Friday, October 10, 2014

A MILITARY VETERAN’S PLEA

A MILITARY VETERAN’S PLEA

Heavy cross-fire is going on at our borders.

There is a wave of jingoism and political posturing.

God Forbid, but there are chances that hostilities may escalate.

Military Men, Officers and Soldiers, may get killed and injured in combat.

Promises will be made to families of martyrs, war widows, and those soldiers disabled and invalided out of service.

But once things die down, and peace returns, will these promises be delivered?

From time to time, media highlights instances of forgotten promises made to martyred soldiers and their families.

We keep reading reports of disabled soldiers struggling to get their dues.

Will the same soldiers, who once served in uniform for the defence of the nation, be remembered and treated with dignity after they retire and become military veterans (ex-servicemen)?

This reminds me of an article I wrote a few months ago after experiencing a demoralizing experience as a military veteran when I visited the municipal office.

In the backdrop of the current situation, I thought it may be apt to share this post with you, in the hope that civilian citizens will treat their soldiers, serving and retired, with a bit more respect and dignity.

( This article was first posted by me on 17 June 2014 in this blog at url: http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2014/06/ex-servicemen-welfare-please-do-not.html )

PLEASE DO NOT TREAT MILITARY VETERANS LIKE BEGGARS
An Ex-Serviceman’s Earnest Appeal
By
VIKRAM KARVE

As a military veteran who has served his entire life in the armed forces, I make an earnest appeal to the all concerned authorities (“powers-that-be”) and all citizens of India:

“Please do not treat military veterans like beggars”

If you do not want to give any concessions to military veterans and war widows, please do not give them.

But if you do decide to give concessions to military veterans and war widows, please do not make military veterans and widows of martyrs run from pillar to post begging to get what has been promised to them.

For a true soldier who has worn uniform, dignity and respect is more important than concessions and sops.

Recently a leading English News Channel showed reports of how promises of plots of land made to widows of gallantry award winning martyrs were not honoured by the “powers-that-be” and how these hapless war widows were being made to run from pillar to post for many years begging for allotment of land that was promised to them many years ago when their husbands gave the ultimate sacrifice of lives for the nation.

Do the “powers-that-be” feel that they are doing personal charity to military veterans by giving them concessions and that is why they are entitled to make military veterans or their widows run from pillar to post and beg for getting what is their due?

Why make promises that you cannot deliver?

Why announce sops and then make the delivery mechanism so cumbersome that it makes things difficult for the retired soldier to get his due?

For those soldiers, sailors and airmen in uniform, who may be living under the false impression that they will get some special treatment once they retire, let me make it very clear that military veterans are treated just like any other citizen.

Let me share my personal experience which happened today morning.

Just before I retired from the Indian Navy, I bought a flat in the PCMC area of Pune as my retirement home.

I saw a news item and an advertisement that PCMC had decided to give 50% rebate in property tax to military veteran ex-servicemen.

I went to the PCMC Office to get the form.

As usual, the forms were not available, so I was asked to request a certain clerk to take a printout.

The clerk did this most reluctantly and made some sarcastic comments about why such concessions were being given to military veterans, as if she bore a grudge against soldiers and the military.

After running around to complete all the paperwork, which involved going to a lawyer to make an affidavit, getting a “life certificate” from my bank, attaching attested copies of PPO etc, I submitted the application.

As usual, there was plenty of red tape, as my file went up and down, with some clerk even questioning my eligibility, and I had to make three trips to follow up.

Someone suggested that a bit of “speed money” or mamool may help expedite matters.

But I decided to wait – I was in no mood to pay bribes for what was my rightful due.

After a couple of months, the sanction letter was finally issued, giving me 50% rebate on property tax.

The municipal officer who gave me the sanction letter told me that the 50% property tax rebate sanction letter was valid as long as I was the owner of the property.

He advised me to get at least 10 photocopies of the letter made since one copy would be required to be submitted every time I paid my annual property tax.

Later, I realized that the rebate actually worked out to be roughly only 20% of the total amount, since the 50% rebate was only on the basic property tax element which was half of the total amount comprising various levies and charges which were not exempted, and everyone who paid on time was anyway entitled a 10% rebate, and rebates could not be combined.

I decided to pay my property tax online.

But there was a hitch.

The property tax bill was for the full amount and the ex-servicemen’s 50% rebate was not given in the bill.

If I paid online, then I would not get any rebate.

