THE MYTH OF EX SERVICEMEN WELFARE
RETIRED MILITARY VETERANS ARE A FORGOTTEN AND NEGLECTED
When you are in active service, in the army, navy or air force, you are expected to carry out all orders promptly and execute all actions with speed and despatch and do your work in an efficient and proficient manner with initiative and ingenuity.
However the same reciprocity is not shown to you by those meant to serve you, especially after you retire.
One of the biggest myths being propagated is that ex-servicemen are well “looked after”.
It has been my personal experience that this is not so.
The bitter fact is that once you retire you are forgotten by the service.
No one cares about you.
You are left to fend for yourself, all on your own.
Let me give you an example.
This happened a few months ago.
One afternoon I received a call from a lady.
She is a civilian employee who works in the Navy Office in Mumbai.
She had worked with me around 10 years ago in Mumbai when I was in the Navy.
She told me that there was a Supreme Court Judgement recently and, maybe, I was entitled to some arrears of pension (she had heard about this on the office grapevine when her friends from the Naval Pay Office were discussing this).
She told me that they were saying that all officers who were in service in 1986 were entitled to these arrears.
She said that everyone was applying to Naval Pay Office and that I should also apply.
I was totally clueless.
I had received no communication from the Naval Pay Office regarding this.
My Bank (the Pension Disbursing Authority) had not informed me anything in this matter.
I had not received any communication from Directorate of Ex Servicemen Welfare.
The Navy Foundation or any other ex servicemen welfare agency had not intimated anything in this connection either.
I have retired just a few years ago and all my current contact details are available with the Naval Pay Office and all Ex-Servicemen Welfare Agencies.
I have given more than 33 years of my life for the Navy.
Don’t you think that I deserve the courtesy of a letter?
Why could the powers-that-be not send me at least a simple email or give me a telephone call?
Why do the “authorities” want to make me run from pillar to post, obtaining and filling multiple forms, getting signatures, submitting them and then endlessly wait for my due?
These days the Government is encouraging Direct Cash Transfers.
Yes, DIRECT CASH TRANSFER is the new mantra of the Government and I do not know why the Navy is not implementing this.
All my service records and bank details are available with the Naval Pay Office and concerned account offices.
Why could they not directly transfer the money due to me be directly my bank account?
I just don’t understand why the navy is sticking to archaic paperwork procedures when the whole world has moved on to Information Technology and Electronic Cash Transactions?
Why can’t the navy make efficient and proper use of Information Technology to make life easier for ex-servicemen?
It looks like the powers-that-be suffer from prosophobia (fear of progress) and are reluctant to modernize.
THE PLIGHT OF EX SERVICEMEN
I was an officer in the navy.
I am well educated and I live in a big city with reasonable resources.
Despite this, I feel neglected, clueless and hapless due to lack of information and difficult access to benefits and facilities meant for ex-servicemen.
So just try to imagine the state of a veteran soldier, sailor or airman living in a remote village.
It is terrible that hapless veteran ex-servicemen are being made to run from pillar to post to get their dues and benefits.
Most ex-servicemen are senior citizens.
Many veterans are in advanced old age suffering from various ailments.
Soldiers have given the best years of their lives to the nation performing their tough duties with loyalty, sincerity and alacrity.
When I was in IAT, I saw the plight of aged ex-servicemen settled in the villages in the vicinity.
For every issue they had to travel all the way to the ex-servicemen offices and Station HQ in Pune City despite having a service establishment in the vicinity.
We tried our best to alleviate their problems to the extent possible.
When you are in active service you always have a comforting feeling that the service is there to look after you and the welfare of your family.
The moment you retire you feel abandoned and lonely.
You are left to fend for yourself and your family.
You are left all on your own without anyone to hold your hands in times of need.
You realize that all the tall claims about ex-servicemen welfare are just a myth.
The harsh reality is that once you retire, no one in service bothers about you.
You realize that unlike what you were told, once you retire, the defence services was just like any other job.
Gratitude demands that veteran ex-servicemen be treated in a better manner.
Whether it is Pension Problems, ECHS Medical Treatment, CSD Canteen Facilities or other Ex-Servicemen Benefits, I think there is a vast scope for improvement in delivery.
I trust the powers-that-be will reflect on this and we will see some positive action.
One solution is to implement DIRECT CASH TRANSFER in lieu of various benefits like ECHS, CSD Canteen and other ex-servicemen benefits which are cumbersome to avail for most ex servicemen.
It has become a fashion to blame “civilian babus” for all ills of ex-servicemen.
I would like to point out that the lady who took the trouble of finding out my phone number and calling me up to inform me about this pension issue is a “civilian babu”.
No one in uniform showed the courtesy to communicate with me or inform me by letter, email or phone.
They say that “charity begins at home”.
First, the uniformed services must look after their own ex-servicemen and demonstrate genuine care for the veterans.
Each defence establishment and military unit must be tasked to look after the ex-servicemen living in the geographical vicinity, irrespective of the service they belong too.
Instead of “washing off their hands” and transferring the task to bureaucratic ex-servicemen welfare agencies run by civilian babus; the army, navy and air force must themselves look after the welfare of their own veterans.
There is more to ex-servicemen welfare than having get-togethers and rallies.
The defence services must demonstrate genuine welfare towards their veterans.
There is a need for an “outreach” programme approach, rather than make ex-servicemen run around to solve their problems.
Many ex-servicemen are old senior citizens who are not in the best of health.
The defence services must reach out to them and deliver welfare schemes.
Only then is it justified to have expectations from civilian babus.
All serving officers and personnel must remember that they too will be ex-servicemen one day!