While Narendra Modi is raising questions on foreign tours of Congress President Sonia Gandhi, his own office is not providing details of his travel bills of last five years
Ahmedabad: In a huge embarrassment to Narendra Modi who has been raising questions on the expenditure on foreign travels of Sonia Gandhi, a Right to Information (RTI) activist in Gujarat has accused the state government of not providing details on the travel bills of the Chief Minister and his ministers for the last five years, reports PTI.
Vadodara-based RTI activist Trupti Shah has sent a letter to Modi, saying information about his and his Ministers' travel-related expenses, mostly by helicopter, during 'women empowerment sammelans' had not been provided till date.
Shah said she had filed an RTI application on 18 July 2007 seeking details about the expenses incurred by the state government for organising the sammelans in 27 places across the state in 2007.
"The Chief Minister had organised women empowerment sammelans in 27 places in Gujarat in 2007 just before the assembly polls and I have asked under RTI about expenses of this sammelan particularly because the women of Gujarat are asking for implementation of Domestic Violence Act and appointment of protections officers which have been denied due to lack of funds," she said.
Shah alleged she was denied the information even after repeated reminders. She said the state's General Administrative Department (GAD), in a letter dated 1 November 2007, provided the list of 27 places visited by Modi from 10 March 2007 to 20 September 2007.
But regarding the travelling expenses, the letter stated "the office of the Chief Minister did not mention the travelling expenses and so the CM's travelling expenses may be considered nil."
This, the activist alleged, is "ridiculous" and "unbelievable" because Modi had travelled to most of the 27 places by helicopter.
Shah then shot off a letter on 20 November 2007 seeking details about the name and agencies who bore the expenditure.
When her letter didn't elicit a response from the GAD, she sent a reminder on 18 January 2008 and again on 17 April 2008 but she did not get any reply, Shah alleged.
After failing to get the required information, Shah filed a complaint under the RTI Act before the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) of Gujarat.
During the last hearing on 26 September 2012, the CIC directed the GAD to hand over the relevant information to Shah before the next hearing in October. The officer concerned said the information was not available though they have requested the CMO and other ministers to provide it, Shah said.
The letter comes in the wake of Modi seeking answers from the Centre regarding Congress President Sonia Gandhi's trips abroad which, he alleged, have cost the exchequer Rs1,880 crore.
Another Gujarat-based RTI activist Bharat Singh Jhala said, "State government should disclose every detail of travelling whether he (Modi) went to China or Japan or elsewhere. Where did the funds come for the Vivekanad Yatra.
If there is nothing wrong then the whole data should be given otherwise everything is 'golmaal'".
He alleged that the Gujarat administration department is also not revealing information and claim to be under pressure.
In a mail to fellow veterans, Col Balakrishnan says the men in uniform, due to constraints of discipline, can't come out with truths against the government. And, the ex-servicemen are spread thinly all over the country, without any central organisation to speak of. So, the government is having a field day with half truths and white lies over “one rank one pension”. This mail was written on 25th September
This mail is mainly addressed to my friends in the civil street. You must have seen in all the TV channels last night and read in today’s newspapers as to how the government has “ANNOUNCED A BONANZA OF Rs2,300 CRORE TO THE FAUJI BHAIES” by granting them the long pending demands of OROP (One Rank, One Pension). Nothing can be further from the truth. I shall just high light a few points, since typing with five thumbs is a problem for me…
The Sixth Central Pay Commission (SCPC) ruled that the pensions should be fixed at 50% of the “MINIMUM OF THE RANK IN THE PAY BAND, CORRESPONDING”. Instead of doing that, the wily babus at the ministry of defence (MOD), in cahoots with their counterparts in the finance ministry, placed the pensions of ex-servicemen (ESM) at 50% of the “MINIMUM OF THE PAY BAND, CORRESPONDING”. Since, all the officers from Lieutenant Colonel (Lt Col), Colonel, Brigadier and Major Generals were in the same Pay Band-4, it meant all these officers were placed similarly at the bottom of this pay band for pension fixation!
Imagine four different ranks and grades of officers drawing the same pension, irrespective of the differences in length of service and ranks! The only difference in their pensions was due to the differences in their Grade Pays. So, for example the brigadier just got Rs100 more than a colonel, as pension! Such cock-eyed fixing was a miracle of illogic created by the Babus! With such wrong action by the government, the demand for OROP gained momentum.
