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Wednesday, 1 March 2017

‘EX-SERVICEMEN CONTRIBUTORY HEALTH SCHEME’ IS RETROGRADE AND DISCRIMINATORY – DISCONTENTMENT AMONG EX-SERVICEMEN BREWS

Indian Military Veterans


Mandetira N Subramani
The retired armed forces soldiers up to the rank of Havildars in the Army, Petty officers in the Navy,  and Sergeants in the Air Force, are openly expressing their resentment, & perhaps with good reason,  as they feel they have been discriminated against under the Ex-Servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS).
 
As per the ECHS policy functioning under the Ministry of Defence, retired Non Commissioned Officers (NCO) and ex-servicemen belonging to Other Ranks & their equivalent ranks in the other two forces and their spouses / widows are only eligible for being admitted and treated exclusively in general wards in ECHS empanelled private hospitals. However, by some reasonable progressive logic, a similar health scheme run by the Central Govt., as Central Govt Health Scheme (CGHS), D Group employees such as Chowkidars & Mess Waiters et al are eligible for admission and treatment in Semi Special wards. 
 
The issue has been raised by Mandetira N Subramani, President of Mysore based Vekare Ex-Servicemen Trust (VKET), who himself is a retired senior non-commissioned officer (SNCO) of the Indian Air Force, and an Advocate. He questions whether the status of Ex-NCOs & ORs of the three forces is far below the status of Group-D Civilians of Central Govt. who are eligible for admission and treatment in Semi Special Wards, as per the policy of the Central Govt. Health Scheme (CGHS).
 
Ex-Sgt Subramani also reiterated that the present day ex-servicemen belonging to the rank of Havildar & below and their spouse who are members of ECHS are educated and well informed, who constitute well over 70% of the total ECHS membership, have started debating amongst themselves regarding the retrograde and discriminatory policy of ECHS, which is degrading the status of NCOs and ORs in the public eye, by the authorities of the ECHS organization which comes under the Ministry of Defence.
 
However, the term Group-D employees of Central Govt. has been abolished and they are elevated and now referred to as ‘Multi Task Staff’ (MTS) who come under Pay Band-1 with the basic salary 5200-20200, w.e.f. 01.01.2006 as per 6th Central Pay Commission according to Subramani.
 
Ex-Sgt Subramani claim that, his Trust has been constrained to take up the issue with Ministry of Defence and the Chiefs of the three forces & Managing Director of ECHS Organization, since VKET is flooded with innumerable representations from ECHS members who are Ex-havildars / Ex-Petty Officers / Ex-Sergeants, other ranks and their widows.
 
“It is surely incomprehensible why ex-servicemen up to the rank of Ex-Havildars and their equivalent in the IAF and the Navy are treated as second class citizens insofar as hospital admissions are concerned, as they are entitled only to the general wards on admission for treatment in ECHS empanelled private hospitals. The disparity with Group-D civilians of Central Govt. who are eligible for admission and treatment in Semi Special Ward under CGHS is lamentable.
 
Subramani who is a retired Senior Non Commissioned Officer of Indian Air Force opined that, it is surely sickening when one considers the trials & tribulations that the ordinary soldier faces during his service, & then again on his retirement a similar fate befalls him, as he is yet again prejudiced. The ECHS organization surely shouldn’t grudge if its medical reimbursement bill to the desolate ex-servicemen creeps up to any extent, as the ex-servicemen community under NCOs ranks is not that very humongous that the ECHS Budget cannot absorb them by plugging the loopholes which may exist in health scheme itself!
 
The discriminatory eligibility policy:
According to Subramani, under CGHS policy, the eligibility for admission and treatment in private hospital is based on ‘Basic Pay’last drawn by the Central Govt. employees. Any employee who has drawn basic pay more than Rs. 13,960/- pm are eligible for admission & treatment in Semi Special Ward in private hospitals empanelled under CGHS. Most of the Multi Task Staffs (Formerly termed as Group-D employees) draw more than Rs. 13960/- prior to their retirement on attaining the age of superannuation under Pay Bank-1 as per 6th Central Pay Commission Report.
 
The learned policy makers in ECHS organisation while formulating the policy on ECHS deliberately brought in the concept of ‘Grade Pay’ and the ‘Rank Structure’. It is needless to mention that, Grade Pay is only an element of remuneration depending up on the rank structure in the Armed Forces which was not in existence prior to 31.12.1995 as per 4th Central Pay Commission.
 
