Monday, August 27, 2012

Suicides in the Army - Diagnosis and Remedy

Something very sinister is around.  Operational stress and official neglect are taking their toll in soldiers committing suicides and protesting in a mutinous manner. Whereas step-motherly treatment meted out by the Sixth Pay Commission to the Armed Forces is one of the reasons for the falling morale, persistent indifference shown by the Government has also added to the discontent. Even more saddening is the fact that the Military authorities too have been brushing aside the malaise within. Recently, Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi, former Vice Chief of Army Staff presented his diagnosis of the problem in an article.  Here are some additional inputs. 

Downgrading Esteem and Importance of Military

Halos are extinct and larger-than-life images have shrunk to real-life size everywhere in modern times. The so-called all-powerful bureaucrats are being shunted around from one post to another like shuttlecocks at the whims and fancies of political bosses. Their careers alternate between witch-hunt and reward depending upon what kind of political boss they get to serve under. Sunk in depravity, our politicians have suffered their loss of image and credibility too. Nobody now buys pictures of these leaders to display in homes or offices until official rules compel to do so. Within themselves too, the same chair brightens or dims differently under different occupants. World’s most qualified Prime Minister Manmohan Singh compares atrociously with under-matriculate Indira Gandhi. Time was when magnitudes of humanity poured to have glimpse of Nehru but not any longer.

What has survived, however, is people’s abiding love and respect for the sincere, able, honest and courageous leaders. They become icons of popular hope and respect. Oddly, some of them come from the same rotten environment that media and people – we included – hate and abuse for all our problems today – the bureaucracy. Agreed, those who choose to defy the Establishment and follow the dictates of their conscience are not many. Yet, we can see that those who did stood up and changed the course of things drew public applause like TN Sheshan, E Sreedharan, Vinod Rai, Kiran Bedi to name a few. In an even more degenerative field of politics too, we do have a crop, however miniscule, of off-beat progressive leaders like Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar.  

Military in India has been somehow shy of public exposure – a mistake that held it back from joining, leave alone leading, the mainstream freedom struggle despite Netaji’s call for the INA. Such a stance of aloofness emboldened Nehru and Krishna Menon to treat the Military nothing more than a workforce that could be employed for constructing roads and canals even as they doubted its loyalty and feared coups. Field Marshal Manekshaw is perhaps the only Indian General who did make a difference in exalting the military reputation. Lately, Gen VK Singh did stand up boldly enough but the issue he took up first (date of birth) was unfortunately too small and personal for the position he held.  Later of course, he did write boldly to the Prime Minister and did not hesitate to apprise the people about essentials of national security.

Unfortunately, the inter-Services and intra-service feuds are doing the Military more damage than any politico-bureaucratic dispensation. The day the three Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces stand up jointly as custodians of national security to express their concern and advice, no Government will dare to brush it aside.  Also, taxpayers are entitled to know the state of their Armed Forces and, therefore, the Chiefs of the Armed Forces (sorry, I don’t call them ‘Services’) should be required to formally address the Parliament and inform the people on matters of national security and the state of defence preparedness. There can be debates and disagreements on the opinions they express but who, if not they, would be better qualified to speak about matters of national defence and security? Sadly though, it may be recalled how an Army Chief was ticked off by a former defence minister for his remark about the un-demarcated border in Arunachal Pradesh. Likewise, a Vice Chief of the Army Staff was snubbed by Shushma Swaraj so angrily that just the next day an apologetic general withdrew his fully justified and well informed opinion about the handicap of women joining the Army. Had they both reasserted their stand as professionals without giving in to the bully in the lobby, military’s image would have been fairly vindicated and credibility enhanced. Alas, that did not happen.

To sum up, I would reiterate the comment I made on an earlier occasion: The truth is that abstract decorations like esteem, image, honour and izzet abhor pleading, and are not available on request anywhere in the world. Being embellishments of power, these gems of credit can be only earned by merit or seized by force. Repeated pleadings will surely get us more sympathy, pity and merciful reportage though.  

