Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Military Morale – A Perilous Neglect

Karan Kharb

In terms of national defence preparedness, the last decade has been particularly worrisome.  Modernisation programmes and defence acquisition initiatives have remained mired in scams resulting in blacklisting of large number of firms that virtually blocked vital sources of equipment procurement. This has led to poor maintenance and upkeep of warlike equipment as has been amply evident from the frequent accidents and mishaps in the aircraft and submarines. Cases of suicide and insubordination in the military units have also shown a rising trend.  That discontent is steadily growing even in the higher echelons is evident from an ever-rising number of senior military officers going to courts to seek redress of their grievances. Never before in the history were so many star rank officers court-martialled as in the last few years.  What would explain the eerie disquiet and simmering resentment in the top military leadership more than the fact that an Army Chief had to sue the Government and a Navy Chief resigned in disgust?
Military affairs have obviously been neglected badly over the years. The age-old convention of keeping military insulated from the civilian gaze has lately proved to be detrimental in two ways.  Firstly, the decay has remained hidden from the public for long in the name of 'military security'. Secondly, it has encouraged the political leadership and the bureaucracy to remain strategically ignorant and logistically indifferent towards military needs even as the Armed Forces were always taken for granted on the face value. Thankfully, the new dispensation in New Delhi – the Modi Sarkar – now seems to have woken up to this grave reality.  The black listing has been reviewed and a number of vital procurement projects have since been cleared by the Government.  Prime Minister Narendra Modi has visited and interacted with troops in the forward areas including Siachen Glacer, Naval and Air Force bases but, thanks to the deep rooted military custom, no officer or jawan could be expected to appear anything but proud and happy in the company of a visiting dignitary – more so when the dignitary happens to be Narendra Modi – no matter what problems they faced.  The fact, however, is that in clearing the long pending acquisition projects, even the new government has taken note of only the tangible military assets.  The intangible and even more vital asset – morale of the fighting men – still lies less cared, far below the optimum levels. No amount of modern technology and wherewithal can win a war until the man behind the gun is adequately motivated to give out his best.  Military history is replete with evidence that even ill equipped but highly motivated soldiers have won battles defeating better equipped but badly led and poorly motivated units.  
Unfortunately, decision makers in India have viewed the question of 'military morale' in a skewed manner as if it were merely a 'welfare issue', a notion that has prevented governments to fathom the real value of this war winning factor called 'military morale'. Such mind-sets threaten to turn this invaluable asset into an unaffordable liability for the nation.  Ignorance of military capabilities, limitations and needs has led successive pay commissions to treat Armed Forces just another 'government service'. Pundit Nehru and his contemporaries had despised military as a non-productive and unwanted organisation in a Panchsheel inspired India. This attitude of the national leadership earned them the rude shock of Chinese aggression in 1962. That attitude seemed to again overwhelm the government during the last decade.  The new regime in New Delhi will have to comprehensively review and reorient the official viewpoint about the country's Armed Forces to comprehend the problems and to rebuild India's military potential.  
Unique Terms and Conditions of Service:
1.         Truncated Career span. As many as 75 per cent military personnel retire between the age group of 35 to 42 years even as most of their schoolmates in civil life would still be streamlining their career. Of the remaining, 20 per cent retire between the age of 42-52 years; and a fraction 5 per cent retire between the age of 52-60 years. In the civil services on the contrary, every employee has an assured job up to the age of 60 years, a stage in life when life's responsibilities are mostly over providing the employee optimal fulfilment in a happy retired life. In sharp contrast to this, a soldier retiring in his late thirties or early forties is surrounded by onerous responsibilities like buying or constructing a house, school-going children, ageing parents, younger siblings and a host of other familial-social obligations.  
