The government has been accused of trying to take away defence officers' free ration, but the latter are having none of it.
Following the recommendations of the 7th Pay Commission, the Centre has decided to replace the free ration entitlement to officers in peace postings with a daily ration allowance of ₹96.03, effective July 1.
But now, it has received a legal notice demanding a reversal of the order within 60 days.
The notice was sent to Defence Secretary Sanjay Mitra by Colonel Mukul Dev, the Deputy Judge Advocate-General of Headquarters 12 Corps in Rajasthan. In it, Col Mukul Dev threatens to go to court if the order is not reversed, reported The Times of India.
Col Dev says that the government's decision is illegal, since it alters the conditions of his service without his written consent.
In his notice, Col Dev claimed that he joined the army in 1988 after he came across a UPSC advertisement/ notification in a newspaper about the Combined Defence Services examination. According to him, his decision to join the army was predicated on the provision of free ration, as was spelled out in the terms and conditions of the notification. According to the TOI report, Col Dev claims that since there was no clause mentioning that the ration could be substituted for money at any time in the future, the government's decision to offer money in lieu of ration violates the terms of his employment. He added that the decision is illegal, since it alters the conditions of his service without his written consent.
The notice, sent on July 1, was served under Section 80 of the Civil Procedure Court.
The government's decision to substitute ration with money had not gone down well with both serving and retired officers, who claimed that an allowance of roughly ₹3,000 a month was not sufficient. Another bone of contention was that they would be taxed twice: once as income tax on the allowance and second in the form of GST on food items.
Those rates are low as we (ASC) buy in bulk. It would have been better if it was based on existing retail rates that would be around ₹250 a day.
Hindustan Times, in a report, quoted Lieutenant General (Retd) SPS Katewa from the Army Service Corps (ASC), responsible for procuring the rations, as saying, "The rate (₹96.03/day) was worked out by factoring in the army's all-India existing procurement rates. Those rates are low as we buy in bulk. It would have been better if it was based on existing retail rates that would be around ₹250 a day."
Col (retd) SC Tyagi, who also served in the ASC, told TOI that the move to withdraw free ration would demoralise officers, since armed forces are always at work, irrespective of their locations.
"An officer has to lead the troops but how is he/she supposed to do that when they will have this added burden of looking after grocery shopping as well, since most cantonments are not self-sufficient and closest markets are usually a few kilometres away?" he was quoted as saying.
The government made the decision after allegations of widespread corruption in food supply in the defence forces came to light and several ASC officials were arrested.
The government's decision, despite the backlash over the sum of the allowance, was not without merit. It was taken when allegations of widespread corruption in food supply in the defence forces came to light and several ASC officials were arrested, according to a report in The New Indian Express. Before the monetary allowance scheme, the army, navy and air force officers in peace postings were supplied rations, which included foodgrains, meat, fruits, vegetables, groceries, and even LPG, by the ASC.
However, in its last audit report, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) came down heavily on ASC's procurement and distribution malpractices. According to the report, 82% of procurement was based on less than three quotations and 36% based on single quotations, leading to massive cost escalation.
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