pensions slashed by Rs 40,000 a month.
The decision is a huge letdown for defence personnel. “Shocked is an understatement to describe what we feel,” said a top serving general. “Instead of joining us in celebrating the strikes, the MoD has stabbed us in the back.”
Two weeks later, as the BJP uses military images and the army’s intrepid cross-LoC raid as vote-catchers in four impending state elections, news is filtering through the army hierarchy that the slashing of disability pensions includes not just battle disability pensions, but also pensions for medical disabilities found to be attributable to, or aggravated by, military service. These include training accidents, including parachuting, respiratory ailments caused by long exposure to extreme altitudes, loss of digits/limbs due to frostbite, etc.
While Defence minister Manohar Parrikar brushed aside reports that the defence ministry had issued a circular significantly slashing the disability pension across ranks for the armed forces. Asked whether the Union government had rolled back the 2006 decision to link the disability pension to the last-drawn salary, Parrikar simply sought to know if the media had a copy of the circular.
“I don’t see a need to comment on a non-issue,” Parrikar said, while inaugurating the new Goa State Infrastructure Development Corporation office at the Patto complex in Panaji.