A clash between the Centre and the Army is evident as the Centre's decision to stop free ration to military officers in peace postings has sparked off a legal battle.
A senior Indian Army Officer, Deputy Judge Advocate-General of Headquarters 12 Corps Col Mukul Dev sent a notice to the government through defence secretary Sanjay Mitra, and threatened to move to the court if the order is not revoked within 60 days.
On the recommendation of the 7th Central Pay Commission, the Union government put an end to the practice of giving ration-in-kind to officers from the Army, Navy and Air Force at peace stations, starting July 1, 2017. The Government took this decision on the basis of the recommendations of the three service chiefs after allegations of large-scale corruption in food supply in the armed forces. (dnaindia.com)
Mainly it is the government's decision to give an allowance of Rs 96 for daily purchase in place of paid for rations to the officers in peace areas from this July that has triggered resentment among the army officials.
In his notice, under Section 80 of the Civil Procedure Code, Col Dev stated that he joined the army in 1988 after going through an UPSC advertisement/notification in a leading newspaper regarding the Combined Defence Services examination. "Besides other terms and conditions of service clearly spelt out in the notification, there was the provision of free rations. There was no mention of the provision of cash in lieu of free rations. It was only after weighing all the conditions of service that I applied for a commission in the army. It has now been intimated that officers of the Indian Armed Forces posted in peace areas won't receive any free rations with effect from July 1. They shall be paid a paltry sum of Rs 96.03 as ration money instead. This decision has violated the basic terms and conditions of my service on the basis of which I was employed and commissioned and that, too, without obtaining any written consent from me," Col Dev stated. He has also pointed out that the notification he mentions is still in force for officers who are due for commissioning in the near future or who are aspiring to join the armed forces in the near future. (timesofindia.indiatimes.com)
Tracing back the rule
Ration for peace postings began in 1983 but by 1997 it extended to all ranks. While there was always a provision for taking allowance, but less than 1 per cent officers opted for it.
According to sources the Centre had come up with the decision of scrapping free rations earlier but the suggestion was rejected by the army for various reasons.
One argument for retaining free ration-in-kind even for peace areas was that during exercises and training, officers in peace stations moved along with troops in areas where local markets are not easily accessible. Since many peace stations are located in insurgency-prone areas, the frequent movement of officers' vehicles could also be a security hazard — was another argument against the decision. (dnaindia.com)
The problem with Low allowance
Not just Colonel Dev, but many other Army officers have condemned the new decision saying that the allowance offered is too low even for one person.
The ASC is responsible for procurement of rations. Retired Lieutenant General SPS Katewa, who is from the Army Service Corps (ASC) also agreed that Rs. 96 was a meagre amount and said the ASC should have done something as it's responsible for procurement of rations. He also added that the rate was worked out by factoring in the army's all-India existing procurement rates. Those rates are low as the purchase happens in bulk. He said it would have been better if it was based on existing retail rates that would be around Rs 250 a day.(hindustantimes.com)
An army officer posted in peace-stations before Centre's decision Until July 1 was entitled to 1 litre milk, 2 eggs, 260gms of meat, 450gms of flour, 170gms of vegetables, 230gms of fruits, 50gms and 20gms of cheese and butter respectively, 110gms potatoes, 60gms onions and 150gms of LPG.