If I wanted to avail the 50% ex-servicemen’s rebate, then I was required to personally go to the ward office, stand in the queue, submit a copy of my rebate sanction letter along with the bill to the cashier, who would then calculate the rebate, and I would have to pay accordingly.

I did this for three years.

It seemed to be working fine, except for the inconvenience that I was not able to pay my property tax online.

Today morning, when I went to pay my annual property tax at the Thergaon Ward Office of PCMC, I was in for an unpleasant surprise.

When my turn came, the cashier told me that the procedure had changed, and now I had to get a new rebate sanction every year, and there was a new form to be filled for ex-servicemen’s rebate and he asked me to meet a certain clerk.

I showed the cashier my sanction letter and previous 3 years property tax receipts in which the 50% ex-servicemen’s concession was given.

But the cashier was not impressed and asked me to meet the clerk.

The clerk told me I would have to go through the entire procedure once again as the “powers-that-be” had decreed that property tax rebate sanction letter was to be issued every year.

In addition, I was required to get a letter from the local municipal corporator who would certify my identity. 

(the Armed Forces Retired Officers Identity Card has no value as far as these municipal authorities are concerned).

I had to get a certificate from my bank that I was alive as on date.

(The fact that I was standing in front of the municipal clerk and showing him my retired armed forces identity card did not matter).

I was also required to make an affidavit that I owned only the one house in PCMC area for which I was claiming ex-servicemens rebate.

I had done all this running around and paperwork before.

Yes, I had undergone this entire harrowing experience 3 years ago when applying for the 50% rebate in Property Tax for the first time, and I was told that the sanction letter would be valid for my lifetime.

I did a quick mental calculation.

Was it worth disturbing my peace of mind by going through all the hassle, paperwork, red tape, the running around, petrol costs and waste of time for the modest amount of money I was saving by way of the 50% (in effect 20%) rebate?

Besides, what was the guarantee that even if I went through all this trouble, the “powers-that-be” would issue the rebate sanction letter before the deadline for availing rebate 30 June 2014?

Worst of all, I felt bad at the rude way in which I was being treated, despite identifying myself as a military veteran.

There may be a lot of rhetoric eulogizing military veterans.

But the fact of the matter is that civilians do not care for military veterans; especially civilian government servants and municipal employees who seem have a dislike for ex-servicemen.

I did not want to be treated like a beggar and made to run around from pillar to post just to suit the whims and fancies of the “powers-that-be”, despite the fact that I had a proper sanction letter.

I decided not to avail the 50% ex-servicemen’s rebate and I paid the full amount.

Since I will not be availing the ex-servicemen’s concession, from next year onwards I will save myself the trouble of personally going to the ward office and I am going to pay my property tax online like all civilians do.

I was angry at the attitude of the municipal employees which seemed to suggest:

“If you retired military veterans want a concession, then we will harass you and make you run around from pillar to post – we will humiliate you and make you beg for it”.

If PCMC wants to give a property tax concession to ex-servicemen, why not give it gracefully?

Is “ex-servicemen’s welfare” a myth?

Why does every organization which is supposed to help ex-servicemen and look after their welfare, be it CSD, ECHS etc, make military veterans run around from pillar to post for what is their rightful due?

By making procedures difficult, isn’t it tantamount to denying facilities to ex-servicemen?

Why not simplify things for military veterans?

Most military veterans are senior citizens, many in advanced age and poor health.

Instead of having multiple identity cards for each entitlement/facility, why not have just one biometric ex-servicemen’s card (like Aadhaar) which is applicable for all entitlements of military veterans?

India has recently elected a new government under the leadership of a dynamic Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, from whom everyone has high expectations.

Military veterans have high expectations from the new Prime Minister and his Government.

We military veterans and ex-servicemen hope that procedures will be simplified, corruption will be eliminated, efficiency of the government machinery will be improved and a message will be passed down to civilian government employees to treat military veterans and war widows with dignity and respect and give them their due in a helpful manner.

We trust that “ex-servicemen’s welfare” will become a reality.

Once again I appeal to the “powers-that-be” and all citizens:

Please do not treat military veterans like beggars.

If you do not want to give any concessions to military veterans and war widows, please do not give them.

But if you do decide to give concessions to military veterans and war widows, please deliver the promised benefits to military veterans seamlessly, with grace, efficiency and dignity.

Please do not humiliate military veterans and widows of martyrs by making them run from pillar to post begging for what has been promised to them.

JAI HIND

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