Monday, July 16, 2012
Who rules? Parliament or the bureaucracy? Can someone clarify?
By V Mahalingam
Indira Gandhi accepted in principle the grant of One Rank One Pension (OROP) to ex – servicemen in 1983 consequent to a presentation made on 22 Feb 1982 by Lt Col Inderjeet Singh of the Indian ex–services league. She appointed a high level committee headed by KP Singh Deo the then rajya raksha mantri to examine the issue to give it a final shape. The committee strongly recommended the grant of OROP. The multi party Standing Committees on Defence (2003) (Thirteenth Lok Sabha) consisting of 44 Members of the Parliament (MPs), chaired by Madhan Lal Khurana and the Standing Committee on Defense (2009-10) (Fifteenth Lok Sabha) consisting of 30 MPs chaired by Shri Satpal Maharaj in its seventh report on action taken by the government too recommended the grant of OROP. Many state governments have also unanimously passed resolutions supporting OROP for the veterans. Nothing happened to these recommendations. In any other democratic country, the recommendations of such a large number of Parliamentarians would have been debated in the Parliament and the bureaucracy directed to work out the implementation orders or the proposal dropped. Obviously the Parliament is not in control. So you know who the rulers are. That much for the respect we as a country have for our Parliament and its members.
The Chandigarh bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal had also directed union government to grant the same pension to personnel belonging to the same rank, irrespective of date of retirement. Deciding on the cases of Babu Ram Dhiman vs Union of India and Sohan Singh vs Union of India, the tribunal had said, “It is quite clear that the State cannot lay down different criteria for grant of pension for same rank of officers and Personnel Below Officer Rank (PBOR) on the basis of the cut-off date of retirement. All pensioners, irrespective of the date of retirement are entitled to (the) same pension.” The judgment also said grant of unequal pay in the same rank was a violation of Article 14 of the Constitution that grants equal rights to all citizens. Did the government show any respect to the court? If not why have the courts and waste everybody’s time? As expected, the recommendations of the Parliamentary bodies and the judgment of the court did not move the Government. The bureaucracy instead let loose the committee route to stall and subsequently divert the issue. A committee of secretaries headed by the Cabinet Secretary was appointed consequent to the uproar on the 6th Central Pay Commission Report, which precisely did that.
Having been slighted by the bureaucracy, when a petition by K Sanjay Prabhu, countersigned by Rajeev Chandrasekhar, member parliament praying for grant of one rank one pension to the armed forces personnel was received, as if the earlier recommendations of its members were not good enough, the Parliament decided to task the petitions committee of the Rajya Sabha to study and make its recommendations once again.
The multi party petitions committee of the Rajya Sabha consisting of 10 MPs and chaired by Bhagat Singh Koshiyari in its well argued report submitted to the Parliament as late as December 2011 has strongly recommended that the government should implement OROP in the defense forces across the board at the earliest. One would have expected the Parliament to debate the issue and implement OROP but then that was not to be. Now one more committee of secretaries has been constituted to examine the issue.
The question is, why do we constitute committees after committees to examine the same issue? Is it not a way to frustrate those affected? Does it not eat away the valuable time of the bureaucrats? Does the government not have faith in the ability of our Parliamentarians to examine an issue and make realistic and appropriate recommendations? Isn’t the Parliament the appropriate forum to discuss and decide on their recommendations? If we as a country do not have faith in the Parliament and its members, why stick around with parliamentary democracy?
In a democracy should the bureaucracy sit in judgment of the recommendations of the Parliamentary Committees’ reports and court judgments? We in India and especially the media keep harping on the virtues of Indian democracy and the power of the voter. Where is the voter now? What power does he have? His representatives, the MPs now have to await orders from the babus. If they say no, then the reports and the court judgments are doomed. In our system, the voter vanishes the moment he casts his vote. That is the reality. This is democracy in India.
The defense minister goes to the Parliament and says that the government is working on a five year cooling off period for the defence services officers to prevent them taking up jobs with private sector on retirement. Sir, pray tell me what about the babus who serve till sixty, shower favors on businessmen while on service and take up jobs with the very same businessmen the very next day after his retirement? They don't need a cooling off period? Or are they already chilled out? Where is the justification for retiring a defence services officer at a young age and ruling that he cannot take up a job till five years after his retirement? What are their children and wives expected to do? Starve? Beg? Who is going to fund the education and marriage of their children? Is the defense minister unaware of these simple realities of the lives of the defense services personnel or is the babu different from the others requiring a separate rule?
Going by what is happening in the country; can someone tell me how can we say that the Indian democracy is a rule of the people, by the people and for the people? It is, to my mind rule of the babus, by the babus and for the babus. Does anyone think otherwise?
The views expressed by the author are his own and left to public to judge and rationalise for themselves.