This is a long pending demand of ESM, since 1982. Since the service conditions of Army are different (like 92% of soldiers retire between ages of 35 and 42 and the remaining 8%—the JCOs like Subedars—retiring before 45 years of age, in order to keep the young age profile of the Army), there will be at least five CPCs in the life of an ESM. With every new CPC, he gets shunted further down than his serving brethren or the recently retired men. As a result, there are many families wherein a retired Subedar (now around 70 years old) getting much lesser pension than his grandson who retired recently from the same army as a Sepoy! It sounds ridiculous. But, it happens in our MBM, thanks to the short-sightedness and mean mindedness of our officialdom. There are many more such reasons /instances. But, due to my limitations, I omit them here. Hence, the demand for “Same Pension For Same Rank” persons who retired with the same length of service, irrespective of date of retirement. (That is the gist of OROP).
Two Cabinet committees found these to be correct and implementable. But, like a jinxed case, in both instances the governments fell just before the final decisions were implemented. The wily babus then held the sway! ‘FILES’ were ‘REOPENED’ with the implied delays. All major parties flaunt this concept of OROP in their manifestoes to win over the ESM before the elections and then forget it. Many parliamentary, all-party committees (the latest was in January 2012) too recommended the implementation of OROP. But, the Babudom is hell-bent on denying this. And, since our politicians are dependent on the babus to rule as well as make black money, the actual implementation never happened. The latest drama is what happened yester day.
When I became an army officer in June 1965, my basic was Rs450 compared to the basic of Rs400 for IAS at entry level. This historical advantage has remained even now at entry level. But, at every stage of Central Pay Commission (CPC) from 3rd CPC onwards, the Army got short-changed. And, the bureaucracy with their wily ways, increased their own remunerations and perks, while cutting down those of others, including the Army Officers. For example, all of them (IAS) become joint secretary (they equals it with a Major General) and more than 90% become additional secretary (equal to Lt General) while less than 9% and 2.5% army officers reach these levels, due to the pyramid nature of Army's hierarchy.
To overcome this, a running pay band of pay suggested was vetoed by the babus till the 6th CPC. Also, in the latest CPC, they introduced the concept of Non Functional Up-gradation (NFU) for themselves, where in all Gp A Central Govt Officers (like IRS, IA&AS, IPS etc) pick up the same grade (and hence pay and perks) within two years of his course mates in the IAS picking up a grade. For example, an IAS chap becomes a joint secretary in 18 years of service. So all central government officers draw the pay and allowances of a joint secretary within 20 years of service, even if there is no vacant official position for him to occupy! Funny, eh? Yes, it is a loot of the innocent taxpayer’s money!
Now, this NFU has been denied for the Army officers on the spacious plea, that they do not fall into Gp A Services. This has resulted in degradation of the status (and not just pay) of Army officers vis- a-vis other central government officers in recent years. Also, at 20 years of service, the best Army officer is still sweating out as a colonel. At best he may get promoted to the next rank of brigadier after 27 years and to major general with 31-32 years of service. Due to the pyramid nature of hierarchy, this is a given norm. But, the steps to nullify this disadvantage through a running pay bands and NFUs are NOT sanctioned by the government (read the powerful babus!).
The babus are at their Goebbelsian best in spreading false hood and use words to tide over inconvenient facts. The Press Information Bureau (PIB) hand-out, issued last night, starts with the news that the ex-servicemen had a long pending demand for OROP, wherein the demand was made for similar pension for soldiers who have retired in the same rank with the same years of service, irrespective of the date of retirement. Of course, this is a fact and the truth. In the very next sentence, they say that the Cabinet has decided to sanction Rs2,300 crore to improve the benefits to the ex-servicemen (ESM). That too is a fact. What the fork-tongued, present day Goebbels have done is that they have smoothly disconnected the two sentences. If a casual reader tends to assume that this amount is to fulfil the demand for OROP, he can’t be faulted. At the same time, the babus have not said any lie! They have only, deliberately confused a layman! While not doing anything to grant the much abused OROP!