Why the concept of ‘Basic Pay’ is not considered as the bench mark for eligibility of different wards in the hospital under ECHS as it is considered under CGHS since, Basic Pay alone taken into account as bench mark for all purposes, such as for calculation of Dearness Allowances, House Rent Allowances, City Compensatory Allowances etc is a question that begs an answer, Subramani said and further added “there was nothing called ‘Grade Pay’  paid to those retired armed forces personnel prior to 31.12.1995” irrespective of any rank i.e. from Sepoy to General officers while they were in forces.
 
The ill-conceived dual concept, ‘Grade Pay’ for initial contribution w.e.f. 01.01.1996 which was again revised upward w.e.f. 01.09.2009 to become a member of ECHS and the ‘Rank Structure’ for eligibility of different wards in ECHS empanelled private hospitals as the bench marks, has subtly been included to deny the eligibility of admission and treatment in the Semi Special Ward for non commissioned officers and their spouses / widows and family members who constitute well over 70% of the total strength of ECHS membership” Ex-Sgt Subramani said, and reiterated that this dual concept of Grade Pay and rank structure concept is not only discriminatory but also aimed at belittling the NCOs & the combatant soldiers below Havildars rank, who are forced to retire at a very young age, i.e.,  between the age group of 33 to 38 years and to fend for themselves with their meager pension.
 
“Are retired soldiers, up to the rank of Ex-Havildars in the Army, Ex-Petty Officers in the Navy and Ex-Sergeants in the IAF, lower in grade to the status of Group-D retired civilian employees?” questions Mr. Subramani, whose organization has already raked up  the issue with the Ministry of Defence, Armed Forces Headquarters and Managing Director of ECHS organization, New Delhi.
 
He also opined and in agreement that no ECHS member should / would have any grouse if Sepoys / NCOs are admitted and treated in general wards, JCOs in Semi Special wards & Officers in Private or Deluxe Wards, as per their rank structure, on their admission in any Military Hospital, so as to maintain the services protocol. Subramani also added that regimentation is all very fine while in active service to maintain discipline and decorum in the forces, but to extend the same rationale after retirement is fallacious, and quipped as the term ex-servicemen includes from the rank of Ex-Sepoy to retired General officers for all purposes including ECHS except for pension.
 
Subramani also cites another area of contention in the ECHS policy, wherein retired Generals to Sepoys, who retired prior to 01.01.1996, are totally exempted from the initial ECHS contribution and forgo the monthly ‘Fixed Medical Allowances’ of Rs. 300/- per month from their pension, on becoming members of ECHS. This again defies logic, as under the principles of natural justice every ex-servicemen should be treated on par, & especially more so when the scheme in itself is contributory in nature.  
 
He also opined that since the scheme is contributory in nature, any ex-servicemen who wishes to enroll himself as a member of ECHS, should be given an option, wherein on payment of a initial pre-designated contribution / fee w.e.f. 01.01.1996 at the time of becoming the ECHS member, he can gain admission into the special ward or private ward or general ward of an empanelled hospital, irrespective of the retired rank in the Armed Forces and grade pay. Needless to mention that, the initial contribution to become a member of ECHS has been exempted as per ECHS policy for all those ex-servicemen who retired prior to 31.12.1995 and their widows.
 
The sooner this contemptible policy is discarded the faster will the beleaguered ex-servicemen find relief & cheer. Surely the Indian armed forces owe it to the humble sepoy who sacrificed the prime of his life towards the service of the motherland in odd service conditions, whose grievance deserves to be treated with empathy. Will the Armed Forces settle this issue with alacrity? Subramani questioned and asserted as “Our Trust shall impress upon all the powers that be, to end this bias”.    
Jai Jawan – Jai Kisan
Jai Hind
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10 Comments on ‘EX-SERVICEMEN CONTRIBUTORY HEALTH SCHEME’ IS RETROGRADE AND DISCRIMINATORY – DISCONTENTMENT AMONG EX-SERVICEMEN BREWS