‘Inferior Manpower Joining the Military’

               Undoubtedly, the quality of officer intake has gone down. The quality of jawans, on the other hand should have only improved with more graduates and technically qualified youth joining the ranks. Perhaps the crux of the problem lies at the centre of this matrix where a subordinate views himself academically equal or better qualified than his boss. Don’t we see a shade of this attitude in the outbursts of our Olympian celebrity Sub Vijay Kumar? With an increasing number of officers now hailing from the same socio-economic milieu as their NCOs/OR, the tradition of officers being ‘friendly but not familiar’ with men stands diluted while the British legacy of ‘Koi haiy’ sahibs and servile, obsequious followers has continued despite noticeable resistance. It is good that the Army has decided to hire civilian sahayaks and other menials in place of combatants.     

               I think time has come when officer-man relationship needs to be redefined so as to weave them into an integrated whole. Simplistic solutions based on traditional thinking will not do.  A paradigm shift is warranted to enable higher commanders to view the whole spectrum from a different angle and discover invisible challenges and opportunities.  

The Irony of ‘Shortage of Officers’

               In the present scenario of military operations, maximum load comes on the unit where out of an average of 22 officers authorised, only 8-10 are posted. Considering those away on leave and courses out of these, it is 4-5 officers who share the load of 22. Obviously, these officers, already stressed, have neither time nor energy to inter-act with their men in sports, training, welfare and leisure time where they could detect and diffuse discontent, if any.

               Oddly enough, above the unit level there is no deficiency of officers at any headquarters even though all field formations largely remain static and un-engaged in operations that are almost always limited to unit/sub-unit level actions. Higher the headquarters, more the unauthorised attachments! Why? Because the higher boss needs luxury and the attached finds his haven to the arduous unit tenure, and also earns a better ACR through influence.  

               Despite deficiency of officers, which is alarming by any count, all the pressure of VIP visits (a euphemism for pleasure trips) comes to rest on the concerned units where officers and men frantically work round the clock only to earn a ‘shabash’ from the bara sahib. And imagine the height of hypocrisy displayed by a ‘punctilious’ GOC who, on his insistence, was presented a mess bill of Rs 45/- for three days of royal revelry organised by a unit for him and his entourage of personal guests. Clearing it for prompt payment, he said, “I have never left a guest room without paying the mess bill”. Higher commanders need to introspect earnestly and seek answers to some straight but pricky questions: Am I using more man-power and resources than authorised, like Flag Guard, sahayaks, drivers, vehicles etc?  Then follow your conscience, not necessarily the rulebook.

               Also, the higher commanders need to restrain themselves from meddling in unit affairs.  Too much of curiosity and eagerness to address Durbars, meet individual officers and JCOs and listen to their problems is an intrusion into the CO’s domain which must be strengthened and never weakened at any cost. Remove and sack a CO, if required, but let the next one function with freedom and authority.  Likewise, within the unit, COs too have diluted the trust and bondage sub-unit commanders traditionally had with their JCOs and men. Build the sub-unit commanders into effective leaders.  

Lastly, a question: The Prime Minister warned the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort on 15th August this year that the economic slowdown posed threats to national security. Should the custodians of National Security remain silent and inactive when such crisis is impending? There is risk involved in seeking answer to such grave questions. But should such risks deter them?

May they find right answers to mighty questions concerning National Security and move boldly and diligently in unison. I wish the Indian Armed Forces and the country glorious times ahead.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

India’s Bureaucrats – Character Vs Servility!

(Courtesy:  e-mail from Brig PT Gangadharan (Retd))


An important vignette about those days has come out, in a booklet written by N Vaghul to honour the memory of R K Talwar, the trail-blazing chairman of State Bank of India (SBI) from 1969 until his abrupt departure in 1976, at the height of the Emergency. The vignette that deserves a wider audience relates to Talwar’s ouster.

