Army chief General Bipin Rawat | PTI
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Physical and mental health of the forces is integral to modernisation of the Indian Army.

Indian Army chief General Bipin Rawat last Thursday said that the Army is not a job provider, and warned soldiers against feigning disability.

Considering General Bipin Rawat’s audience consisted of disabled veterans and serving soldiers, there is much to be said about the forbearance of these men that they listened. No one feigns disability.

General Bipin Rawat said, “A section of soldiers and officers who call themselves disabled on grounds that they are suffering from high blood pressure, hypertension and diabetes seek concession from being deployed at difficult operational posts.” This is ironic.

Generalisation doesn’t work

It is well-known that officers with such existing conditions (and much of this expresses itself after joining service), who are out on an exercise or deputed in tough, forward or high-altitude, areas may not have access to supportive diets and medical attention. At times, they may not be able to cope with inimical terrain and have collapsed or suffered setbacks and have had to be either sent back or evacuated.

But General Bipin Rawat’s statement on ‘feigning disability’ impacts not only the credibility of the disabled soldier, but also the veracity of institutions such as the Directorate General Armed Force Medical Services (DGAFMS) and the Medical Services Advisory Committee that certify the degree of disability.

Medical conditions such as hypertension are covered by rules as ‘affected by stress and strain of military service’ and also by several judgments of the Supreme Court.

With the advances in modern medicine, ‘feigning disability’ requires a multiple and varied level of collusion. While an odd case may have slipped past the system, generalising feigned disability is disrespectful to both retired and serving personnel.


Also read: Women with disability face higher risk of sexual violence & lower access to justice in India


Government’s handling of disability cases

The Indian Army had declared 2018 as the ‘Year of the Disabled Soldiers in the Line of Duty’, a move that surely does not come too soon.

Over the years, one has seen how cases of disability have been dealt with by the government where the percentage of disability, whether the disability can be attributed to service or not, whether it was a pre-existing condition or not, has been at the discretion of the administrative and financial authorities and the pension wing of the ministry of defence.

That the issue had already been decided by a medical board and approved by the competent authority on the military side of things are of little consequence. This leads to litigation where the matter is taken to court and in the event of the decision being in favour of the litigant, the state shows its upper hand by filing Special Leave Petitions (SLPs) before the apex court. Much of this exercise is usually a waste of public money and, in several cases, the disabled soldier eventually wins his or her case.

Despite the court’s order, there are cases where the government drags its feet in terms of compliance. The forces serve in the toughest of terrains, handle all sorts of equipment, engage constantly with both insurgency and infiltration, and are away from families for long periods. The physical and mental fallout of such deployment is undeniable and leads to both physical and mental disability.

This fact was well recognised by the previous Raksha Mantri who set up a committee of experts to review service and pension matters to minimise litigation and strengthen mechanisms for redressal of grievances. The committee had four retired Generals and an eminent advocate, himself a former military officer, working extensively on disability litigation. In the said report, para 2.2.1 (page 15) specifically focuses on denial of disability benefits by incorrectly branding in-service disabilities as “neither attributable, nor aggravated by service”. The report points out that there is an inherent paradox where all stakeholders agree on granting disability pension, but more often than not this is contested in a court of law due to rigid interpretation of provisions and clauses.

Modernisation in true sense

The world over, disabled soldiers are given immense respect and their due within the system. There is a need to take this learning on board while clamouring for modernisation of the Army because the physical and mental health of the forces is as integral to modernisation as weaponry and equipment. With a steady reduction in the number of young people opting for the armed forces as a career choice, it is important that welfare of forces be demonstrated both in words and in action to attract young people to the Army.

If we want to attract the best young talent to the armed forces, there is a need to demonstrate recognition of the existing conditions of service and an understanding of the fallout it may entail.

Having said that, stating that the Indian Army is not a “means of employment” undermines other avenues of employment. While there is no doubt that the service of the soldier to the nation is most noble, every job serves its role in nation-building. Leaders need to be supportive, and should identify the gaps and build capacity to strengthen institutions.


Also read: Indian Army made way for government to resolve Kashmir, but politics failed


The author is a former civil servant and has worked with the ministry of defence. Her views here are personal.

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37 COMMENTS

  1. Army Regulation 53 of 1961
    Officers Compulsorily Retired on account of Age or on Completion of Tenure
    53. [(1) An officer retired on completion of tenure or
    on completion of terms of engagement or on attaining the age of 50 years (irrespective of their period of
    engagement), if found suffering from a disability attributable to or aggravated by
    military Service and recorded by service Medical Authorities, shal
    l be deemed to have been invalided out of service and shall be granted disability pension from the
    date of retirement,