  1. The system seems to have been designed in such a way that the NCOs genuine and deserving healthcare facilities are diverted elsewhere who are empowered to do whatever way they could in order that the elite could enjoy all the benefits at the cost of the vulnerable and even impowerished NCOs and ORs. Will this malady find a shiny light any time soon?
  2. Hony Capt Bijendra Singh // October 3, 2015 at 3:43 pm //
    There must be no disparity on basis of rank or grade pay in the treatment of a soldier of defence force. If in the CGHS a Class IV employee admitted in semi private ward and a Hav or Sgt admit in general ward then our ECHS policy must be corrected as early as possible. Every one of the defence forces must be entitled for semi/ private ward and upper ward must be choose on personal expenses only .
  3. Col Manmeet Singh,SM,.Retd // October 4, 2015 at 7:12 pm //
    Its a BIG INJUSTICE to numerous Retired Hav/Petty Offr/Sgt including their widows due to LACK OF EMPATHY and application of mind astutely by erstwhile POLICY -APPROVAL TOP-MEN… UPA Defence Minister,RMM, policy maker-IAS BABUS…Secretary MoD looking after-ESMs…as well as Serving uniformed General Saab in DGR …..well its a collective-failure….Lets set ir right FORTHWITH…..instead saying…this or that…70 % CUTTING-EDGE/FRONT-LINE RETIRED WARRIORS ..Sgt/Hav/Petty Offr/Widows are ADVERSELY AFFECTED PLZ……Can you EVER think of such gross injustice happening in our NEIGHBORHOOD known adversaries..Pak or/and China….both Armies are highly politicaslised…unlike APOLITICAL INDIAN ARMED FORCES ….its SHAMEFUL….We faujis..pay price to these HIGHLY-POLITICIZED-MANDALIZED-CORRUPT…majority BABUS’ lobby/service cadre called..IFS-IAS-IPS etc ..or their ASSOCIATIONS-TRADE-UNIONS….to REMAIN INDIA INTACT…and go with a begging bowl to RESTIFY THE WRONG -DONE -TO US in the Past…and JUSTIFY TO THESE CORRUPT CLAN…..THAT HURTS ME…and my clan of FIGHTERS who fought CORRUPT-SERVING FAUJIS also….JAI HIND.
  4. Harbhajan SinghJaggi // October 4, 2015 at 9:54 pm //
    I fully agree with ur views in fact I raised these issues 10years back.but our own friends having rank complex were not a good able join with me.I congratulate u for raising this issue
  5. Col S Srikantha // October 9, 2015 at 5:41 pm //
    Dear all,
    1. I have known this gentleman veteran Subramani for a very short time. However, I have seen and heard his selfless service to all the ESMs and families for the last 25 years. The contribution in terms of work he has done all alone and all by himself is more than outstanding. I dare say that what he has achieved in these last 25 years is more than what all three service HQs has done for the welfare of all the ESMs. He has not charged any ESM but has gone out of his way to help them in rendering justice to all who have approached him which cannot be measured in any terms or quantified.
    2. Coming to the point of discrimination in the policy matter of treating ORs/NCOs/JCOs in the empanelled hosp, I do feel there is strong case to set right this issue. He knows what he is writing and has written. We cannot degrade our soldier’s status and is pathetic. Hope the case is taken up in earnest and change the whole policy/terms/condition on this issue. We have to give the due that he / they deserve if not more. It does definitely affect his morale and that indirectly affects the mind set of other younger generation in deciding whether it is worthwhile to join the Armed Forces or Look for other / better career. That would affect the national security as an end result which cannot be perceived if we fail to apply our mind.
  6. Col P S Bajwa // November 11, 2015 at 4:33 pm //
    This is part of the policy which which has resulted in down gradation of of status of Defence forces in our country . This tendency must be curbed to maintain the high standard of the uniformed community .
    There is also need for correction in AGI where there is considerable gap in insurance of AGI and civil policy .
  7. Maj Gen S.G.Vombatkere (Retd) // November 11, 2015 at 5:13 pm //
    Veteran M.N.Subramani is a selfless voluntary worker for the welfare of hapless Veterans, not restricted to JCOs, NCOs and OR and their widows and children, but also for officers and their widows & children. He deserves the highest praise for doing this continuously for over two decades. He has successfully challenged / changed / reversed discriminatory policies at MoD and Service HQ levels single-handedly. This ECHS issue which he has taken up along with many other such matters deserves the support of all ranks, especially senior officers, who can and must write to ECHS and AG’s Branch.
  8. kirit joshipura // November 19, 2015 at 8:00 pm //
    you are doing a great job — quietly, sincerly and honestly.No. you don`t seek publicity.Your work brings it to you.well done and GOD be with you always.
  9. Sgt op Ojha // December 2, 2015 at 3:54 pm //
    Today I feel proud of by seeing nature of help,know ledge &news related to exservimens.provided atyour end. God bless you.
  10. Col Cak nair // October 31, 2016 at 1:46 pm //
    Veteran M N Subramani has clearly bought out the lacunae in the existing Echs policy as regards admission of soldiers to general wards. The matter must be taken up by Echs at the highest level to sort out this indiscriminate policy. Kudos to veteran Subramani for tirelessly taking up issues pertaining to welfare of exservicemen

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