2.         Long Separation from Family: Military service necessitates frequent transfers and postings at non-family stations devoid of basic amenities of the civilised world. Children of military personnel remain mostly deprived of parental care and fatherly affection in their formative years. Even in peace stations, majority of the personnel have to stay in barracks still separated from their families owing to service exigencies.  Cases of encroachment on the property of military personnel and exploitation of their families at the behest of unscrupulous elements in villages have been rising, as are the costs on justice.
3.         Unmatched Hazards and Hardships: Active borders, insurgency and terrorism have placed unique demands on the military that has to adapt to the changing role, terrain, climate and operational environment. Indian military finds itself drawn in to handle conflicts in areas as varied as towns, cities, forests, desert, frosty mountains and glacial high altitude exposing troops to risks like exhaustion, pulmonary oedema, frostbite and icy crevasses that swallow lives. Even in times of cease-fire, Indian troops perpetually remain at war with the vagaries of Nature – treacherous terrain and chilling climate, which has claimed more lives than the enemy forces. Operational environments are such that momentary casualness and minor mistakes can be fatal and one hardly ever gets a second chance. Peace or field, land or sea, a soldier is 24 hours on duty and there are is no such thing as 'duty hours' or 'overtime' in this profession.
4.         Fundamental Rights curtailed: The Fundamental rights like freedom of speech, expression and assembly and the right to form associations or unions enjoyed by every citizen under Article 19 (1) (a) (b) and (c) of the Constitution are abrogated in their application to members of the Armed Forces because of the special nature of duties performed by the members of these Forces. These provisions are like a lid over a cauldron while the steam builds within. In such a scenario, the absence of a sensitive and responsive safety valve can be highly dangerous because the turmoil building within cannot be seen as clearly as in the case of non-military setting where people's dissatisfaction manifests instantly and openly in the media and streets. Therefore, it is in the highest national interests that the government must be sensitive and receptive to the military advice and opinions expressed by the top brass of the Armed Forces.    
5.         Nation's Last Resort: The role of India's Armed Forces is to protect territorial integrity of India, defend the country from external aggression, internal security threats and to restore order and services in situations like natural calamity, disasters and civil disturbances when it is no longer possible for the civil authority to manage affairs. In addition, a bigger global role requiring India's Armed Forces to undertake peacekeeping operations across continents is also steadily evolving in the face of instable regimes, expanding menace of international terrorism and other regional conflicts. In the evolving geopolitical equations, India can be only as strong as its military power. In times of grave crises when all components of civil machinery fail, authorities and people alike turn to Military, which has a glorious record of superb performance. But if ever the military failed, all hopes and options of the country would crash. Unquestionably, military might is the ultimate power of the state and its last resort to assert its will domestically, regionally and even globally. Logically, if their delivery standards in turning chaos to normalcy after all other components of the civil administration had failed have been so unique and unmatched, why should the salaries and privileges of military personnel not be likewise unique and unmatched, that is, a notch above all else?  
            The rising trend of revolt and insubordination among the serving military personnel and the ex-servicemen (ESM) taking to streets, returning their medals and protesting against injustice are eloquent reminders for the government and the people that their military is losing its sheen and self-esteem. Whereas there is a need to constitute a Defence Reforms Commission to examine all aspects of national security and defence preparedness, the immediate need is to restore the fading sheen and self-esteem of the Armed Forces.   Seventh Pay Commission has been constituted even as anomalies of the 6th Pay Commission are yet to be resolved.  It has neither a military member on its panel nor specific terms of reference to improve the lot of the Armed Forces.    
            In the backdrop of these realities, it is necessary to identify the impediments and pave the way for definitive and speedy improvements in the state of affairs.      
Official Antipathy
Departments and organisations created to serve interests of the serving and retired military personnel have gradually become either defunct or counters of corrupt practices.  The ESM community is unhappy with the functioning of departments like the Department of Ex-servicemen Welfare (DESW) and Rajya and Zila Sainik Boards. The DESW headed and staffed by civilians who are neither organised nor trained and oriented to comprehend and serve the interests of the ex-servicemen. Rajya and Zila Sainik Boards are no more than a countersigning authority, which is often seen as another layer of bureaucratic red tape to impede and delay rather than hasten and sharpen the process in favour of the ex-servicemen. Directorate General of Resettlement (DGR) headquartered in New Delhi, though staffed by military personnel, is powerless in garnering adequate jobs and occupations for the retiring military personnel.   
