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Thursday, 19 February 2015

From Today's Papers - 19 Feb 2015

Defence at the heart of ‘Make in India’: PM
Says govt could raise the current 49% cap on FDI in defence equipment manufacturing
Shubhadeep Choudhury

Tribune News Service

Bengaluru, February 18
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said defence was “at the heart of the Make in India programme” and stressed on its usefulness in terms of generation of jobs, besides ensuring a strong security scenario, in the country.

Delivering the inaugural speech at the 10th edition of Aero India here today, Modi said: “60% of India's defence equipment is imported. Studies show that even a 20-25% reduction in imports could directly create additional one lakh to 1.2 lakh highly skilled jobs.”

“If we could raise the percentage of domestic procurement from 40 to 70% in the next five years, we would double the output in our defence industry. Imagine the impact in terms of jobs created directly and in the related manufacturing and services sector! Think of the spin off benefits on other sectors in terms of advanced materials and technologies,” Modi said.

“To many of you, India is a major business opportunity”, the PM said in a remark directed at the foreign delegates. “We have the reputation as largest importer of defence equipment in the world. That may be music to the ears of some of you here. But this is one area where we would not like to be number one,” he said.

The biennial five-day air show in Bengaluru sees participation of ministers and high defence officials from various countries besides foreign and domestic military hardware manufacturers who set up their shops at the five-day exhibition.

As many as 550 companies, including 300 foreign firms, are taking part in the exhibition and Modi's speech was keenly awaited for indications to his government’s policy on attracting foreign and domestic investment in the capital-intensive defence equipment manufacturing sector.

The PM promised that the defence sector would have “room for everyone — public sector, private sector and foreign firms”, but added at the same time that preference would be given to equipment manufactured in India.

The nature of industry is such that imports will always be there, Modi said, adding that “in turn”, the transnational firms could use India as part of their global supply chain. “India can also be a base for export to third countries”, he said.

Listing steps taken by the government for relaxation of restriction on foreign investors, the Prime Minister said the permitted level of foreign direct investment in defence equipment manufacturing to 49% could go higher, if the project brought state-of-the art technology.

He added that he was “acutely aware” that the offset policy needed a lot of improvements and said the government would pursue them in consultation with domestic industry and the “foreign partners”.

The offset policy must be used to acquire state-of-the art technology and skills in core areas of priority, he said.

The Prime Minister also talked about the necessity of government's support for research and development in the defence sector and said a scheme was being introduced to provide up to 80% of funding for development of a prototype in India. The government was also launching a Technology Development Fund, he said.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, IAF chief Arup Raha were among the dignitaries present at the dais.
New policy to open up defence sector soon
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, February 18
To end confusion on the objectives of 'Make in India' for the defence manufacturing sector and to meet the aspiration of the defence procurement procedure (DPP), the Defence Ministry will issue an exclusive policy for 'Make in India' in the next two months.
Addressing media at Aero India today, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said the policy was aimed at freeing up the defence production sector and to provide flexibility which the DPP did not provide. This will include detailed guidelines for the participation of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) in a substantial way. We are planning to make it a separate policy, not as part of DPP.
At the same time, Parrikar accepted that the current DPP lacked clarity and was not well articulated. "The DPP has a lot of confusion. We need not squeeze everything into it. We are planning a comprehensive policy which will give more impetus to 'Make in India'."
On being asked about India's need to have helicopters and the need to ramp up capacity, Parrikar said HAL needs to augment its production capability. Right now, it has the capacity to make 25-30 helicopters per year, but it needs to be increased to be 50-100".
Parrikar declined to answer on when the deal will be signed for French fighter jet Rafale for the medium multi-role combat aircraft tender.
Israel, India may co-produce weapons

Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service

Bangalore, February 18
In words that formally exposed the not-so-secret strategic partnership between India and Israel, Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon today said it would be easier to do business as our relations (with India) are now open while offering partnership for the joint production of defence equipment. At global forums, India has often voted against Israel and maintained relations with its rival and neighbour Palestine but the two countries have often collaborated in the defence sector.