Again, the PIB is artfully concealing the truth here. There have been judgements by two different Armed Forces Tribunals (deemed to be equivalent to high courts) against the orders of the government, subsequent to the 6th CPC. Also, the FULL BENCH of the CAT has passed a judgement last year against the stupid government order on fixing of pension at 50% of the MINIMUM OF PAY IN THE PAY BAND instead of 50% of the RANK PAY in the band. The announcement of yesterday’s decision of the cabinet is an offshoot of these three adverse judicial judgements against the government. However, there is not even a mention of this fact in the government announcement. On the other hand, they make it appear as if they did this because their hearts bleed for the “Fauji Bhais”. I have never seen such a lot of shameless frauds, as herein.
Three out of the four orders issued are relevant to both the men in uniform and the civilians. While no one will grudge this equal sharing of benefits, what grates is the presentation that this is something exclusive to the ‘Faujis’. The only concession now, which is not applicable to civilian counter parts, is the one on dual pensions. Since, the jawans retire at around 35 years of age, many of them find jobs on retirement. And, once they retire from the second job, there was a restriction on him drawing a second pension. That he worked for and earned it does not matter to the stone-hearted babus. This anomaly has been now removed, with the rulings of yesterday. Since a central government employee retires at around 58-60 years, this rule of double pension is NOT applicable to him, in any case!
Another excuse of the government is “lack of funds” whenever any benefit for the ESM is talked about. The irony is that when the Rs2,300 crore expenditure for “Fauji Bhais” was talked of as the latest BONANZA, in the same breath, the government announced Rs7,400 crore as expenses for additional DA to all the government employees and Rs2 lakh crore for the State Electricity Boards. Not to mention the lakhs of crores of rupees wasted/stolen in the various scams. Just sheer misleading duplicity of the babudom!
It is a very disturbing fact that presently, there is a lot of disconnect between the babus and the men in uniform—the two vital organs of the government. The efforts of the babus to deny men in uniform their rightful place in decision making is not the only cause. The mean-minded manipulations of the babus in recent years while dealing with cases of status and pay, only lead to loss of faith in this category. In my days, we used to blindly repose our faith in the ‘SARKAR’. But, with the advent of RTI and information explosion, the young and the old in uniform can no more be fooled. And, when there is opaqueness in dealings, the nation will finally suffer. A very disturbing thought, though.
To sum up, what the government sanctioned yesterday is nowhere near the OROP demand of the ESM. They just undid the harm they did earlier by wrongly putting everyone at the bottom of the respective pay bands, for fixation of pensions! Interestingly, no babu has been either identified or punished for this blooming mistake! Also, why should the pensioners be penalised in terms of lesser pensions received since January 2006 for the mistakes of the babudom? The date for the new pension will be fixed for a future date, as per newspaper reports. There is no mention about the pension lost for the last seven years! The silence of the lambs can be misleading many a time.
Well, I am sending the above few lines to my friends in the civil services to make them wise about the ground realities. The men in uniform, due to constraints of discipline, can’t come out with truths against the government. And, the ESM are spread thinly all over the country, without any central organisation to speak of. So, the government is having a field day with half truths and white lies. This is my humble and limited effort to give the “Other Side” of the story to my friends, the thinking citizens of the nation.
Now, you know "Fauji Ko Gussa Kyon Aata Hai"!
Colonel (Retd) N K Balakrishnan
India fondly remembered and paid tribute to Mahatma Gandhi and former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri on their birth anniversaries
New Delhi: Mahatma Gandhi was on Tuesday fondly remembered with President Pranab Mukherjee leading the nation in paying homage to the Father of the Nation on the occasion of his 143rd birth anniversary, reports PTI.
President Mukherjee, Vice President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and senior BJP leader LK Advani were among the prominent people who visited Gandhi's memorial at Rajghat to offer floral tributes.
Other dignitaries who visited Rajghat included Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, Defence Minister A K Antony and Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit.
An all-religion prayer was held at Rajghat. The favourite hymns of Gandhi were also played at the function.
In Parliament House, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar led MPs in offering floral tributes at the portraits of Gandhi and former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri in the Central Hall.
Leader of Lok Sabha Sushilkumar Shinde, Leader of the Opposition in the lower house Sushma Swaraj, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and BJP Parliamentary Party leader L K Advani were also present on the occasion.
In Haryana, rich tributes were paid to the Father of the Nation and former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri at a function held at Haryana Raj Bhawan.
Speaking on the occasion, Governor Jagannath Pahadia said that Mahatma Gandhi proved that violence and war are no solutions to any problem.
He said that late Lal Bahadur Shastri symbolised simplicity, honesty, patriotism and dedication to duty.