Growing callousness in the government offices has forced the ESM to voice their woes through rallies and protest marches.  Thousands returned their medals to the President pledging that they would receive these tokens of honour back only after their grievances are redressed honourably.  At the top of the list of their grievances is the issue of 'one rank one pension' (OROP) which has been tantalising the ESM community despite having been accepted by both – the outgoing UPA Government and even the more promising Modi Sarkar.
As for the serving military personnel, all the three Chiefs of Services had expressed their dissatisfaction over the 'raw deal' given to military personnel by the 6th Pay Commission and the Manmohan Singh Government itself.     
The anti-military mind-set of the bureaucracy seems to have formalised the practice of challenging all court verdicts given in favour of serving or retired soldiers into an official policy of the government, whereas challenging such verdicts should be a rarity. Here are just a few samples of how this official antipathy has ripened into an outright brazen animosity towards military:-
(a)    OROP: The issue of OROP has affected the morale of the Armed Forces more than any other issue because today's serving soldier is tomorrow's ESM.  The "principle of OROP" has been upheld by all – the Government, political parties, and parliamentary committees. It has been unequivocally accepted by PC Chidambaram and Arun Jaitlely on the floor of the Parliament amidst thunderous applause. Whatever be behind the scene machinations, if any, no department, agency or organisation has openly raised any objection to this entitlement of military personnel. Yet, the ESM community continues waiting for it till this day! And lately, it is rumoured that the Defence Minister has referred the matter to "a Tribunal".  That means the bureaucratic red tape has won and the OROP will lie to ferment until the next Defence Minister alters the status quo!
(b)   The Disability Pension Case: Dismissing a Central Government appeal (CS Sidhu Vs Union of India) on 31 March 2010 against the grant of adequate disability pension to an army officer who had lost an arm in an accident while on duty in a high altitude field area, a Supreme Court bench noted this official antipathy and caustically remarked, "….Is this the way you treat those brave army officers? It is unfortunate that you are treating them like beggars…… The army personnel are bravely defending the country even at the cost of their lives and we feel they should be treated in a better and more humane manner by government authorities, particularly in respect of their emoluments, pension and other benefits."    
(c)    Denial of Enhanced Pension: The case of illegal deduction of 'enhanced pension' from the salary of re-employed ESM has been playing seesaw since 1997. The 'deduction order' of the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) was challenged in the Delhi High Court, which quashed it on 09 August 2004. When it was not implemented, the matter was again taken to the Delhi High Court, which passed strictures against the government on 23 May 2008, calling the non-implementation "high-handed and need to be deprecated" and observing, "Such action besides being illegal and unwarranted was also contemptuous."  Yet, the government filed a special leave petition against it, which was yet again dismissed by the Supreme Court on 07 November 2009.  The ESM, however, are still shunting from pillar to post!
(d)   The Rank Pay Case: Rank Pay arrears accruing to all those officers of the Armed Forces who held ranks of captain to brigadier and their equivalents in the Navy and Air Force from 01 January 1986 onwards have been unfairly denied to both serving and retired officers ever since. After the government approved recommendations of the 4th Pay Commission in 1987, the CDA (Officers) deducted an amount equal to the rank pay while re-fixing the pay of officers.  This was challenged by Major AK Dhanapalan and the Kerala High Court held the action of the CDA (Officers) wrong and ruled that the pay be re-fixed without deducting the rank pay and arrears accruing since 01 January 1986 be paid to the petitioner. All the government appeals were successively rejected. After the Supreme Court ruling the government issued orders for re-fixation of pay in respect of the petitioner only, leaving all the similarly affected officers of the Armed Forces in a quandary. Later when the Retired Defence Officers Association (RDOA) filed a case to claim the same justice as granted to Dhanapalan for all others similarly affected, their plea was upheld and government appeals finally rejected at the apex court.  Yet, the heads of the concerned departments in the government deftly devise new intricacies to delay and deny the genuine dues of soldiers despite stern rulings from the highest judiciary. Even today, both serving and retired officers continue waiting for their long denied dues.    