               Mr Vaghul, who started his own distinguished banking career in SBI, recalls that a cement company to which the bank had given a loan became “sick”, with mounting losses. Seeing that the problem was mismanagement, the bank agreed to a restructuring package provided the company’s promoter, also its chairman and CEO, made way for a professional. The promoter happened to be a friend of Sanjay Gandhi.

Sanjay called the finance minister (who, though unnamed, was C Subramaniam; Pranab  Mukherjee was nominally under him as minister for revenue and banking), and asked him to direct the bank to waive the condition on change of management. The minister phoned Talwar, who called for the details of the case, satisfied himself, and informed the minister that the condition could not be waived.

The minister summoned Talwar to Delhi and told him that he had instructions from “the highest authority” in the country. Talwar stood his ground. This was communicated to Sanjay, who called for Talwar. Talwar refused to meet him, saying he had no constitutional authority. Sanjay’s response was swift: Sack Talwar.  

This was easier ordered than done, because under the State Bank of India Act the chairman could not be removed without sufficient cause. So the minister offered Talwar a different assignment, to chair the proposed Banking Commission. Talwar said he would accept and could do that in addition to being the SBI chairman. The minister looked unhappy, so Talwar observed that the minister seemed to be “very particular” that Talwar not continue as the bank chairman.  

The minister admitted that the problem was Talwar’s lack of flexibility on the cement company issue, and said that if he did not resign, he would have to be dismissed. Talwar said he had no intention of resigning, and the minister could decide on dismissal. As Mr Vaghul tells it, Sanjay next asked the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to look for grounds on which Talwar could be dismissed.  

It turned out that Talwar had sent appeals to many businessmen, seeking donations for the Auroville project to which he was devoted. But no businessman was willing to testify that Talwar had spoken to him or tried to persuade him to make a donation. All that he had done was to forward an appeal signed by the prime minister and the secretary-general of the United Nations (U Thant), recommending the Auroville project for support. The CBI was forced to close the case.

Sanjay now lost all patience, and told the minister to amend the SBI Act so that Talwar could be dismissed without stating the reason. With opposition leaders in jail, Parliament rubber-stamped the Act’s amendment in no time. The minister told Talwar one final time that if he did not resign he would be dismissed. Talwar remained defiant. Finally, on August 4, 1976, Talwar was given 13 months’ leave and asked to hand over charge to the managing director of the bank. Even after arming itself with the required powers, the government could not bring itself to sack Talwar. 

Mr Vaghul records that there was hardly anyone to see off SBI’s greatest chairman that evening, so great was the atmosphere of fear at the time.





IT IS TALKING ABOUT: Indians Always in Service!





Served, still serving...

Indians Always in Service

Part 1 S U Tripathi  Retired from: IFS             Became: Member, UPSC

 P K Mishra   Retired from: IAS, UP                   Became: Member, UPSC

 Vijay Singh   Retired from: IAS, MP                 Became: Member, UPSC

 Alka Sirohi .Retired from: IAS, MP                   Became: Member, UPSC

 Rajni Razdan Retired from: IAS, Haryana      Became: Member, UPSC

K K Paul Retired from: IPS, UT                          Became: Member, UPSC

 I M G Khan Retired from: IPoS                          Became: Member, UPSC

B K Chaturvedi  Retired from: IAS, UP            Became: Member, Planning Commission

 Wajahat Habibullah Retired from: IAS, J&K  Became: Chairman, National Commission for Minorities

H T Sangliana Retired from: IPS, Karnataka  Became: Vice Chairman, National Commission for Minorities

K N Daruwala Retired from: IPS                      Became: Member, National Commission for Minorities

 M K Narayanan Retired from: IPS, TN            Became: Governor, West Bengal

 E S L Narasimhan Retired from: IPS, AP        Became: Governor, Andhra Pradesh

Shekhar Dutta Retired from: IAS, MP             Became: Governor, Chhattisgarh

B V Wanchoo Retired from: IPS, WB               Became: Governor, Goa

N N Vohra Retired from: IAS, Punjab              Became: Governor, Jammu and Kashmir

