Tuesday, June 17, 2014


An Ex-Serviceman’s Earnest Appeal

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 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, certifying my identity and that I am alive (the Armed Forces Retired Officers Identity Card has no value as far as these authorities are concerned).

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 way 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; especially civilian government 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 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 make you run around from pillar to post and beg for it”.

If PCMC wants to give a 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?

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 seamlessly with grace, efficiency and dignity, and please do not make military veterans and widows of martyrs run from pillar to post begging for what has been promised to them.


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