Monday, August 26, 2013

What ails the Indian Military really?

[Navdeep Singh's observations and suggestions have been always objective and pragmatic. I think time has come to open out and share our inner thoughts - even anguish - candidly within the military and the people. People, because lack of information gives rise to rumour and propaganda which could be worse than laying the truth bare. We have endured enough, hidden enough to preserve the good image.  The more we hide, the more it rots. Inner purging to root out the corrupt and immoral, however high and 'connected' - in the Army has never been more expedient.  It's humiliating to see the top military leadership so pretentious yet so ineffective; flamboyant and bossy before the subordinates but obsequiously humble before the bosses; preaching sacrifice but utterly self-serving.
Thankfully, there are many virtuous higher commanders even in these decadent times.  These conscientious generals have to rise and assume higher responsibilities to reverse the trend before it is too late.  - Karan Kharb]

Maj Navdeep Singh

The issue of Non Functional Upgradation (NFU) has been one of the major carrots for the officer cadre of the three defence services.

 Last year, the Prime Minister had appointed a Committee of Secretaries for looking into various demands raised by the defence services and the said committee was to submit its report by 08 August 2012 after which the announcement was expected to be made by the PM on the eve of Independence Day 2012. 

Besides restoration of status, one of the issues was Non-Functional Upgradation as stated above. Explained earlier on the blog,  NFU basically implies that whenever an IAS officer gets empanelled at a particular appointment at the Centre, all other Group-A service officers are also upgraded to the same level after a period of two years from the date of empanelment, on a non-functional basis irrespective of whether they are actually promoted or not. For example, if an officer of the IAS of 1982 batch is empanelled as an Additional Secretary to Govt of India, then all other Organised Group-A civil officers of the 1980 batch shall also be placed in the ‘Addl Secy to Govt of India’ pay grade of Rs 67000-79000 (Higher Administrative Grade/HAG) which is the same as a Lt Gen of the Army. As a result, almost all organised Group-A civil officers are retiring with the pay and pension of a Lt Gen whereas less than 1% of defence officers are retiring in the said grade. Interestingly, in many arenas, civilian officers serving under senior military officers are drawing a much higher pay (and consequently pension) under the system of NFU than their seniors from the defence services. 

The report was ultimately submitted by the Committee to the PMO on 17 August 2012 rather than the scheduled day of 08 August 2012, and interestingly, the three Chiefs were given positive signals on the same by all concerned. Even the Services HQ were informally informed by Ministry of Defence staffers that it was only a matter of time before the report was accepted and implemented and all quarters had recorded positive notes on the subject. Of course, this was taken as the truth by the Services and the gullible faujis. Till date, the Services HQ are waiting for the final orders to be issued.  

How wrong they were! 

The MoD has kept everyone in a twist. The MoD in its inputs to the Committee has NOT recommended the grant of NFU to commissioned officers of the three services and has in fact recorded just the opposite in its comments. The MoD has recorded in its note that service conditions of the defence services are different than civilian officers and ample benefits are already available to them in the form of Military Service Pay (MSP) and other allowances and therefore the contention of the Services is not logical. The financial implications for the grant of NFU have been calculated as Rs 69 crores.  

On the issue of restoration of status and parity of the defence services, the MoD has time and again in its inputs referred to the 2008 report of the Group of Ministers led by the then External Affairs Minister Mr Pranab Mukherjee. However, a perusal of the report of the GoM makes it clear that the GoM, ostensibly again due to wrong inputs from the MoD, has faltered on many points, some of which are: 

(a)  The GoM states on record that rank pay is not a part of basic pay and recommendations of the 4th CPC were merely recommendations and the cabinet decision is the final word on the issue. The GoM is totally wrong on this since the Cabinet itself had approved that particular recommendation of the 4th CPC which ordained that rank pay shall be part of basic pay for all intents and purposes. The same was also mentioned clearly in all Instructions issued by the MoD after the 4th CPC. Also, the Supreme Court has already decided that rank pay is not to be deducted from basic pay and hence any such statement recorded by the GoM is non est and redundant in the eyes of law. Moreover, rank pay was carved out of basic pay itself and till the 3rd CPC, without taking into account the rank pay, the Senior Time Scale (Under Secretary Govt of India) was equated with a Captain and Selection Grade (Director Govt of India) was equated with a Lt Col. When did the Govt issue orders after the 4th CPC degrading these military ranks? 