Gurbachan Jagat Retired from: IPS, Punjab  Became: Governor, Manipur

 R S Mooshahary Retired from: IPS, Kerala    Became: Governor, Meghalaya

 Nikhil Kumar Retired from: IPS, UT                 Became: Governor, Nagaland

 Balmiki Prasad Singh Retired from: IAS,        Became: Governor, Sikkim

 B L Joshi Retired from: IPS, Rajasthan            Became: Governor, Uttar Pradesh

Tejendra Khanna Retired from: IAS, Punjab    Became: Lt Governor, Delhi

Satyanand Mishra Retired from: IAS, MP        Became: Chief Information Commissioner, CIC

 Vijay Sharma Retired from: IAS, UP                Became: Information Commissioner, CIC

Rajiv Mathur Retired from: IPS, UP                 Became: Information Commissioner, CIC

 M L Sharma Retired from: IPS, Rajasthan      Became: Information Commissioner, CIC

 Deepak Sandhu Retired from: IIS                     Became: Information Commissioner, CIC

Sushma Singh Retired from: IAS, Jharkhand  Became: Information Commissioner, CIC

 T Nand Kumar Retired from: IAS, Jharkhand  Became: Member, NDMA

 Jyoti K Sinha Retired from: IPS, Bihar             Became: Member, NDMA

K M Singh Retired from: IPS, Maharashtra     Became: Member, NDMA

 Pramod Deo Retired from: IAS                           Became: Chairman, Central Electricity Regulatory Commission

M Deena Dayalam Retired from: IAAS             Became: Member, Central Electricity Regulatory Commission

Lakshmi Chand Retired from: IAS, UP            Became: Member, National Commission for 
                                                                                                  Denotified, Semi- NOMADIC Tribes

Dr Anupam Dasgupta RetdIAS, Maha.           Became: Member, National Consumer Disputes
                                                                                                  Reddressal Commission

S K Naik Retired from: IAS, Punjab                Became: Member, National Consumer Disputes -do-

Vineeta Rai Retired from: IAS, UT                  Became: Member, National Consumer Disputes -do-

 Vinay Kumar Retired from: IAS, Karnataka  Became: Member, National Consumer Disputes -do-

Suresh Chandra Retired iAS, Maha.                Became: Member, National Consumer Disputes -do-

P L Punia Retired from: IAS, UP                      Became: Chairman, National Commission for SC

 Rameshwar OraonRetired  IPS, J'khand       Became: Chairman, National Commission for ST

 S S N Murthy Retired from: IRS                      Became: Member, Securities Appellate Tribunal

 P K Malhotra Retired from: ILS                       Became: Member, Securities Appellate Tribunal

 S Krishnan Retired from: IAS, Utt'khand      Became: Chairman, Petroleum and Natural Gas
                                                                                                 Regulatory Board

Yashwant S Bhave Retired IAS,Mahara.      Became: Chairman, Airports Economic Regulatory


Prakash ChandChhotAray Retired  IRS       Became: Member, SEBI

 P K Ghosh Retired from: IAS, Gujarat           Became: Member, Advisory Committee on SEBI Investors’
                                                                                               Protection and Education

 Rani Jadhao Retired from: IAS,Mahara.       Became: Chairman, Tariff Authority on Major Ports

Pradeep Kumar Retired from: IAS, Hary.     Became: Chief Vigilance Commissioner, CVC

R Srikumar Retired from: IPS, TN                  Became: Vigilance Commissioner, CVC

J Hari Narayan Retired from: IAS, TN           Became: Chairman, Insurance Regulatory and

