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Need compassion and not disdain, says 1971 war hero on Indian Army’s disability pension tax

Maj. Gen. Ian Cardozo (Retd) has written to the Army Headquarters after the latter defended taxing the disability pension for personnel.

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New Delhi: Major General Ian Cardozo (retd), a 1971 war hero, has expressed “deep anguish” over the Army Headquarters using his name to defend the tax on disability pension, saying the matter needed to be dealt with “compassion and not disdain”.

After he stepped on a landmine during the Bangladesh war, Cardozo had to amputate his own leg with his khukri to keep gangrene from setting in. He was a Major at the time, in his early 30s, but continued to serve in the Army.

In a series of tweets earlier this week, the Army had referred to Cardozo’s case, also cited by veterans against the move to tax the pension, before going on to explain how genuine injuries of personnel were being exploited by personnel for monetary benefit. Some personnel were even claiming the pension for “lifestyle diseases”, the Army said, triggering a furious backlash from active and retired soldiers on social media.



In a letter to the Army Headquarters written Wednesday, Cardozo said the disabilities painted as “lifestyle diseases” in the tweets “are fully covered under the rules for disability pension”.

He said “lifestyle diseases” are covered under the pension for defence services and central armed police forces since they are caused by service conditions such as frequent movement, exposure to operations, inability to cater to domestic requirements, lack of sleep etc.

The only “lifestyle” that a soldier knows is “military lifestyle”, he added, saying “we cannot wash our hands of soldiers who incur disabilities during the course of their service”.

“What our soldiers suffering from any disability require is care and compassion, not disdain,” Cardozo said.

“Though the tweets referred to my war injury and my commitment to the organisation despite my disability, the same was apparently used to show other disabled personnel, that is, those who are suffering from non-combat disabilities, medical conditions and ailments, in an unpleasant light,” he wrote.

“The tweet also displayed lack of proper understanding of the issue which has legal, regulatory, medical, practical and tri-service dimensions,” he added.

“The misuse of ‘broad-banding’ alleged in your tweet is also puzzling,” said Cardozo. “Broad-banding is nothing but payment to disability pensioners in three broad bands of 50/75/100% introduced by the Fifth Pay Commission w.e.f 1996 to offset medical subjectivity due to varied percentages awarded by different boards and has been mandated by the decisions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court,” he added.

Also read: Army HQ backs tax on disability pension, says unscrupulous officers have gamed the system

‘Avoid making broad statements’

The disability pension for military personnel has so far been exempt from tax. However, the finance ministry issued a notification last week, saying it will be taxable unless the beneficiary is forced out of service due to a disability sustained during service.

Adding fuel to the controversy was an unsigned letter tweeted by Finance Minister Nirmlala Sitharaman’s office. The official Twitter handle of the Army retweeted the letter, in a way owning up to it.

While soldiers who sustain disability in operational areas are entitled to a ‘war injury pension’, other ailments and medical conditions suffered while in service entitle one to a ‘disability pension’, which is half the former in value.

In his letter, Major General Cardozo also questioned the claim pertaining to the alleged misuse of the pension provisions by Generals.

It was reported in 2016 that the military’s medical services wing had warned the government two years before about an “alarming trend” of absolutely fit generals, admirals and air marshals exploiting the welfare measure by getting themselves a medical downgrade, which entitled them to better retirement benefits.

Cardozo pointed out that, percentage-wise, the incidence of disability is bound to be greater in senior ranks since they serve 20 years more than jawans and “one cannot comprehend ‘faking’ of disabilities with today’s medical diagnostics and that too after undergoing a host of medical boards”.

“If there indeed are a few instances of ‘feigned disabilities’, the loopholes may be plugged rather than broad-brushing. It is not understood why permissible benefits mandated by law are being demeaned,” he added.

“There can be no link between broad-banding with any misuse or ‘exploitation’,” he said.

“As a senior retired war disabled officer, whose name has been cited in your tweets, I would request and advise you to kindly show due sensitivity to those who are suffering from medical conditions and avoid making broad statements which not only seem demoralising but are also stigmatic to persons with disabilities,” Cardozo said.

Also read: Indian Army chief should know that no one feigns disability

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  1. Now that this government has finished with making use of the armed forces for electoral gains they have started showing their true colours. Shameless is the only thought that comes to mind.
    All perks given to politicians should be curtailed after their retirement…..

  2. Given an option to quit based on these decisions as they change the conditions of employment.why will someone stay at a place where he can be affected by these diseases if he is not working in army. Allow people to quit those who want to quit after these decisions and the government will realise the fun.

  3. Unfortunately a lot of thoughtless actions have been taken by senior leadership of Army since last 2 years against the interest of the Army. Rank & File expect Service Chiefs to guard intersts of Armed Forces & personal. Unfourtanetly the fence is eating the crop. They seem to be deaf failing to listen as to what rank & file has been talking.

  4. Folks,
    This is not even something that should have become a subject to be discussed. But then we are in Kaliyuga.
    I cannot see how the Army HQ reached such strange conclusions. The MoD is well advised to evaluate the leadership in the Army, for such actions appear to be based on someone’s fad, rather than any logical deduction.
    Disability Pensions are granted after a due process in accordance with rules and regulations. How on earth anyone can get it, unless it is granted, is something I fail to understand.
    If in a case it has been granted irregularly then almost everyone in the chain from the doctor to the Army HQ, to the PCDA, to the Auditors, to the MoD are at fault.
    How are those drawing such pension accountable.
    What a strange solution for a non- existent malady.
    Col Prem Kumar Nair (retd)

  5. “Life style diseases”. Defence service personnel have no separate life style to live compared to civil life style. Serving in inhumane conditions (hard area postings as defined in defence) for a period of minimum two years can’t be compensated by merely with “disability pension” to which a soldier (offer. or Ors.) suffers for rest of his life. Few bad characters may have misused their top position and gained monetary benefits for that rests are punished by imposing income tax is not natural justice. A foolproof system, which is quite possible in modern medical science may be introduced to curb the malpractices. The letter of 1971 “War Hero” to Army HQ may be studied on this subject. There is no mechanism to measure and compensate Wg. Cdr. Abhinandan F(P), who suffered mental and physical distress after bailout from cockpit and also of his family members. Loss of trillion of rupees by miscreants can’t be recovered by imposing income tax on disabled. Indian Railways may also consider to withdraw facilities extended to physically challenged and concession to heart and other diseases patients including their attendants to travel for treatment!!!

  6. The 1971 “War Hero” has clearly spelled out on this subject and needs no further clarification/comments. Those “Policy Makers” may gothrough with cool mind. Personnel in uniforms have no choice than to accept, be it good or bad. I feel defence personnel are baby of none.

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