Ya’alon, who is the first Israeli Defence Minister to visit India since the two countries established diplomatic relations, said his country was flexible when it comes to transfer of technology. He said, “We were ready to expose relations earlier, but it was up to the Indian government to take it out from the closet.”

Addressing media here, he backed PM Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ initiative.
Paramilitary veterans to protest over denial of benefits on March 12

Vijay Mohan

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 18
After ex-servicemen holding public protests in the Capital to protest against the non-implementation of benefits promised to them by the government, retired paramilitary personnel have threatened similar action if their demands for better facilities are not met.

In a memorandum sent to Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week, the All India Central Para-Military Forces Ex-Servicemen Welfare Association has stated that its members would “picket” or ghero the Central Government Complex, that houses the headquarters of various paramilitary forces, on March 12.

The memo states that despite assurances during the general elections that the BJP government would take effective steps to provide various amenities and improve service conditions, serving and retired para-military personnel are deliberately being discriminated against.

Separate pension rules in place of the central civil service (pension) rules, grant of one rank-one pension (OROP), free medical treatment, ex-servicemen status with consequential benefits, introduction of para-military service pay and exemption of para-military forces from the ambit of the contributory pension system are among their demands..

Retired armed forces personnel have also been waging a long battle for implementation of their demands, prominent among them being OROP, which entails equal pension for the same rank and same length of service, and removal of pay and pension related anomalies resulting from implementation of successive pay commissions. They have been holding public rallies in support of their demands and returning their medals as a mark of protest.

Para-military veterans have pointed out that facilities of the Central Police Canteens have not been extended to retired personnel even after eight years. Further, the exercise of setting up Welfare and Rehabilitation Boards in states is a non-starter. They have claimed that despite being constantly deployed in tough conditions on the borders as well as on internal security duties at constant risk to life, their welfare is being ignored.
‘One rank, one pension’ a reality soon?
NEW DELHI: The much-awaited "one rank, one pension (OROP)'' for the armed forces is likely to be part of the Union budget, and could be implemented soon thereafter with the government defining "military pension'' as a category separate from other kinds of pension.

An estimated Rs 8,000 crore is likely to be allocated by the government to fulfill its commitment to the over 25 lakh ex-servicemen, who have been stridently demanding OROP for several years without much success despite all political parties promising its implementation.

Successive governments in the past have contended that granting of full OROP was neither financially nor administratively possible since it could lead to a cascading effect with similar demands being made by paramilitary personnel, among other things.

But sources said the government this time has decided that the military personnel, who retire at a much earlier age and undergo life-threatening postings, cannot be equated with other government employees. Both the finance and defence ministers, Arun Jaitely and Manohar Parrikar, have approved the step. OROP basically implies payment of uniform pension to personnel retiring in the same rank with the same length of service, irrespective of their date of retirement.

"Military pension as a category has been defined as separate from others based on a series of criteria. This takes into account the hardship factor like being posted in far-flung areas, risky life-threatening duties and long hours of hardship," a source said.

The arguments that will differentiate pensions earned by the armed forces from that of others, including paramilitary forces, is that they are the last line of defence and their pay and pension must be motivational and inspirational.

The government has also taken into account the fact that soldiers, airmen and sailors retire much earlier than their civilian counterparts and receive "aborted pension'' rather than "matured pension'' as compared to those serving in the BSF or CRPF.

"A majority of soldiers retire at an average of 34 years and receive only aborted pension as compared to those serving in paramilitary. It is also a job which has considerable hardship whether it is the life expectancy or the 24-hour nature of the work,'' the source said.