                                                                                                Development Authority

Satyabrata Pal Retired from: IFS                   Became: Member, NHRC

P C Sharma Retired from: IPS                         Became: Member, NHRC

P K Rastogi Retired from: IAS, AP                  Became: Member, TDSAT

Nirmal Singh Retired from: IAS, TN               Became: Chairman, BIFR

Y K Gaiha,Retired from: IRS                            Became: Member, BIFR

Saroj Bala Retired from: IRS                           Became: Member, BIFR

Ashok Chawla Retired from: IAS, Gujarat    Became: Chairman, Competition Commission of India

H C Gupta Retired from: IAS, UP                    Became: Member, Competition Commission of India

Anurag Goel Retired from: IAS, UP                Became: Member, Competition Commission of India

 R Prasad Retired from: IRS                             Became: Member, Competition Commission of India

M L Tayal Retired from: IAS, Haryana          Became: Member, Competition Commission of India

Rahul Khullar Retired from: IAS, UT              Became: Chairman, TRAI
Rajinder Pal Singh Retired from: IAS, AP     Became: Chairman, NHAI

 Ajay Shankar Retired from: IAS, UP              Became: Member Secretary, National Mfacturing Compet Council

Shailendra Pandey Retired from: IAAS         Became: Member (Admin), CAT

Veena Chhotray Retired from: IAS, Bihar     Became: Member (A), CAT

R C Panda Retired from: IAS, Tamil Nadu     Became: Member (A), CAT

Sudhir Kumar Retired from: IAS, Karnat.      Became: Member (A), CAT

D C Lakha Retired from: IAS, UP                     Became: Member (A), CAT

Jayati Chandra Retired from: IAS, UP           Became: Member (A), CAT

R C Joshi Retired from: IAS, Maharashtra    Became: Member (A), CAT

Shankar Prasad Retired from: IAS, Bihar      Became: Member (A), CAT

 Champak Chatterjee Retired from: IAS, TN   Became: Member (A), CAT

R Bandopadhyaya Retired from: IAS, W B     Became: Member (A), CAT

 Khushiram Retired from: IAS, MP                    Became: Member (A), CAT

 Promila Issar Retired from: IAS, Haryana     Became: Member (A), CAT

 R Satapathy Retired from: IAS, Tamil Nadu   Became: Member (A), CAT

K George Joseph Retired from: IAS, Gujarat  Became: Member (A), CAT

Ranbir Singh Retired from: IAS, MP                  Became: Member (A), CAT

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Karan Kharb's e-mail to Mrs Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister

11 Aug 2012

Respected Madam,
               Consequent to the implementation of the Sixth Pay Commission recommendations, the country has witnessed unrest vented by soldiers – serving and retired – in an unprecedented manner. Now, cases of suicide, fratricide and mass insubordination are on the rise in military Units and Formations deployed in sensitive areas. Retired military officers, JCOs and Jawans, on the other hand, have come out on the roads and, as an expression of strong resentment against injustice, returned their medals en-masse along with petitions signed in blood. Fuelled by persistent Government apathy, their simmering unrest is now reaching its bursting point as is evident from the mutinous situations that have started erupting in active military units – a worrisome phenomenon never seen earlier. If examples were needed, Samba in J&K is the latest.

While there is urgency for the Government to sit up and act without delay, the seemingly unconcerned regime has continued its step-motherly treatment of soldiers, ignoring their sacrifices and neglecting their most justified needs. What is it if not wholly ridiculous and illogical that a Pay Commission, unfairly composed only from the Civil Services, should be arbitrarily deciding on the needs, necessities and entitlements of soldiers despite total absence of any military experience and without any military representative on the panel to aid and advise it on peculiarities and unique conditions of military service? The composition of the Committee of Secretaries under the Cabinet Secretary’s chairmanship later ordered to resolve the anomalies has only added insult to the injury because, again bereft of any military representative on it like the Pay Panel, this too would perpetuate the legacy of bureaucratic red tape and negation. Such dispensation surely does not inspire confidence among the soldiers – serving or retired – especially at a time when their morale is low and anger at boiling point.  

