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Retrospective increase in ECHS rates challenged

, by indianmilitaryveterans

Retrospective increase in ECHS rates challenged
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 31
Claiming to have taken up the cudgels on behalf of personnel of lower ranks, two retired Lieutenant-Generals from the Tricity have challenged the “unilateral and forced” retrospective increase in the one-time subscription rates of the Ex-Servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS) by the Defence Ministry.

In September 2010, the rates of ECHS subscription were increased by 3-8 times, depending upon the category, of the earlier rates. While the rate for the lowest rank of Sepoy was increased from Rs 1,800 to Rs 15,000, that of General ranks was increased from Rs 18,000 to Rs 60,000.

The ministry made the new rates retrospectively applicable from June 2009 and forcibly recovered the differential from the pensions of affected retirees. Not only the personnel retiring after September 2010 but also those who had retired even before and had already become ECHS members by paying the subscription were imposed with the new rates.

Taking up the petition, the Chandigarh Bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal comprising NP Gupta and Lt Gen HS Panag today issued a notice to the Defence Ministry.

The petitioners have contended that the new rates could only have been imposed prospectively. They have cited the example of the Central Government Health Scheme applicable to civilian employees wherein rates were increased prospectively and that too after giving an opportunity to non-members to join at old rates. In case of the defence services, new rates have been imposed even on old members who had already paid the life-time subscription.

The petitioners have also claimed that their move is not to claim monetary benefits but is based on principle and is in the interest of personnel of lower ranks who have no say in such unilateral decisions. The petitioners have also stated that the increase in rates may have been justified in the light of increased pay, allowances and running costs, but the same could not have been done retrospectively.
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Indian Military Veterans: Antony blames Army, Gen Singh agrees

, by indianmilitaryveterans

Indian Military Veterans: Antony blames Army, Gen Singh agrees

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Antony blames Army, Gen Singh agrees

, by indianmilitaryveterans

Age Row
Antony blames Army, Gen Singh agrees
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, January 31
Just days ahead of the Supreme Court hearing on the petition filed by Army Chief General VK Singh, who is seeking a correction in his date of birth, Defence Minister AK Antony today squarely blamed the Army for the whole mess. The General agreed with him and said the administrative branch of the Army is responsible for his age row.
In his first detailed comments on the raging issue, Antony said the controversy erupted because the Army kept two sets of his (Singh’s) date of birth for 36 years, maintaining there was no civil-military confrontation.
He suggested that the government had no role to play in the whole issue as this discrepancy was first noticed in 2006 by the Army headquarters and reconciled at that level then and later in 2008 by two respective chiefs. “For 36 years, the government was not in the picture. The two branches of the same institution maintained two dates of birth,” the Defence Minister told reporters on sidelines of an awards function here.
Antony also made it clear yet again that the Supreme Court verdict on the controversy surrounding the Army Chief’s date of birth will be final. “Let's wait for the Supreme Court decision. That will be final and nobody can question that," he said.
At a separate function, the Army Chief said the Defence Minister was ‘right’ in noting that the Army was responsible for the entire controversy.
When asked to comment on the Antony's statement and that if the 'original sin' on the issue was committed within the force, Singh said: “Absolutely, it is within the Army. After 36 years, you suddenly decide to come up with an issue. There is something wrong with it.”
Gen Singh, however, rejected suggestions that there has been a delay on part of the Army to respond to the Defence Ministry's latest letter on his age issue, saying everything does not happen "with the press of a button". The General also gave assurance to fellow officers that the problem of varying DoB in records will not recur ever in the future. “There was some problem in coordination between the branch that keeps all the service records and other branches. Now a system has been put in place to resolve it," he said.

The Army has two sets of records related to General Singh's dates of birth leading to the controversy and forcing the Army Chief to move the apex court to resolve the issue. The Adjutant General Branch, the official record keeper in the Army, maintains the General’s date of birth as May 10, 1951; in the Military Secretary Branch, the Army Chief’s date of birth is May 10, 1950.

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Indian Army’s dignity in danger

, by indianmilitaryveterans

Indeed the battle had begun between Army and government in the Supreme Court of India. Certainly, this smears the dignity and pride of the institution. Since independence this will be the first time when the apex court will take the decision in the matter of army.

The controversy over date of birth (DOB) of Army Chief has become a matter of joke for the world. This has emerged with a passel of rumours. Chauthi Duniya has already done a wide investigation on this issue. Six months from now we mustered all the elements and reached a plausible conclusion that General V.K Singh’s DOB is 10th of May 1951. However, the government is prodding the Army Chief by claiming that his DOB is 10th of May 1950.

Why the government is appearing to be incorrigible over this issue? Despite the fact that three former Chief Justice of India have given their opinion in favour of General V.K Singh. Infelicitously, government is trying to prove its own point, lurking the controversy.There is a rumour that General V.K Singh himself raised this issue. On the other hand media is trying to show that he wanted to change his DOB. The truth is far from these manipulations.

