ADA was established as a society under the Ministry of Defence
TEJAS achieved its final operational clearance without any major accident | Bhanu Prakash Chandra
Seeing India’s own Swadesi fighter jet Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) TEJAS flying is always a matter of pride for the country, but over 370 scientists and engineers involved in its (TEJAS) development are struggling to gets their financial dues.
A group of former Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA)- developer of TEJAS- employees have approached Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting him to extend the benefit of government pension (Central Civil Service (CCS) Pension 1972) to employees who have joined the ADA before January 1st, 2004. They claim that pension benefits were denied to them despite they meet the required criteria.
The Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) was established in 1984 to design and develop an indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) as a national project. Considering the strategic importance of the project, ADA was established as a society under the Ministry of Defence primarily to allow functional autonomy in executing the project. ADA receives its entire budget from MoD. They claim that the autonomous status given to ADA was only to provide flexibility to fulfil the objectives and not to deny any financial or social security to its employees.
Keeping in view the importance of this national project the general body of ADA was constituted with the Defence Minister as President, Finance Minister as Vice President and Chief of Air Staff, Chief of Naval Staff, Secretaries of Defence, Secretary (Expenditure) Ministry of Finance and others as members.
The complainant stated that soon after the maiden flight of TEJAS on January 4, 2001, the ADA management took up the proposal of switching over from Central Provident Fund to CCS (pension rules).
“ADA was registered on June 1984. Since an autonomous body is eligible for CCS pension provided it existed before January 1986, all its employees who joined ADA before January 2004 are eligible for a pension,” says Jayaprakash Rao, former ADA spokesperson. In line with the current policy of Govt of India, ADA is allowing the benefit of the new pension scheme to those who joined ADA service on or after 1-1-2004.
In their letter to the prime minister as well to the union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, they argue that the service condition of ADA employees is not only at par with central government employees including those in DRDO, ISRO, BARC and CSIR, but ADA itself in an ‘other authority’ also as covered under Article 12 of Indian constitution defining the term ‘ state’.
They maintained that recommendations from three former defence ministers (George Fernandes, AK Antony and Manohar Parrikar) and former law and justice minister DV Sadananda Gowda for implementation of CCS pension for pre-2004 ADA ex-employees and employees of ADA.
Gowda, in an official communication on January 2016 had claimed that by scrutinising the documents shown to him, he was convinced that ADA has been eligible for pension (CCS) benefits. “Due to administrative lapse, the employees were not given the option to choose for CCS pension. Employees should not be penalised for an administrative lapse,” Gowda stated in a communication to the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions.
ADA succeeded in from first-generation fighter technology developed HF 24 Marut aircraft (under the leadership of German design team at HAL) to 4th generation technology developed indigenously for Light combat aircraft TEJAS despite sanctions and technology denials from the United States.
The maiden flight of TEJAS took place in January 2001, the aircraft was subsequently named TEJAS by the then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2003.
After most exhaustive flight testing, integrating a wide range of weapons and sensors for 15 years, the TEJAS was inducted into Squadron No 45, Flying Dagger at Sulur air force station by IAF.
TEJAS achieved its final operational clearance without any major accident, a rare accomplishment in the world of military aviation.
It is all due to advanced technology, IAF has given go-ahead for the development of medium weight fighter to replace MiG-29, Mirage-2000 and Jaguar jets. IAF has tasked ADA to develop 5th Generation stealth fighter, after cancelling the agreement with Russia.
Early this in February, the union government awarded a contract worth Rs 48,000 crore to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for the supply of 73 MK-1A TEJAS jets and 10 MK-1 trainers aircraft to the Indian Air Force.
Speaking in a webinar, prime minister Modi has said that there was a time when the fighter jet TEJAS project was being closed in the file. “But my government believed in Indian engineers and scientists and the capabilities of TEJAS. Today, it (TEJAS) is flying in the sky with glory,” Modi said.
In the last two decades, ADA employees have made several statements before the government seeking implementation of the pension scheme.
“It is a matter of great concern to the employees and their families and has considerable impact on the morale of the scientists and engineers,” Rao added.