On 01 Jul 2019, just before the presentation of the annual budget by the Finance Minister of India, the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) addressed a jam packed press conference in the Sena Bhavan at New Delhi. He started the press conference by reciting the Chetwode Motto as engraved in stone in the Indian Military Academy, where the future officers of the Indian Army are trained, “The safety, honour and welfare of your country come first, always and every time. The honour, welfare and comfort of the men you command come next. Your own ease, comfort and safety come last, always and every time.”
The COAS emphasized that this is the motto of the officers of the defence forces and they live and die by this motto. He further said, “the officers always keep the welfare of the country ahead of their own well being. Now the country is striving to become a developed nation and all citizens are expected to make sacrifices to make it a reality. The country needs resources to upgrade its infrastructure and to pull the poor above the poverty line. We want to contribute our might in this effort and extend a helping hand. So our officers and jawan have voluntarily decided that all of them, who are exempt from paying income tax will voluntarily start paying the same. Presently, the soldiers who are drawing disability pension are exempted from paying the income tax. These soldiers who have sacrificed their health and well being in the service of the country want to contribute to the nation building. We are now writing to the finance minister to withdraw this exemption of income tax. I hope the politicians, bureaucrats and other sections of the society will emulate our brave soldiers and will willingly start paying the tax.”
The media persons were amazed at this gesture. It is something that has not happened in India, ever. The newspapers and TV channels are full of praise for this sacrifice of our soldiers. The social media is hailing the soldiers and their sacrifice. It may cascade into creation of a just and fair society in India. Common men on the street are freely expressing their appreciation for the sacrifice of the soldiers. The soldiers are also feeling proud that they are working to make India great.
The above is obviously a work of fiction, an imagination of the author. But the Defence Forces have actually voluntarily given up the income tax exemption on disability pension by writing a letter to the Finance Ministry. The Finance Ministry has issued instruction to withdraw the income tax exemption from the soldiers drawing disability pension to the CBDT.
There is furore in media, especially in social media against this move. The veterans drawing the disability pension have not only been directed to pay income tax but have been painted as crooks who have somehow managed to get themselves classified as disabled. The whole Army system has been shown in very poor light. One esteemed veteran who has retired as a General Officer has called it a “mass punishment” in mass media.
The common man of the street is amazed and disheartened to note that the Defence Forces Leaders who have been entrusted with the onerous task of defending the motherland are busy fudging their medical records. The Army doctors have been declared as crooks as half of them have been certified as disabled. These “disabled doctors” have been working hard overtime to classify all soldiers especially the senior Generals as disabled. The day is not far that such doctors will be beaten up by the patients as is happening in the civil street.
The forces are apparently being led by disabled senior officers. One of the previous COAS was declared ‘deaf’ medically and is now enjoying disability pension. No wonder that the pleas of the soldiers and junior officers fell on deaf ears during his tenure.
It is high time that the Army rectifies the situation otherwise the image of the soldiers is taking a beating even when they are making sacrifices for their motherland.
“Baat wo hi par soch nayi”