We always praise soldiers for their selflessness and courage put-in to protect the nation. They know before they step-in the border that they may be wounded or even killed. However, the only faith that keeps them off the worry is that the government will take care of them and their families in the worst case.
A soldier who is wounded while performing his duties will get a disability pension. The pension is provided to support the Army personnel irrespective of him continuing his duties with a disability or he is relieved of his duties due to the disability. This pension was exempted from tax all the way until a month back.
On 24 June 2019, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) released a circular stating that the disability pension will be taxable going forward. This circular has brought about agitation in the community considering the fact that several soldiers choose to continue performing their duties despite the disability.
There were a series of tweets from CBDT as well as the Army discussing the cause for the circular. A tweet from the Army has defended the tax rule by stating that unscrupulous personnel have claimed the benefits of the disability pension. The tweet also highlights that there has been an exponential rise in the number of people claiming the pension for lifestyle diseases, which is not acceptable.
The new rule seems to suggest that ‘if you have a disability, stay at home and benefit from the tax exemption.’ In addition, lifestyle diseases such as hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes can be the result of overexposure to a stressful work environment. Such a rule is going to only bring down the morale in the Army personnel and discourage the aspirants.
Instead of differentiating the disability based on the percentage of disability and lifestyle causing the disease, the government and the Army must focus on preventing and curing such diseases by providing stress-free work environment as much as possible. Also, those who have falsely claimed the benefits must be scrutinised and punished to prevent further false claims.