President’s Secretariat has given vague reply to my RTI on ex-service chiefs open letter, says Lokesh Batra

New Delhi, Sept.24 (ANI): Commodore (Retired.) Lokesh Batra has claimed that President Pranab Mukherjee’s Secretariat has given “incomplete, vague and misleading information” to his RTI response of September 12, 2015, in which he had sought details of the date when President Pranab Mukherjee and the President’s Secretariat would act on the letter written by several ex-service chiefs on the ‘One Rank, One Pension’ scheme.

Maintaining that the OROP issue and his RTI request needs to be treated under the “Life and Liberty Clause of the RTI Act”, Commodore (Retired) Batra said that he had sent an e-mail letter to the President’s Military Secretary, Major General Anil Khosla on September 2, to respond, process and perused his RTI on the letter written by four former service chiefs to the President. The same e-mail had earlier been sent to N.K. Sudhansu, Director and CPIO.

He reiterated his demand of being provided with list of file(s)/records with reference numbers on which the said Letter/Petition/Memorandum of former chiefs of armed forces was being processed.

Commodore Batra said that the CPIO, President’s Secretariat’s Response to his RTI was as follows:

(a) “The petition in question has been received through e-mail. All concerned were apprised about the petition on 17.08.2015. A copy of the petition is enclosed herewith.

(b-c) The petition was forwarded to the Prime Minister’s Office vide I.D. No. 18/09/2015-P-1, dated 5.09.2015 (copy enclosed)”

Commodore (Retired) Batra said that he sent a rejoinder to the President’s Secretariat on September 15 and again on September 17, wherein he categorically said that the response of the latter was vague and not to the point, and demanded “point-wise factual information”.

He said that the CPIO, President’s Secretariat’s response was as follows:

“The information provided to you vide letter of even number dated 12.09.2015 is as per records of the President’s Secretariat. You have been provided the copy of the petition, which has been forwarded to the Prime Minister’s Office. However, a copy of the e-mail, as requested by you, is being enclosed herewith.”

Commodore (Retired) Batra said that the CPIO, President’s Secretariat, had not only provided misleading information by not specifically mentioning the date when the President had perused the said letter, but had also not provided him with a certified photocopy of the said letter/petition/memorandum that had been perused by the President and other senior officers of the President’s Secretariat.

He also highlighted the fact that the CPIO, President’s Secretariat, ironically had provided him with a copy of the text of the petition and not the e-mail copy received and perused by the President.

Commodore (Retired) Batra said that he was extremely disappointed with the delay in implementation of the OROP scheme, as also the delay from the President’s Office in responding to the open letter of the four former service chiefs (General S.F. Rodrigues; Admiral L. Ramdas, Admiral Arun Prakash and Admiral Suresh Mehta).

He said, “It can be inferred from the CPIO, President’s Secretariat’s two responses, that no action was taken on the petition/open letter of the four former service chiefs to the President.”

The four former service chiefs had earlier written an open letter to President Mukherjee requesting his intervention in the OROP issue, and said that its denial is merely the last straw that has exhausted the veterans’ patience.

“Firstly, denial of OROP is merely the last straw that has exhausted the veterans’ patience. It appears to be the culmination of a process by which successive Pay Commissions have been used to whittle down the financial and protocol status of the military over the years vis-a-vis their civilian counterparts. Since no rationale has ever been offered for this steady decline in status of the military, the obvious conclusion is that it has been orchestrated to prove that the key to ‘civilian control’ of the military lies in bringing it on par with the police and paramilitary forces, and making it subservient to the bureaucracy,” said the open letter signed by former army chief General S F Rodrigues, and former navy chiefs Admirals L Ramdas, Arun Prakash and Sureesh Mehta.

“The hostile approach of MoD bureaucracy was earlier demonstrated, in 2007-08, when the 6th Pay Commission anomalies were required to be resolved. Their insensitive and antagonistic handling of problems related to pensions and allowances of aging veterans, war widows and battle-casualties led many to approach the courts. This not only created a deep civil-military divide but eventually forced a disciplined and politically-neutral segment of society into the jaws of party-politics,” the letter adds. (ANI)

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