Thursday, July 18, 2013

GRIEVANCE REDRESSAL IN THE ARMY NAVY AIR FORCE - IS THE SYSTEM OUTDATED?

MILITARY GRIEVANCE REDRESSAL SYSTEM 
IS GRIEVANCE REDRESSAL EFFECTIVE IN THE DEFENCE SERVICES ?
Musings
By
VIKRAM KARVE

If the internal grievance redressal system of an organization is effective, most problems can be resolved in-house and there is no need for employees to go to external agencies like bureaucracy, tribunals and courts to seek justice for redressal of their grievances.

There are frequent media reports of increasing numbers of aggrieved defence personnel, serving and retired, of the army navy and air force, going to courts to seek redressal of their grievances. 

In this week alone there have been two such media reports:

1. Denied top posting, Lt Gen may drag army to court (Hindustan Times - July 15, 2013)


2. Flying MiG-21 violates fundamental right to life, officer tells HC (The Times of India - Jul 17, 2013)

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Flying-MiG-21-violates-fundamental-right-to-life-officer-tells-HC/articleshow/21111456.cms? 

Over the last few years, from time to time, there have been numerous media reports about servicemen and ex-servicemen going to tribunals and courts to seek justice.

Why is this happening?

“Faujis” are simple individuals and are not litigious by nature.

A serviceman goes to court to seek justice only as a last resort after having tried and exhausted all means to get redressal within the service. 

The increasing tendency to litigation indicates that all is not well with the internal grievance redressal mechanism.

It appears that there are too many grievances in the army navy and air force and the services are probably not able to satisfactorily resolve many of these grievances by their internal mechanism.

The failure of the internal grievance redressal system is an ominous sign.

The negative publicity in the media about increasing number of court cases by servicemen and ex-servicemen bring ignominy to the services and tarnish their good reputation.

Also, a large amount of resources, material and emotional, individual and organisational, are expended in litigation.

I do not know about the other services, but during my early days in the navy, the naval grievance redressal system was very prompt and effective. 

It seems that over the years, the system has been allowed to become lax and lethargic.

This system stood the test of time in the past.

Has it now become outdated and out of sync with present times?

In a previous blog post I had discussed the seven essential attributes of an Effective Grievance Redressal System (click url below to open the post in another window):

http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2013/07/effective-grievance-redressal-for-good.html

In my article, I had listed seven attributes of a good grievance management system:

1. SIMPLICITY

2. ACCESSIBILITY

3. EFFECTIVENESS

4. EFFICIENCY and PROMPTNESS

5. RESPONSIVENESS

6. NON-VINDICTIVE

7. FAIR JUST and TRANSPARENT SYSTEM

On paper, and in theory, the grievance redressal mechanisms may satisfy many of these attributes.

The problem may lie in actual implementation on the ground.

It may be worthwhile to see how many of these attributes the military grievance management system satisfies in actual practice.

With the advent and proliferation of Information Technology, the system can certainly be made more prompt by using modern electronic communication means to reduce the time limits for dealing with complaints. 

This will enable speedy online processing of complaints and early communication of decisions to the aggrieved individuals.

It is important to ensure timely redressal of grievances and one must remember the dictum – justice delayed is justice denied

By online grievance processing, the present time periods of many months can be reduced to a few days.

If redressal of grievances and resolution of complaints is done promptly and speedily in an efficient, fair and transparent manner, officers and soldiers will develop faith in the grievance redressal system.

In a regimented organisation like the military, it is very important for the grievance redressal system to be non-vindictive.

An officer or soldier must be able to submit a complaint without fear of retribution from senior officers.

He must have no fear of reprisal from those who he is complaining against even if they are his seniors.

Checks and balances must be put in place in order to ensure that there is absolutely no victimization or harassment of the individual who is submitting a grievance or making a complaint and whistle-blowers must be protected.

In theory and on paper, these exist, but they must be ensured in practice too.

The system must be absolutely non-punitive and there must not be the slightest perception or even a shred of doubt in the mind of the persons submitting a grievance for redressal that they will be “punished” for making a complaint.

The grievance redressal mechanism must function without fear or favour.

There must be total transparency in the procedure and justice must be done and justice must also seen to be done in a free and fair manner. 

The hallmark of a good grievance redressal system is that it is absolutely Fair, Just and Transparent and, most importantly, it is seen by all stakeholders to be absolutely Fair, Just and Transparent.

It is always best way to prevent grievances as far as possible by good HR Management Practices.

In which areas do defence personnel have grievances?

If one goes by media reports, it seems that the maximum number of grievances pertain to promotion.

If the promotion system is made fair, just and transparent, most of these grievances will disappear.

Is there any need to have so much intrigue and secrecy by making performance appraisal so opaque and selection process so nebulous.

Of course, there may be a need to keep ACR appraisal reports confidential till the selection board meets.

But once the selection is over, will it not be better to have total transparency and declare the entire result publicly by giving all ACR points, cut-offs etc of the entire batch.

This transparent approach will not only demonstrate fairness and instill confidence in the promotion system, but it will also make it difficult to indulge in favoritism.

Another area where there are grievances, especially among ex-servicemen, are pertaining to service conditions, pay and pension.

Many of these issues can be mitigated in-house too in order to reduce avoidable litigation.
CONCLUSION

The powers-that-be need to introspect whether the present system meets seven attributes of a good grievance management system listed below and whether there is any scope for improvement.

SEVEN IMPORTANT ATTRIBUTES OF A GOOD GRIEVANCE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM

1. SIMPLICITY

2. ACCESSIBILITY

3. EFFECTIVENESS

4. EFFICIENCY and PROMPTNESS

5. RESPONSIVENESS

6. NON-VINDICTIVE

7. FAIR, JUST and TRANSPARENT SYSTEM

If the internal grievance redressal management system is good, most problems will be resolved in-house and there will be no need for officers and soldiers to go to external agencies like bureaucracy, tribunals and courts to seek justice for redressal of their grievances.

The objective of the defence services must be to have a grievance-free  army, navy and air force.

This will ensure happy servicemen and ex-servicemen with high morale.

Defence Services must follow the Grievance Redressal Motto:

MITIGATION PREVENTS LITIGATION


VIKRAM KARVE
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