In a shocking development, the bureaucracy at the highest level in Ministry of Defence (MoD) kept the political leadership in dark regarding a decision that eventually led to an unexpected withdrawal of income tax benefits to disabled veterans last year. The decision is further condemnable with the haste with which these exemptions to the disabled veterans were withdrawn with strokes of the pen in MoD.
As per a report published in the Economic Times, the whole scenario started with officers of the defence ministry's finance wing passing on a query to the finance ministry. The step is highly questionable as the civilian officers posted in MoD does not have the jurisdiction over this matter.
The recommendation made in just one day
The internal documents further revealed that Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman were not kept in the loop while the decision was made and also there was no consultation between two ministries on the issue. Further, the department of ex-servicemen welfare (DESW), which is in charge of veterans affairs was also not consulted. In the babus who are infamous for their snail-paced decision, recommended the withdrawal of benefits in just one day. Last year on 24th June, the decision to remove tax benefits was taken with all levels within the finance ministry and the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT).
The whole process started with a proposal by an officer of the MoD (finance) on 8th Oct 2015, which questioned that grant for disabilities such as backache and hearing loss. This was in response to an order from the Armed Forces Tribunals which ruled in favour of the grant of disability pension even for cases like heart ailments.
The strong word letter indirectly condemned the tribunals' decision and Army headquarters for following such way. The letter was sent CBDT for clarification and finally, the department responded in 2019. Surprisingly, the file moved past 11 officials in a single day. The decision of withdrawal has created an uproar among the veteran community. Although Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had asked for a background on this issue, the picture looks bleak for the veterans.