It hardly needs elaboration that owing to this worsening neglect, military as a career has lost its charm and appeal for the country’s younger generation whereas their fathers and grandfathers drew all their pride and honour from this very profession. Others either marvelled or envied them; and that was not too long ago!    

One example of Government apathy is the long outstanding demand of Ex-servicemen – One Rank One Pension (OROP). You are well aware that every Government, every political Party including Congress and several Parliamentary Committees have unequivocally endorsed this justified demand.  You and the Hon’ble Prime Minister too have voiced your support to it – but, sorry Madam, all these promises and assurances have remained illusory.  No wonder soldiers’ faith in the system is waning.  

I am attaching herewith a copy of our letter No 27035/A/OROP(Pet) dated 21 April 2011 submitted to the Chairman, Committee on Petitions, Rajya Sabha Sectt along with its enclosures in which the main problems have been explained in some detail. We regret that since then the situation has only deteriorated further.  

Alarm bells are ringing.  The Chiefs of the Armed Forces are learnt to have briefed the Committee of Secretaries giving their opinions and recommendations, which deserve to be treated with the respect, concern and urgency that is due to them. Ironically, however, their being at the helm perhaps restrains them from displaying the situation in its real alarming proportions even as they are doing everything within their powers to douse the flames in their backyards.  Therefore, any comfort drawn from such dutiful, humble ‘all okay’ reporting should not induce complacence.        
As concerned and worried citizens, we bring these facts to your kind notice because we believe that in your capacity as Chairperson of the UPA, you can address this burning issue more effectively before it is too late.  Now, in the interest of national security, it is up to you how you choose to act to ensure that the Indian Armed Forces are maintained at the highest morale and spirits to deal with the adversaries who are building up their fighting potential in many ways – across the borders and within.  A not-so-friendly neighbourhood with nuclear stockpiles in unsteady hands and the evolving global scenario call for the Indian military to be the world’s best.  We hope you will address the burning problem with the urgency it deserves and initiate immediate actions to boost up the sagging morale and spirit of the Armed Forces of India.   

With lots of hopes and Best regards,

Col (Retd) Karan Kharb

and Members, Turning Point India, Noida

Mob: 9818047092

OROP - Issue Small, Fall-out Fearsome!

Karan Kharb

The issue of ‘One Rank One Pension’ (OROP) has been heating up since long.  More recently, the nation has seen its 2.3 million ex-servicemen – the most disciplined and law-abiding class in our society – having to publicly protest and return their medals with petitions signed in blood to draw Government attention.  Unlike their civilian brethren, soldiers do not have ‘Associations’ to hold rallies and demonstrations to express their grievances. Ex-servicemen are, therefore, neither used to nor temperamentally inclined to make public their woes – a virtue the nation must respect. Yet, if an increasing number of them are now resorting to such methods, it must become a cause of concern for the Government.

            The weird arguments citing burden on the national exchequer and risk of triggering similar demands from other Central Civil Services are unfair and unjust because there is no similarity in the job profiles of civil and military services.  Rationale behind such rival claims would therefore be grossly faulty and a scantily clad mischief aimed at perpetuating the on-going neglect and systematic suppression of the military and its retiring/retired soldiers. There are ground realities that further reinforce the genuineness and urgency of not only the grant of OROP to the Ex-servicemen but also the need and importance of restoring the lost dignity, morale and well being of the nation’s muscle power – India’s Armed Forces:- 

1.               Significance of Military ‘Rank’: The hierarchy of military leadership is based upon visible badges of rank and embellishments on the uniform worn by officers and JCOs/NCOs.  All professional and social protocol of inter-action is governed by the status and authority carried by respective rank in the hierarchical order.  Legally and traditionally, Armed Forces personnel carry their rank even on retirement as a legacy.  Whereas in the active military service no junior can get more salary than his senior in the same rank, on retirement this equation is ironically turned upside down, as we have juniors retiring later getting more pension than their seniors who retired earlier in the same rank.  It is ridiculously embarrassing besides being unjust in every respect.