  2. This article is a gross abuse of “Freedom of Expression” and at best highlights the disconnect the Civil Services have with respect to the situation at level zero.
    On behalf of officers, misrepresentation of health parameters is not uncommon but definitely not exceptional. Of course it cannot be generalised but nothing in Gen Rawat’s comment suggests that he intends to generalise either.
    There are quite a few accounts that one close to institution gets to know. Unscrupulous senior officers (lets accept we are not in a perfect world and there are a few grey sheep) tend to under-report health issues when it comes to matters concerning promotions and over-report when it comes to maximising pension benefits and avoiding postings in high risk zone. This they do, not always through collusion with Medical Services but also by bringing down on the Medical Officer all clout and tantrums that they can muster.
    I have known Medical Officers who within their own capabilities tend to extend maximum pension benefits for ‘requesting’ soldiers and ORs on their own philanthropic volition. So there are a whole lot of nuances that this article of 700 odd words does not cover or does not care to cover.
    General Rawat knows his game too well and he is not off the mark by minutest CEP.

  3. There is a statement where the author states without ambiguity “no one feigns disability”. So if there is a case where “feigning disability” is proven, should the author be referred to and held liable ?

  4. The author does not know anything of the field situation. Even at the cost of being unpopular, General Rawat’s observations are borne out of his complete loyalty to the organisation that he is leading. All soldiers have a bounden duty to remain fit for all types of duties. General was not talking of battle casualties but of lifestyle diseases such as obesity, hypertension, diabetes. Good English is no substitute for good research…and that too by stepping out in the field

    • I guilt endorse your views. There Are people who for monetary gains have managed disability pension . It is the income tax and all disabilities are50% now . For lawyers it has become a big business to fight the case in the court.

  5. Very well written article. Armed forces do not feign diseases. And in this age how do you feign disease. Diagnosis of Diabetes , hypertension are given only after blood tests and many observations by qualified doctors. And service conditions can be quite dangerous for soldiers and in turn for their colleagues also. So it is sort of idiotic statement by our esteemed General! Some actual “Anti- national” statement by CAS !!

  6. Ratna …its a pity that this issue is coming from civil servant and not from somebody from top brass who are proving to be insensitive! Kudos to you!

  7. Ratna Vishwanathan missed it entirely … The Chief probably meant that the convonent with the Disabled Soldiers is sacrosanct to the Army ethos and they would be looked after. While those avoiding service in difficult situations would be treated differently. And that’s quite fair! Why read an entire philosophy into a simple statement!!!

  8. Army chief knows exactly what he speaks and this he has said after his 40 years of service. Trend must stop. Lady has been made a face to write by some category chap who is enjoying the benefits unduly. Real disabled or war wounded casualties will never raise any doubts and Gen knows every bit of cookery. He is very much within his right to discipline the organisation.

  9. Instead of a negative comment ,the COAS should have made a mention about the sudden increase in the incidence of Non communicable diseases amongst the soldiers and the need to have a scientific study to achieve a significant reduction in te same to improve the operational preparedness of the Indian Armed Forces

  10. Reply from AG Branch to me on Disability exemption case processed by my case i.e Disability IT exemption is only to invalidated out & not to all disabled.

    My counter reply to AG for half baked reply


    Dear Sir,

    CBDT claification dated 02 Jul 2001 stipulates exemption of IT on entire disability pension i.e. disability element and service element of disabled officer. Please reconcile.

    Regards
    …..
    Respected Sir

    1. The point clarification by CBDT is that income tax exemption is only for invalidated out person
    & Not across board for all disabled pensioners.
    2. Further it states that PDA should segregate both categories
    Invalidated out ( exempted for IT for both elements)
    &
    Normal discharged ( not exempted for any portion .

    3.
    Kindly read again

    it is stated that as per Regulation-173 of Pension Regulations for the Army Part-I (1961) the disability pension will be granted to those individuals who has been invalided out from service on account of a disability which is attributable to or aggravated by military service. The disability pension consist of two Element
    i.e. Service Element and Disability Element.

    It is also mentioned that as per Regulation-179 of Pension Regulations for the Army Part-I (1961), the disability element will be admissible in discharge cases, which will be in addition to service pension.

    Further, it is stated that as per clarification given by department of Revenue CBDT letter dated 02.07.2001, the exemption from income tax is to be allowed on both the element of disability pension i.e. service element and disability element.

    As per the clarification given in the ibid CBDT letter, it reveals that the exemption in income tax is allowed only in invalided out cases where the individual is in receipt of service element and disability element

    not for those who have been discharged from service with disability and in receipt of service pension and disability element.

    In view of the above, the stand of the CBDT is very much clear and it is up to the PDA’s level to deduct the income tax properly bifurcating both the categories

    i.e. invalided out and discharge cases.