The previous UPA government had decided to implement OROP and provided a corpus of Rs 500 crore. After coming to power, NDA increased the amount to Rs 1,000 crore.
7 myth busters on ‘One Rank One Pension’ and other military veteran issues
 An environment of positivity needs to be inculcated towards our men and women in uniform. All stakeholders must shun rigidity, sit together and work towards smooth and early implementation by ironing out the creases without any delay

The very recent assurance on "One Rank One Pension", or OROP as it is colloquially known, by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar should calm some nerves. The Minister, by now known for his sensitive and humane approach, reassured military veterans that he staunchly stood behind the promise made by the Government on the subject time and again, including by the Prime Minister. A case is hence definitely made out not to read too much into the negativity floating around in the environment on the subject.

Why OROP for soldiers some may ask! Common sense is all that is required to fathom that the current cost of living equally applies to a military veteran who retired say 15 years back vis-a-vis the one who retires today in the same rank. When both go out to the grocer, they pay the same price for atta that they buy, they pay the same for the vegetables, which feed their families, they are also expected to maintain a similar level of daily life, so why the sharp difference in their pensions?

Precisely, this is the reason why the concept OROP, came into inception. At a rudimentary level, it simply means similar pension for similar rank for an equal length of service. It is not only desirable, but also highly logical. Agreeable suggestion is that ideally it must be applied to all services under the government, military or otherwise. However, we do not live in an ideal world and till that final objective is achieved for all other classes of employees, military veterans do have a case for favourable consideration as explained in the succeeding lines.

As would be expected in any democracy, departments concerned or dealing with the Armed Forces of most nations strongly stand behind their men and women in uniform and plead for the best of benefits from their respective governments. However, in our country, the Ministry of Defence (MoD), until recently, was legendary in always taking an adversarial stand against the profession of arms.

And not straying from this dubious legacy, it were elements of the same Ministry that always opposed the grant of OROP to military veterans repeatedly citing financial, administrative and legal impediments for resisting the concept, and in the bargain, attempting not only to mislead and misguide the highest of political executive, but even Parliamentary Committees.

While financial constraints are well understood and appreciated, there is never too high a price to pay for those who protect us at the peril of their lives. Under the garb of administrative constraints, it was pointed out by the Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare (DESW) of the MoD to a Parliamentary Committee in 2011 (Koshyari Committee) that OROP was not feasible to implement since documents of military personnel are weeded out after 25 years- an incorrect averment, to say the least. In reality, it is the documents of non-pensioners that are weeded out in 25 years as per Regulation 595 of the Regulations for the Army.

Moreover, the Pension Payment Orders (PPOs) of pensioners, which contain all relevant details such as the rank last held and the length of service are retained during the lifetime of each pensioner and then during the lifetime of the family pensioner in case of demise of the former. These details, which are the only two basic requirements for OROP, are also available in a document called "Long Roll", which is maintained in perpetuity in terms of Regulation 592 of the Regulations for the Army.

Of course, a complaint to the then Defence Minister related to false statements by representatives of the MoD to the Parliamentary Committee and also to Constitutional Courts did not elicit any action whatsoever, as expected. Even the legal constraints pointed out by the DESW repeatedly hold no ground since the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Maj Gen SPS Vains, being the latest on the subject, fully endorses the concept of OROP.

Another strange bogey historically put across by the establishment has been the imaginary fear that "other employees" would also start demanding OROP. This argument too is faulty at multiple levels.

Firstly, it is a fact that no civilian pensioners' body has ever opposed additional pension benefits to military veterans and mostly civilian peers have supported the cause, tacitly and even overtly.

Secondly, unique service conditions such as living away from the family in a strictly regimented, at times hazardous and highly stressful environment, maintaining two households on being posted away from family, being under a disciplinary code 24 hours a day, 365 days a year et al make an additional dispensation such as OROP all the more justified.

Thirdly, depending upon rank, soldiers start retiring at the age of 34, which is not the case in any other service including comrades of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) who also no doubt face tough service conditions.

Fourthly, civil employees are blessed with a much higher lifetime earning as compared to military employees and they also are fortunate to see multiple salary revisions through subsequent pay commissions.