2.               Serving and Retiring at a Loss: The majority of jawans and officers retire 10 to 20 years earlier than their civilian brethren, thereby losing service benefits, pay and allowances of higher ranks for those many years.  The necessity to maintain a youthful military profile leads to jawans and Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs) retiring when they are still in the age group of 38 to 48 years and officers at 50 with their kids still too young, parents too old and family responsibilities far more expanded. Civilians, on the other hand, get to serve up to 60 years and retire happily after reaching their final pay bands with their children well settled and life’s basic commitments largely accomplished.  These harsh terms and conditions of Service result in heavy financial loss at the most crucial stage of a soldier when he needs financial security most.  Since almost all civil government employees reach their final post/pay band, they naturally retire having earned highest pension scale in their stream, which virtually translates to a more remunerative deal than the OROP demanded by ex-servicemen!  Accordingly, if military personnel chose to invoke the ‘principle of equity’, they should rightfully be demanding the highest pension grades in the corresponding running pay band of Subedar Major in respect of  JCOs and other ranks (OR) and the final scale of senior administrative grade/higher administrative grade (SAG/HAG) (i.e., Major General/Lt General) in respect of officers since similar dispensation is in vogue for civil services. 

3.               Unequal Career Growth Options: Whereas nearly all civilians make speedy career advances in secure environs of their pre-specified state cadres/deputations and reach their highest rank/pay bands, the majority in the Armed Forces (jawans and officers) find themselves out of job even though they fulfil the laid down criteria for career advancement/promotions.  A look at this career contrast: Whereas over 90% of the IAS officers reach Secretary/Additional Secretary level and none retires below Joint Secretary rank, only 0.02% of the Armed Forces officers make it to Army Commander level, 0.15% to other Lt General levels (Corps Commanders and others) and only 0.4% to Major General level (even after the recent cadre enhancement!). Because of the constricted pyramidal organisational structure of the Forces, a large number of competent officers fully eligible for higher ranks have to be wasted out every year. Caught in a whirlpool of systemic adversity, large number of such qualified officers get neither their deserved pay nor pension.  Likewise, the majority among jawans too reach no further than Honorary Havildar level whereas almost all lower division clerks (LDCs) in central services and all Constables are assured to retire at least as Section Officers and sub inspectors (SIs) respectively reaping highest returns until and after 60 years of age. Military personnel obviously deserve to be appropriately compensated for the losses they are suffering due to early retirement and short-changed dispensation due to restricted career opportunities, early loss of job and resultant loss of salary and pension due to early retirement.

4.               ‘Unique’ Service Conditions: Forfeiting their fundamental rights, our jawans and officers not only serve in extremely hostile terrain and climate but also spend the better part of their life in separation from their families even in peace locations with no guarantee of  even weekly holidays and festivals.  From fighting at the world’s highest battle-field where hostile terrain and weather claim more lives than the enemy, to operating in jungles and desert far away from the civilisation, soldiers lead unusually tough life – unseen and un-imagined in civil life.  These extraordinary service conditions make the Armed Forces uniquely distinct from and incomparable with any other Service in the country.  Recognising this uniqueness of the Defence Services, the Government has already decided to have a separate Pay Commission for the Armed Forces in the future (as announced in the Lok Sabha by the Defence Minister on 13 July 2009).  The crucial details as to how such a Pay Commission would be constituted and how equal to or independent of the other the Central Civil Services Pay Commission it would be, have not yet been made public.