(b)  The GoM states that there are 6 levels in the Civilian Set-up compared to 9 in the defence services which leads to bunching of ranks and grades. Totally factually incorrect. Let us place it out in simple mathematics. The levels of the Civil Services are:  Junior Time Scale, Senior Time Scale, Junior Administrative Grade, Non-Functional Selection Grade/Selection Grade, DIG/Conservator Grade, Senior Administrative Grade, Higher Administrative Grade, Higher Administrative Grade Plus, Apex Grade, Cabinet Secretary Grade, while on the military side, the ranks are Lieut, Capt, Maj, Lt Col, Col, Brig, Maj Gen, Lt Gen (HAG), Lt Gen (HAG+), Lt Gen (Army Commander/Vice Chief/Apex Grade), General (Chief of Army Staff). Now please count them. The Civilian set-up has 10 Grades while the Defence set-up has 11 Grades. From where was this figure of 6 vs 9 levels culled out and placed before the GoM?? 

(c)  The GoM states that Lt Gens are equivalent to Additional Secretaries to Govt of India. This may appear to be true to the untrained eye because of the one-sided imposed functional equation invented by the MoD within the said Ministry for day to day working, but is incorrect if analysed holistically since Lt Generals outrank all Additional Secretaries to Govt of India in the Warrant of Precedence by one Article. They also outrank DsG of CAPFs who have been placed in the Apex Grade.  

Why does this happen? 

There are multifarious reasons behind this, some of them are: 

A. All decisions are taken at the back of the stakeholders as far as the defence services are concerned. The MoD processes the cases with their own notings, crucial meetings are then held behind the back of the defence services and then a decision is taken based on inputs and file notings of lower level bureaucrats without seeking a response or rebuttal from the stakeholders. The Raksha Mantri should be made conscious of the fact that whatever is put up to him on file is not the gospel truth and he should only take  decisions after making  the stakeholders an equal partner in the decision making process and not at their back. The Railway Board is the closest example of the system where a consultative process is initiated before taking decisions. The Department of Pensions and Pensioners’ Welfare (DoPPW) is another department wherein decisions related to pensionary benefits are taken only after a due consultative process by involving the official side and the staff side.  

B. The Defence Services should wake up and record their disagreements fearlessly on file. Even in courts it is seen that even if the stand of the Services HQ is at variance with that of the MoD, they would strangely start parroting the stand of the latter at their own peril and detriment. As independent Respondents in court cases, the Services are expected to present their own views and replies on the subject and not parrot the lines of some Section Officer or Under Secretary, otherwise what is the use of the system of having separate Respondents in litigation? Moreover, at key appointments, we sometimes let go of larger organisational issues for small personal gains, or want not to spoil ‘relations’, or want to impose personal opinion on file even if it negatively affects the future of thousands of others, and which is willingly agreed to by juniors because of obvious reasons. This has to cease, but this is not something that can be drilled-in or inculcated, the voice has to come from within, which of course is a tough call. I do not see it happening in the current culture. 

C. There has to be passion at work and strength of conviction. While glamorous issues are taken up in greater detail, issues which lie below the surface are not even touched. Expertise of officers who are positive in their approach should be recognized and they should be posted to key appointments irrespective of their posting profile. While the Air Force and the Navy are adept at this exercise, the same is lacking in the Army. For example, an officer who may be an expert in a particular field is not posted on an appointment requiring his expertise on the strange pretext that he was posted to the same station a few years ago, but another one who has no inkling of a particular job profile would be posted to the said appointment only because he had attended some obscure course somewhere or attended the Staff College or the CDM. Hello comrades, welcome to the real practical world, it extends much beyond PSc! 

DStop inflicting injuries to yourself. Limited Medical facilities to our old Emergency Commissioned Officers and Short Service Commissioned Officers as were available under existing instructions have been challenged by the Army itself in the Supreme Court. Imagine, the Army challenging its own scheme saying that medical facilities should be refused to its own officers. The concerned officers of the AG’s Branch and the DGAFMS who were instrumental in taking this action must be feeling great about it. Yes, sadism is pleasurable for some but round the world is and it all comes back. We have been so cheap on the said subject that after filing the sadistic appeal, we have deleted the "limited medical facilities to SSCOs" clause from the official brochure on terminal benefits issued by the AG's Branch. Another example, the Dynamic Assured Progression Scheme (DACP) for military doctors was stalled by our own people in uniform even after cabinet approval when the Chief of Staffs Committee (COSC) and the PPOC opined that it should not be implemented since it would result in doctors getting better pay and facilities than officers of other arms and services. Rather than saying that yes, DACP should be implemented for military doctors and then anomalies of others should also be resolved, we insisted on its denial to our own despite the fact that the MoD, DGAFMS, Air HQ and Naval HQ were fully in favour. When the AFT directed that it should be implemented, the MoD has now appealed against the same before the Supreme Court. and one of the major grounds of appeal of the MoD before the Supreme Court is that even the COSC has not recommended the grant of DACP to doctors. 

So there you have it! While DACP stands extended to all doctors under the central govt since 2008, it is 2013 and the case is mired in litigation for faujis, who is to blame? The problem is that we cannot see others happy, even if they happen to be our own. Period. 

Wake up faujis! Wake up!!

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