Fifthly, a much higher system of calculating pensions remained applicable to the defence services till the third pay commission when it was abruptly discontinued and military pensioners were suddenly (broadly) equated with civilian pensioners in many aspects.

Sixthly, the fear of 'similar demands' also now does not hold much water since other employees (post-2004) are on a New (Contributory) Pension Scheme which is much different than the traditional pension system of the Government.

Seventhly, contrary to popular perception, and interestingly, the average life expectancy of military personnel and veterans is much lower than other civilian employees, especially at the lower ranks.

With a proactive Prime Minister, a sensitive Defence Minister and other former soldiers on Ministerial berths, the new Government has definitely given hope to defence pensioners in the well-known demands of the military community in issues such as OROP as well as other insidious matters such as the way disabled soldiers and military widows are treated by the system.

The new government, which now seems to be getting a grip of things, however must ensure that the political will in this regard is imposed and enforced with an iron fist from the top downwards towards the bottom and not the other way round.

The last few years have been witness to a deleterious culture whereby junior Section Officer and Under Secretary level officers were ruling the roost by initiating misleading noting sheets, which were approved till the very top without question.

The one-way imposition of appalling, illegal, illogical and negative policies hence emanated from below with the top brass merely affixing initials. The attitude must shift from 'how a thing cannot be done' to finding ways to move towards a constructive and positive foundation.

The Defence Accounts Department must also not be allowed to influence policy or present exaggerated figures by juggling with numbers as was seen in the last few years. The office of the Controller General of Defence Accounts (CGDA) is only responsible for accounts and auditing and must not be seen as the policy-maker as has been the case in the last few years wherein the MoD has been asking the former to draft policies and government letters related to pay, allowances and pensions of defence services.

Per chance, co-extensive with the proactive top brass in the government, the higher echelons of the military have also seen some changes including the newly appointed Adjutant General of the Army, who is expected to make a change with his sensitive and pragmatic approach.

It is a perfect opportunity for the defence services to work in tandem with the government to ameliorate the problems being faced by the veteran community. The fillip to the Veterans' Cell in the Army HQ, which is rendering excellent service, is a step in the right direction. It would in fact augur well for the system, if just like the DESW, the military too cleans up its act especially in its Personnel Services directorate and Record Offices, the elements of which are also ensconced in cobwebs of negativity and rigidity and who do not let the seniors in the chain of command look at issues with an optimistic vision.

File notings are framed in such a manner so as to ensure the elicitation of a negative decision. This attitude must change, so must the structure of initiating multiple litigation by the establishment against old veterans, disabled soldiers and military widows. Military veteran organisations too must not take extreme positions or bicker amongst themselves. In fact, the veteran community expects veteran organisations to play a beneficial role and facilitate a well-oiled overall veteran welfare machinery, bereft of politics.

The time is right, the leadership is optimal; however, it needs to be instilled and drilled into the authorities dealing with the welfare of soldiers that an environment of positivity needs to be inculcated towards our men and women in uniform. All stakeholders must shun rigidity, sit together and work towards smooth and early implementation by efficiently ironing out the creases without any delay. Friction and antagonism is not in national interest.

It is our obligation that we must rise to the occasion, aid and assist the current leadership in ensuring a better deal to our protectors. Issues concerning our veterans and also our serving soldiers have to be dealt with a caring, sympathetic, compassionate and sensitive approach and not in the environ of pessimism or  with the spirit of hyper-technicality and hyper-legalese. It is time for all of us to salute our men and women in uniform who protect our freedom in this proud democracy, not with lip-service but with steps that facilitate them in day to day life.

(Major Navdeep Singh is a practicing Advocate in the Punjab & Haryana High Court and the Armed Forces Tribunal. He was also the founding President of the Armed Forces Tribunal Bar Association. He is a Member of the International Society for Military Law and the Law of War at Brussels)

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