Gallant Woes
By Maxwell Pereira
maxpk@vsnl.com

When I was awarded by the President for gallantry a quarter century ago, my brother beyond the Indian shores rang me up from across the oceans to congratulate and complement, and in the same breath advised me in brotherly concern not to have a repeat performance. I suppose no one likes one’s loved one to flirt with danger, irrespective of the requirements of the call of duty, or the thrill and excitement that accompanies the appeal of danger the homo sapiens are lured by. From my brother’s point of view, quite understandable.

But as perhaps expected, his advice was ignored, laughed off and soon forgotten. But post retirement from active service, I have occasion now to recall many a matter – the wisdom of many a thing done or not done while in service, the consequences and fall-outs, whatever! Especially when confronted with the common woes that invariably afflict all and sundry similarly placed in this my ‘super-annuated’ rudderless and perambulatory state and circumstance. For not even in my dreams did I ever imagine there would be hassles and woes associated with matters considered lofty as gallantry!

A benevolent government in recognition of gallant deeds of its citizens – mostly perhaps from among the (armed) services or the police – has graciously provided some perks and allowances to go with the award. A monthly monetary stipend till death calls, concession in air travel and free 2ndAC rail travel with a companion; and an exemption in the monthly rental charges (not usage) against one telephone. Unfortunately, the system has not made it easy for retirees to claim or enjoy these well-intended benefits.

On this score, perhaps a little imagination on the part of the government and its functionaries that hold its purse strings, would go a long way in smoothening up and removing many an avoidable hurdle and connected pin-pricks/ hardships from the growing list of woes the poor pensioners today are confronted with.

On retiring from active service, a pensioner is expected to fend for himself – no office accountants to prepare your bill or draw the amount from the treasury, and so on. Luckily, the system allows the pension to be directly credited to your account at a bank of your choice, indicated by you even as your pension papers are drawn up.

But no, not this facility for the gallantry stipend. This is not linked to the pesion, since the money for this is from a different Pay & Accounts office. So the pensioner with a gallantry stipend has to visit every month the concerned Pay Office, make out his bill/ application and draw the amount himself – in the bargain, forced to spend time and energy he can ill-afford, and money on transport, stationery etc which may all total to more than the meagre stipend he goes to collect. In this day and age when every transaction is encouraged by electronic transfer bank to bank, if Pay & Accounts offices for disbursal of the gallantry stipend also do the same directly into the awardee’s pesion account, it would save the pensioner that extra trip and expense every month.

Then to be entitled to the air travel concession on the government owned carrier, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has to provide you with an identity card. A one time affair, which is fair enough. However, in the face of the emergence of a plethora of new airlines charging fares today far less in amount than the concessional rate available to the Gallantry Awardees given by the Government carriers, it is time for the Government to have a rethink on this policy to see how best this ‘concession’ remains a concession to the Awardees.
Now coming to the rail pass though, the identity card to the Awardee once issued after great processing and rigmarole, requires repeat performance and renewal year after year. If this rail pass is also made a one time affair, linked to the mandatory Life Certificate the pensioner has to provide as prescribed, it would negate the additional hassle for a pensioner to visit Baroda House or Rail Bhavan repeatedly.

And finally the concession on the rental charges for the telephone.Even more strange are the ways of the telephone authorities here. Though the gallantry awardee has become entitled to the concession (exemption of rental charges) with effect from the date of notification of the concession, and consequently is entitled to be refunded/ reimbursed all money collected through extra billings done by the MTNL or other local agency concerned from the date due, the telephone authorities look the other way to deny the Awardee his due. Not only are telephone authorities not doing this, they are also totally sluggish and reluctant to give effect to the concession, at times continuing to charge the telephone rental even after the telephone connection is declared as that of a gallantry awardee. Thereby expecting the awardee every month to knock at its doors to rectify the error.

A Government concerned over the problems of its people, I am sure, would want to intiate remedial measures.

900 words: 17.08.2005: Copy Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23, Gurgaon-122002. You can interact with the author at http:// www.maxwellperira.com and maxpk@vsnl.com

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