Compensation for disability incurred in war or war-like-situations is at present paltry and highly inadequate. Although slightly higher in some respects than what is given to those disabled due to other causes, it continues to be at ridiculously low levels. This does not send the correct message to the environment and does not inspire confidence in the Governments policies to look after the interests of those who sacrifice their limbs and vital organs on the battlefield.
Now that the emoluments of all government servants are being scrutinised and revised by the Sixth Pay Commission, it is appropriate and timely to consider the concerns of the war disabled, so that these are met to a substantial degree.
This needs to change, so that potential soldiers do not hesitate to join the armed forces in future, on account of this perception that the war wounded are being callously ignored. Now that the emoluments of all government servants are being scrutinised and revised by the Sixth Pay Commission, it is appropriate and timely to consider the concerns of the war disabled, so that these are met to a substantial degree.
It needs to be reiterated at the outset that the compensation to the war disabled must always be at a higher rate, in all respects, than comparative disability on account of non-war like situations. The reason is obvious. When soldiers and officers go into battle, they know they may be wounded, get disabled or killed. It is thus a conscious decision. In other cases, it is on account of an accident or a medical problem, which was neither foreseen nor planned for. If this distinction is not maintained, why should officers and men risk their lives and limbs in the service of the nation?
Soldiers sacrifice their lives & limbs for many reasons, like national pride, pride in the regiment and unit, high level of motivation and above all the understanding that the nation will look after his next of kin (NOK), if he meets his death on the battlefield and look after him and his family if he is disabled in action. Till the Kargil War, financial compensation in both situations was highly inadequate, but thereafter while compensation to the NOK of martyrs was increased, no thought was given to the monetary compensation to those officers, JCO’s and men who got disabled in action. This situation continues.
The plight of the disabled and their families is no less than the NOK who have lost their husband or son – their breadwinner and their security. The disabled personnel who have lost their limbs or other vital organs may be alive, but as earning heads of a household they are akin to the soldiers who have died on the battlefield. In addition, the disabled person not only has to cope with the trauma and adverse psychological impact of losing parts of his body, but his physical capacity to earn is permanently impaired, in fact substantially reduced.
The monetary compensation paid to the NOK of martyrs i.e. those killed in battle or in other warlike situations, and that paid to disabled soldiers must be nearly equal and not over ten times less, as it is now. This is further amplified in succeeding paragraphs.
As soon as the first medical board is held post-disablement, the disability percentage must be quantified and monetary compensation paid to the disabled person at the same rates as paid to the NOK of martyrs, but in the proportion of their disabilities.
There are two types of adverse effects on personnel who become disabled on account of wounds sustained in war or war-like-situations. Firstly, on account of the trauma, their productive capacity diminishes. Secondly, the psychological effect is to amplify the serious problems that are likely to manifest as the person grows older.
It needs to be appreciated that as the disabled person becomes older, his capacity for productive work continues to decrease, even as his disability remains what it was. As an example, the productivity level of a soldier who has lost one or more limbs and has been fitted with prosthesis may be only marginally less than an able-bodied person of similar age, when he is young, but as he ages, the productivity levels fall substantially and in exponential terms.
The above table relates only to the physical impact of different types of disabilities. When the psychological effects are added, the percentages at each level get reduced by as much as half. The above table also does not reflect the condition of those with 100% disabilities & those confined to wheelchairs or to their beds. They are not productive at all, irrespective of their age.
Consequently, the first recommendation is that the disabled officers, JCO’S, or jawans be treated at par with martyrs and be given monetary compensation at the same level or nearly same level as is given to the NOK of martyrs, of same rank and service.
It is patently wrong to think that the Government is doing a favour to the war disabled by retaining him in service; it is in fact the duty and an obligation of the Government, as it is the employer.
Modalities for Payment
The suggested modalities are that as soon as the first medical board is held post-disablement, the disability percentage must be quantified and monetary compensation paid to the disabled person at the same rates as paid to the NOK of martyrs, but in the proportion of their disabilities. Thus, a 100 percent disabled person must get similar compensation as a martyr and those assessed with lower percentage of disabilities must get 75 percent or 50 percent of the amount, depending on the assessed disability percentage. This must not be constrained or restrained by whether the individual is boarded out or is retained in service. Retention in service must not be considered as a dole or a substitute for the compensation. The rationale is that firstly, the lost limb remains lost forever, whether one remains in uniform or not and secondly, the second career of a disabled person is, in effect, another career, whether it is in uniform or out of it. It is patently wrong to think that the Government is doing a favour to the war disabled by retaining him in service; it is in fact the duty and an obligation of the Government, as it is the employer.
There are no doubt a few examples of disabled defence personnel, who have opted to continue in service and competed successfully with their able-bodied colleagues, but their cases need to be looked at as exceptions and not the rule. The financial condition of most disabled defence persons is pitiable, exceptions notwithstanding. This can only be mitigated by an appropriate financial package, as has been recommended.
For the purpose of all types of concessions, monetary or in kind, there should neither be differentiation between those retained in service and those boarded out, nor relative to different wars and operations in which they were disabled. Thus, a person losing his leg in the 1965 Indo-Pak War or 1971 India-Pakistan War or in the1999 Kargil War or in any other war or operations against insurgents, terrorists, militants etc., must get monetary compensation at the same level. This is also applicable to the NOK of all martyrs, irrespective of the war or warlike operations in which they sacrificed their lives.
A person losing his leg in the 1965 Indo-Pak War or 1971 India-Pakistan War or in the 1999 Kargil War or in any other war or operations against insurgents, terrorists, militants etc. must get monetary compensation at the same level.
As a rule, therefore, all war disabled personnel must be treated at one level, not in accordance with the war or war-like situation in which they had fought. Neither should there be any differentiation between those who opt to remain or are retained in service and those who are boarded out.
