Chest-Thumping Over Jawans Gets Louder, But Welfare Boards for Veterans Haven’t Met in 20 Years
Roughly 14% of India’s armed forces personnel are from Uttar Pradesh, but the state’s Rajya Sainik Board hasn’t met since May 1999.
Illustration by Mir Suhail/News18.com
New Delhi: That 12 of the 40 CRPF jawans who died in the Pulwama attack were from Uttar Pradesh was a reflection of the fact that no other state sends more recruits to the armed forces. Yet, the state board which is meant to provide housing and employment to veterans, their widows and families hasn’t met in two decades.
This state of affairs – flagged by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence in its report presented to Parliament on February 7 – isn’t just limited to Uttar Pradesh, but is the case across the country, with boards in 15 states not having conducted meetings in years.
UP and Andhra Pradesh, states that account cumulatively for 20% of representation in the armed forces, haven’t met since May 1999 and June 1997, respectively.
The Rajya Sainik Board (RSB) in each state and Union Territory has the responsibility of ensuring the welfare of armed forces veterans ranging from seeking vacancies, as per the reservation policy for ex-servicemen or widows, and assisting them with self-funded business ventures.
An official from the Ministry of Defence explained, “In a nutshell, they give their lives to the service of the nation, and the RSB ensures that after their service period or their death, they or their families are taken care of.”
But servicemen and their welfare, the report flagged, didn’t seem a priority and the committee argued for “for effective functioning and for providing regular feedback”, regular meetings were “a must”.
The committee observed that the annual meetings of the RSBs were not held regularly and said states and UTs found defaulting had been informed. It said, “The committee strongly feels that for effective functioning and for providing regular feedback, for possible improvements, regular annual meetings of the RSBs are a must. Therefore, the committee desires that the (Kendriya Sainik Board) pursue the matter to ensure that regular meetings are held.”
The Defence ministry, which is the nodal agency for these boards, responded that it had requested states and UTs not holding annual meetings to do so and reiterated this during the national or zonal meetings of directors or RSBs. This point, the MoD added, was “emphasised” in the meeting of directors and due to their “concerted efforts” 13 states and three UTs had met between 2016 and 2017.
But this was only part of the problem, noted the report.
In response to a question raised by Shiv Sena MP Sadashiv Lokhande, the ministry told the House in 2014 that 1 in 7 or roughly 14% of the armed forces consisted of personnel from Uttar Pradesh. The state’s RSB last met in May 1999, said the report. Andhra Pradesh, which, accounts for 6% of the representation in the armed forces hasn’t seen its RSB meet since June 1997.
With 7-8% representation in the armed forces, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Punjab were next on the list. The RSB met last in Rajasthan in October 2014. The boards in Maharashtra and Punjab met after the committee’s earlier report.
The report noted that “15 states have not conducted the Annual Meetings of RSBs for a long time, in some cases more than 15 years. In respect of two states, namely Telangana and Arunachal Pradesh, the information itself was not made available to the committee.”
It suggested “that the efforts may be continued to ensure that Annual Meetings take place at regular intervals instead of conducting after long span of period i.e after lapse of decade or so” added that “such regular meetings lead to effective functioning and provides regular feedback for possible improvement of RSBs.”
“The committee further observed that annual meetings of Rajya Sainik Boards are not held regularly. In this regard, the committee have been apprised that those states/UTs which are not holding annual meeting of their RSBs have been requested to hold the same regularly."
Since the committee’s took up the issue, RSBs met in Assam, Bihar, Delhi, Goa, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Kerala, Maharashtra, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Punjab, Tripura and Chandigarh.
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