5.               Nation’s Last Resort: In spite of its back breaking Recession, it is primarily because of its superior military might that the US is in a position to assert its will and authority coercively over any country in the world, disregarding dissent, if any, from any power in the world.  It is through a credible military deterrent that a nation’s diplomatic and political strides find meaning and economy its protective cover.  Few countries have used their military might more than India to defend their borders and maintain order within. With a history of four wars since Independence, incessant insurgencies and expanding terrorism, India should be imparting lessons to the world on the importance of maintaining a powerful and motivated military.  From Siachin to Arunachal to Kanyakumari, for anything too serious or too dangerous, eg, natural calamities, epidemic, riots, disruption of essential services, failure of civil administration – even for salvaging the national honour in fiascos like the CWG footbridge collapse – the Government and the people alike have always turned to Fauj (Armed Forces) for speedy solutions.  Others can raise their hands, stand aside and watch.  But has the Fauj ever belied nation’s faith in its Armed Forces?  Their failure, God forbid, if ever so it were, it would be a national disaster. 

The treatment being met out to the Armed Forces in India has started hurting the serving and retired soldiers alike.  A calculated and systematic method is seen clearly at work in degrading the position and prestige of military ever since the 4th Pay Commission.  Every successive Pay Commission has pushed Armed Forces a few notches below their deserved niche. The way the Ex-servicemen’s demand for OROP has been treated goes to prove that there are anti-military forces aggressively at work to deprive soldiers and ex-soldiers of their genuine dues.  In all fairness, bureaucrats found guilty of delaying and denying military dues and entitlements must be severely dealt with and even prosecuted for their anti-national outlook or for inefficiency.  This must be particularly ensured in cases where the political leadership and/or the higher judiciary have ruled in favour of the military.  The case in point is the  ex-servicemen’s demand for OROP which has been long lost in bureaucratic machinations despite its non-controversial character and unanimity of views in its support from all authorities/judiciary/political parties that have ever deliberated over this demand as is clear from the following facts on record:-  

(a)    Firstly, grant of OROP has been repeatedly recommended by successive Parliamentary Committees over the years.

(b)   Secondly, nearly all major Political Parties including Congress and the BJP have supported the long pending OROP demand in their election manifestoes.  The UPA Chairperson, Mrs Sonia Gandhi is on record declaring her support in favour of Ex-servicemen on this score in her public utterances and media interactions.

(c)    Thirdly, observations and directions passed by the Judiciary (including honourable Supreme Court) in a number of cases relating to disparity in pay & pension of ex-servicemen have favoured removal of disparity on this issue.  An anguished Supreme Court has gone to the extent of admonishing the authorities for treating soldiers/ex-soldiers like ‘beggars’.

(d)   Fourthly, even the Committee headed by the Cabinet Secretary found it hard to refute the legitimacy of OROP demand.  However, while the Committee largely accepted the essence of the demand in respect of JCOs/OR, often wrongly described in some MoD communications as ‘personnel below officer rank’ (PBOR), in the case of Commissioned Officers, it stopped just short of according  parity between pre and post 01-01-2006 pensioners.  (Statement of Shri AK Antony, Minister of Defence in the Lok Sabha on 13 Jul 2009 refers). Confounding the simple issue, the Committee’s convoluted recommendations at best halved the injustice to officers by introducing an absurdly misleading idea ‘modified parity’ as if there could be such a thing as ‘modified truth’ or ‘starve & enjoy’!  Reality is that anything other than ‘parity’ is ‘disparity’ and that must be resolved in simple and absolute terms.  

5.         Unfortunately, a skewed impression has been created about the genuine requirements of the serving and retired soldiers as if these were no more than their welfare demands.  The seriousness of repercussions such distorted views can have in weakening the vitals of our national defence is indeed grave because the nation’s defence potency will be only as strong as the motivation of its soldiers.  Their well being must, therefore, be viewed as national imperatives and not merely questions of their welfare.  Since every serving soldier is a future ex-serviceman, repercussions of decisions on issues like OROP directly affect the psyche of fighting soldiers as well.  The simmering disgruntlement among the soldiers and ex-soldiers raises serious questions on the state of morale and motivation of our Armed Forces.  Nothing can be more perilous for a country than a demoralised military led by an impoverished leadership in the wake of continuing Government apathy on basic issues such as OROP.