    Sd/-

    Sr.AO (Pen)

    No. Gts/Tech/0182/E-mail/II
    Dated: January 05, 2016

    With best wishes

    Col LAMBA

    • @Sr.AO(Pen) Kindly see Army Regulation 53 of 1961,which states :-
      53. [(1) An officer retired on completion of tenure or on completion of terms of
      engagement or on attaining the age of 50 years (irrespective of their period of
      engagement), if found suffering from a disability attributable to or aggravated by
      military Service and recorded by service Medical Authorities, shall be ” deemed to
      have been invalided out of service ” and shall be granted disability pension from the
      date of retirement, if the accepted degree of disability is 20 percent or more……..
      Please reconcile.
      http://pcdaswc.nic.in/ebooks/Pension%20Regulation-Army%20Pt-I.pdf

  11. A) IT doesn’t deduct TDS
    B) It is duty of PDA to deduct TDS
    C)It is duty of pensioner to apprise PDA whether normal Disability discharge or invalidated out Disability
    D) If government can give Rank Pay arrears from 1986 with 6% interest then why cannot it recover past IT with 6% interest.
    E) It is mistake of Army HQ also that they have not clearly segregated the two categories
    F) Mistakes of Pensioner taking benefits of doubt for personal benefits
    G) IT laws are crystal clear
    No one can evade tax

  12. A very well written article.Gen Rawat must learn not to speak on a subject which he has not studied thoroughly before expressing his opinion/views even when he is talking to a gathering of troops who only listen and are not allowed to ask question on the subject as per customs of services …

  13. the author may not be aware of the situation on medical disabilities in armed forces. the issue has been brought out by various agencies of armed forces and advisory to the effect are circulated regularly. so feigning is there, and it costs the honest soldiers. general is cent percent correct.

  14. Its a fact.who is gen rawat to decide a soldiers disability.is he a medical professional.hypertension and diabetes are due to stress of military srvice more often than not.why should someone feign these dibilitating diseases.who wants to take insulin to survive and antihypertensive drugs lifelong and he means people fake it to gain a few thousand rupees rubbish.

  15. What a joke! I personally know a few policemen who feign BP and hypertension disability to get extra pension from the govt. The writer is starkly misinformed. Do not criticise for the sake of criticising. As a donator to Print I expect quality journalism not this shoddy piece of work.

  16. Either you are totally dumb or too shrewd.. Such kind of article depicts that u r just a pestitute who is saying homilies and sermon under higher command

  17. This is pretty true, off late gen. Has been giving few comments not needed necessarily.
    I am not sure here if he meant something else but surely he being at such high and dignified position, he should have chosen his words more carefully.

    1.Army not ready for women in combat roles, not at all agreed. Gen. Pls think again
    2. Soldier should not feign disability. Sir again something this is not out of choice

  18. I believe that this article if not written then is highly influenced by some individual of the same category, whom the Chief was referring.

  19. Dear Sir,
    Feigning happens everywhere. Army is no exception. During IPKF action many soldiers usrd to bring non poisonous snakes with puncture marks on their body to feign snake bite…..So the General is not wrong in warning these type of people. We should appreciate his straight talk

    • You are joking. firstly I served in Srilanka for two years and never heard of such like things. Secondly you I guess dont know the difference between the bite marks of a poisonous snake and a non-poisonous one. The medicos in the Army can clearly differentiate between them. A non poisonous hardly ever bites.

  20. Idiotic article….someone who is not in the org can speak so I’ll about it can only happen in this great Country….
    Dont just write for the sake of publicity or becoming famous coz this has become a trend these days…ANTI ARMY SLOGANS…
    SHUT UP UR UGLY MOUTH AND DO WHAT U WR PAID TO DO.

  21. Very well written article. Only those can understand the essence of this article who have seen these problems rather closely. Thanks.

  22. My respects to madam Ratna v for such studied article,she knows her subject and has made a strong case for the dusabled soldier,thank u,may be general rawat has pointed a finger at the competence of the medical wings of Tri services too,as it is,it is very difficult to get a low med category for life style diseases from medical corps and an officer can die in high altitude with such ailments,may be the generals sentiments were reflected in 7 CPC comments on disability and which was taken on the advise of a biased idas officer and a retired judge who belonged to judge griddle goose genre .

  23. Ma’am,
    Completely agree with your assessment. Hypertension and diabetes, used by General as example, cannot be feigned as they clearly show a numerical value. Despite there being clear guidelines in disability, there are ambiguities while implementing and General has generously added to it.

  24. Dear friends Being an officer He has spent His entire lfe in AC offices
    He has no idea about stress and difficulties being faced by Jawan

    • I have served as officer in for 18 years & never got an ac office. I have served in 48c to -20 c temperature alongside my troops. Officers not being with troops may be happening in CPOs, if you know what CPOs are, but in army officers serve in all places where troops do.

    • You are wrong . The chief is an ing officer he would have face more hardship than a Jawan like you. See and compare the casualty ratio both during war and peace and you shall regret commenting.

    • Vikas Ji, I served for 26 years in Army. Never got an AC office even for 24 hrs. Speak only when you have authentic information. AC in offices are authorised at public expense to Maj gen and above. Mate get your facts right.
      The Print, you need to change your name to The Mis-Print. Your articles need to be researched thoroughly.

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