Since 36 years Army Chief’s DOB was mentioned as 10 May 1951 in every document and postings. Obtrusively, the illegal grabbing of Army’s land was in the headlines. What irked more was the mushrooming illegal construction and nexus between Army officials and land mafias. Later former military secretary Lt Gen Avadesh Prakash was found guilty by an Army Court in Sukna land scam. He was among the prominent advisors of the then Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor. General V.K Singh gave his report on Sukna land scam.

Sadly, General Deepak Kapoor did not take any action. When V.K Singh came to power he committed to end the nexus of mafias and army officials that led to various scams, bribery and misappropriations. He went by hammer and tongs to curb the massive corruption within the system. Apparently, the controversy over his DOB emerged when Avadesh Prakash came under dock.

This controversy was ignited by Secretary Branch of Military that too after 36 years of his long service to Army. Until then his DOB was considered as May 10, 1951. Who has the responsibility of keeping the records of army officials? Why the government did not give significance to Adjutant Branch records? Which record is considered official?

There are few who opine that in NDA form he mentioned his DOB as 10 May 1950. Truth is when he joined NDA he was just 15 year old. Legally matriculation certificate is considered as proof of DOB. Notably, DOB mentioned in high school certificate is 10, May 1951. His high school certificate was submitted to NDA after three years as it used to take ample time to get certificates of schools and colleges during those days. Later his DOB was changed to 10 may 1951. In the year 1997 Adjutant General branch gave in written that his DOB is 10 May 1951.

Before this controversy came to light the then Army Chief Deepak Kapoor pressurized General V.K Singh to write an agreement letter or else action could be taken against him. Consequently, he wrote letter to Chief of Army staff. The Chief of Army staff kept that letter and did not reply. General Deepak Kapoor proffered him to correct his DOB once he comes to the post. General V.K Singh came back silently. Now government is using that letter as a proof.

There are several reasons behind government’s indignation. Indian army used to have Tatra trucks that are used as all terrain vehicles to mount guided missile launchers and haul heavy artillery. It also uses these vehicles to transport personnel’s, supplies, tanks, ammunition, bailey bridges and the like. The last order of these trucks came in February 2010. But there were misappropriation in its purchase and Gen VK Singh denied this deal. At the time when Bharat Earth Movers limited got contract for supply of these trucks the strings of Indian army was with general Deepak Kapoor.

According the rules every year Army Chief is supposed to sign on this deal. But due to bribery and violation of rules General V.K Singh did not sign on it. As per law the purchasing of Tatra trucks should take place directly from company. But BEML did this purchasing from Tatra Sipox (UK) limited. The company that makes equipments is Tatra Sipox,a.s, of Slovakia.

The defense procurement guidelines clearly say all purchases should be made only from the original equipment manufacturer (OEM). But BEML, nodal production agency for the family of Tatra trucks, has been dealing with Tatra Sipox (UK) Ltd, which is neither the OEM nor a subsidiary of the OEM.

This racket has been in operation since 1997. While Tatra Sipox (UK) Ltd was incorporated in 1994 in Britain with Jozef Majsky and Venus Projects Ltd as shareholders, Tatra Sipox a s came into being only in 1998, according to an extract of the business register available on the official website of Slovakia’s justice ministry.This means in 1997 BEML signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the subsidiary of a company that did not even exist.

Further, since its birth, the shareholding pattern of Tatra Sipox (UK) has changed many times but never has the Slovakian company held even a single share. As per the annual returns filed by Tatra Sipox (UK) Ltd with Britain’s registrar of companies (ROC), the firm was incorporated on June 23, 1994, as “manufacturer’s agent”. Ironically, when BEML signed the MoU with Tatra Sipox (UK) in 1997.

According to V.R.S Natrajan Chairman of BEML, Vectra group has ownership right of TATRA Sipox UK . Majority of shares of Tetra Czech Company are with VECTRA group.

Now the question arises, is the reason behind pressure on Army chief to leave the post is because he did not sign on Tatra deal? Was BEML importing second hand trucks? Has the manufacturing plant of Slovakia been shut? Who is Ravinder Rishi? Why is he getting defense deals? If government does not answer this sequel of questions it will be proved that Mafia and officials have conspired to remove Army chief.

Moreover, General V.K Singh came up with a plan for modernization of Army that is lying with Defense Ministry. During this he took several actions that created troubles for Arms dealers and mediators. A deal was signed with Singapore Technology; the rifle of this company was tested. Gen V.K Singh mentioned in his report that standard of rifles is not appropriate.

The history clamours that during arms deal a lot of bribery and misappropriation took place. General Singh wanted to bring transparency in the purchasing. Since he became Army chief not even a single scam has erupted. Not only old scams were solved but he took help of agencies in Adarsh scam.

It is quite absurd to see that on one hand government connotes Army chief as a liar and on the other deals with him to make him an ambassador of a country or Governor of a State. Besides, he is also warned to be removed from his post if he reaches the court.

Certainly, this issue is not worth ignoring. It portends the danger in the future. A true soldier should always be ready to fight for cause. Gen Singh must go to court to serve dignity of this institution or else this country will be run by mafias and hooligans. Probably, if he does not another innocent person will face the similar fate. On the brighter side, it is quite optimistic to see him stand firm and fighting for the dignity of the institution.
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