War Injury Pension
The present method of fixing war injury pension, as a lumpsum for 100 percent disability and proportionate amounts for disabilities less than 100 percent, is meaningless as the value of such pension gets eroded very fast.
The war injury pension must be related to the pay, including dearness allowance for all war disabled personnel. It must be granted at the rate of salary last drawn, but not less than the salary of a Havildar in the case of Other Ranks, not less than the salary of a Subedar Major in the case of JCO’s; and not less than the salary of a Colonel in the case of officers, for 100 percent disability. The rationale is that these are the ranks that the person would have reached if he had not been disabled in war or war-like-operations. For those assessed below 100 percent disability, it should be proportionate to the two lower slabs of disability, viz. 75 and 50 percent respectively. This must be applicable to all war disabled personnel, irrespective of whether they are retained in service or are boarded out on medical grounds.
Constant Attendance Allowance
For seriously disabled personnel, with 100 % disability, the Constant Attendance Allowance must be granted as hitherto fore, but not at the ridiculously low rate of Rs 600 per month. Constant attendance implies round-the-clock attendance, which means three eight hourly shifts per attendant, per day. The Constant Attendance Allowance must not be a lumpsum, as the value of any sum granted will be eroded within one year. Instead, the allowance should be a percentage of total pension i.e. combination of service element and war injury element. The recommended rate of Constant Attendance Allowance for all ranks is 25 percent of the total pension or Rs. 6000, whichever is more.
For seriously disabled personnel, with 100% disability, the Constant Attendance Allowance must be granted as hitherto fore, but not at the ridiculously low rate of Rs 600 per month.
All war disabled personnel, whether retained in service or boarded out, must be authorised Special War Disabled Conveyance Allowance at the rate of 25 percent of their pay or total pension (i.e. service element plus war injury element), as the case may be. Increase of Dearness Allowance, to offset increased cost of living, must also be applicable. It needs to be appreciated that war disabled personnel have special needs of transportation, unlike their able-bodied colleagues.
There are two facets to their conveyance requirements. Firstly, war disabled personnel require modifications to ordinary vehicles, which may be four wheelers or two wheelers. This implies enhanced cost for buying the vehicle and enhanced wear and tear to the vehicle. In addition, a large number cannot drive any vehicle, because of their disability and, therefore, need to be driven by another person. This again implies enhanced cost of running of vehicles.
Exemption of Income Tax
The entire compensatory financial package to the war disabled must be exempt from income tax. This must include all ex-gratia payments, both the service and war injury elements of the pension, Constant Attendance Allowance and other allowances. Exemption of income tax should also be applicable to those retained in service and drawing pay, instead of pension. As has been highlighted earlier, except the ex-gratia payment, all other pay & allowances must be counted towards enhancements on account of dearness allowance.
Rationalisation of Categories
There are at present many categories of war disabled personnel, like those boarded out on medical grounds, those seeking voluntary retirement, those retiring after completing pensionable service, and those who retire on superannuation. These are unnecessary and need to be rationalised by having only one set of rules for all categories. It needs to be appreciated that the disability of the war disabled person remains the same, irrespective of when he leaves service.
The message that needs to go to all ranks is that both NOK of martyrs and war disabled personnel will be adequately compensated for their sacrifices on the battlefield. Sadly, this aspect is completely lacking in the present dispensations for the war disabled. Even the little that is granted as compensation for limbs and organs left on the battlefield is couched in ifs and buts of bureaucratise and the penchant of our financial mandarins and accountants, to obfuscate issues in language which even officers, not to speak of soldiers, find difficult to decipher.
Other Disabled Personnel
Notwithstanding the above, it must also be stated that cases of personnel disabled on account of other reasons also need to be viewed with utmost sympathy and care. It would be fair and reasonable if the compensation between war-disabled and those disabled on account of other causes is in the ratio of three to one in all respects.
It would be fair and reasonable if the compensation between war-disabled and those disabled on account of other causes is in the ratio of three to one in all respects.
Summary of Recommendations
The following recommendations have been made in this paper, which need to be considered by the Sixth Central Pay Commission: –
- Ex-gratia payment to all war disabled personnel at the same rates as paid to NOK of martyrs, in accordance with their percentage of disability, assessed by the first post-disability medical board. No distinction between those retained in service and those boarded out.
- War Injury Pension at the rate of last pay drawn, including dearness allowance, subject to not being less than the salary of a Havildar in the case of Other Ranks, not less than the salary of a Subedar Major in the case of JCO’s; and not less than the salary of a Colonel in the case of officers, for 100 percent disability.
- Constant Attendance Allowance at the rate of 25 percent of total pension or Rs. 6,000.00, whichever is more.
- Need to rationalise categories by having only one category for all war disabled personnel.
It is essential that they are compensated fully for their sacrifices in the service of the nation and not merely given token relief as is the norm now.
- Special War Disabled Conveyance Allowance for all war disabled personnel at the rate of 25 percent of pay or total pension.
- Exemption of income tax on entire financial package.
- Ratio of compensatory package between war disabled and other disabled personnel must be three to one.
The plight of war disabled personnel has neither been appreciated nor recognised till now. They need to be considered at par with those officers and soldiers who lay their lives in the service of the nation. The compensatory package for the war disabled must take into account the years and decades ahead of them as disabled persons, the adverse psychological impact of their disabilities, the need to ensure that they lead an honourable life and the dire need of sending a message to the environment that the Government will ensure that adequate monetary compensation is paid, not only to the NOK of our martyrs, but also to those officers and jawans who lose their limbs and vital organs in war and warlike situations. It is essential that they are compensated fully for their sacrifices in the service of the nation and not merely given token relief as is the norm now.