The government should seek no credit for rescinding a controversial order putting a limit of Rs 10,000 a month on the education allowance paid to the children of soldiers killed or severely disabled in action, and reverting to the earlier system when no such “cap” was prescribed.
On the contrary, it should be deemed a matter of much shame that the miliary community had to battle hard to restore an entitlement granted in 1972 ~ after the decisive victory that liberated Bangladesh.
That the highly offensive order had not been issued by some petty bureaucrat is confirmed by it taking no fewer than seven months to restore the honour of the soldier.
No less than the Chairman of the Chief of Staff Committee had to initiate the action, and the MoD, conveniently and customarily, pointed an accusing finger at “finance” ~ even though for two periods Mr Arun Jaitley headed both ministries.
Yet, unable to gracefully accept error or defeat, when rescinding the controversial order the government opted to tinker with the “eligibility” regulations.
That too after Parliament had been told a few months back that the financial implications of the education scheme added up to less than Rs 4 crore a year.
When perceived in the context of miserly budgetary allocations ~ rightly slammed by the parliamentary standing committee ~ the cap on the education allowance was interpreted as yet another bid by jealous babus to impose their authority on the uniforms.
Worse, the reality that Rs 10,000 a month did not cover high-end professional courses pointed to an unprincipled bid to deny “war heroes’ children” the opportunity to avail of the best education available: as if a soldier’s child was not entitled to lofty aspirations.
Thereby perpetuating the superiority of the civil servant in the official pecking order. After all the chest thumping over surgical strikes and punitive retaliatory fire-assaults, the limit on the education allowance caused soldiers to doubt the sincerity of bombastic politicians.
The cap was one of the first grievances the military had brought to the attention of Mrs Nirmala Sitharaman when she assumed office as the defence minister.
That she had neither a magic wand, nor a cane to wield on scheming officials, has cost her some credibility in the defence community: She could do little for the children of war heroes even when ordering defence personnel to clean up the trash tourists left in the mountains, or provide the manpower to raise pedestrian over-bridges on Mumbai’s suburban railway system… it did not endear her to olive green.
It is a pity that the forces have to constantly be on alert ~ against the adversary on the frontier, as well as against bureaucrats snapping at their heels. No wonder that defence children tend to explore career options other than the forces in their elusive quest of achche din.