The Supreme Court Wednesday reproached the government for treating Army porters as “animals” despite their “crucial job” of fetching rations and ammunition for the soldiers at perilous terrains like Siachen and Kargil.
A bench led by Chief Justice T S Thakur called the government’s approach “insensitive” and underlined that although the porters’ job might look menial, they were “no less than scouts”.
Disapproving of a new scheme brought by the government for regulating service conditions of Army porters, the court said that the plan appeared more negative than positive.
“They (porters) have been reduced to animals, it seems. How insensitive is that? It is unfortunate that there are more negatives than positives in your new policy. He is no less than a scout who gets ration and ammunition for your soldiers at unimaginable heights of Kargil and Siachen. His job is so crucial,” the bench told Additional Solicitor General P S Patwalia, who represented the government.
The court added that once it has been admitted by the Indian Army that there were 12,000 porters in its service, their due must be given.
“Your new scheme is silent on regularisation of their service. Suppose somebody has served you for 15-20 years, should he not be given hope of getting the pension when he is unable to carry your burden?” the bench asked the ASG.
Patwalia responded that the new policy contemplated various other benefits, including compensation in cases of deaths and injuries. But the bench said that it would only be fair to keep aside a certain percentage of jobs for regularisation for porters who have served for a long time.
“You must remember hope is something people live on. His job might look menial but he is no less than your soldier in certain situations. Let there be a light at the end of the tunnel. Let them have some hope that they may go back home with some money for their subsistence when they are physically unable to do this anymore,” the bench told Patwalia.
The court clarified that it was not asking the government to regularise all the Army porters but create a sub-class to give benefits of being government servants to at least few of them.
“You have to treat them as humans… evolve a new scheme that has some humane touch. Give them some hope. We all know hopelessness is a very bad feeling. Don’t condemn them. You should do something for them,” the bench maintained.
At this, the ASG sought two weeks to consult the officials concerned and get back. The bench adjourned the matter for September 30.