Today, there are over a hundred cases decided by courts in favour of the military personnel – serving and retired. Almost all these cases are a result of either remarkable inefficiency or callous and hostile attitude of government officials heading the concerned departments.  The practice of government filing SLPs in every case decided in favour of these aggrieved soldiers lays bare the hostile attitude against the sentinels of national defence and security. 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's closer inter-action with the Armed Forces has kindled a new hope among the serving military personnel and the ESM. While the comprehensive defence reforms can be assigned to an appropriately constituted commission, the following issues must be addressed and resolved without any further lingering:-
(a)             The 7th Pay Commission: The 7th Pay Commission has no military expert on its panel to offer sound advice on the special features of the military service and genuine requirements of the personnel in this profession of arms. There is a need to have a military member on the panel and specific terms of reference concerning the uniqueness of military occupation that distinguishes the service from all others.  Also, the terms of reference must include military being treated as a "unique and matchless service" that deserves special privileges. Their pay, allowances and perquisites must be a level above the highest paid government service.
(b)             Grant of Non-functional Upgrade (NFU): The organisational structure of military is so pyramidal that a large number are squeezed from its sharply narrowing funnel and left out to stagnate. Being thus deprived of higher promotions despite possessing requisite qualifications frustrates large number of efficient officers. There should be a system like NFU to keep them motivated and to avail of their knowledge and experience even if they cannot be given higher promotions. Justifiably, no other service merits the grant of NFU more than the military because the stagnation rate is nowhere as high in the civil services as in the military.  Yet, this provision is granted to the civil administrative cadre (Group A Service) but not to the military service.   
(c)              Right to Vote: Military personnel can vote at the place of their posting as per directions issued by the Election Commission.  However, a large number of military voters and their families in cantonments remain deprived of their right to vote freely. 
(d)             Armed Forces Commission: The Government must consider institutionalising a central authority to safeguard interests of the Services and ESM.  Departments like DESW, Rajya and Zila Sainik Boards and DGR may be abolished.
Justifiable needs and genuine grievances of the serving military personnel and the ESM are inseparably interlinked and must be addressed holistically. Treating issues concerning them as mere 'welfare issues' is a short-sighted misplaced notion because morale and motivation of the Armed Forces is the single most valuable national asset that can be dissipated at grave national peril.     

Monday, September 01, 2014

Modi Sarkar views Military as Nation's Might

Plight of Military Might in Resurgent India
Karan Kharb
               Powerful nations radiate powerful influence far across their geographical borders over countries and continents. And this influence is mostly coercive – often disregarding opinions of a majority of sovereign nations. President Bush was brazenly explicit in conveying his threat even to friendly countries when he said, “If you are not with us, you are against us.”  The world has watched in the recent decades how a couple of powerful nations have not felt deterred from launching punitive operations against unfriendly regimes. On-going conflicts in West Asia and Central Asia are glaring examples of this reality.
Much as the weaker nations might despise such arrogance of mighty nations, the latter have been succeeding in enforcing their plans, even if partially, in different parts of the world.  In the realm of geopolitics, it is clear that the powerful nations use a combination of soft power and coercive power to achieve compliance, cooperation and, wherever possible, even submission of targeted regimes. Effect of soft power is enhanced manifold if it is backed by credible hard power, that is, military power that gives meaning to diplomacy, strategy, trade and economy. If wealth alone were power, West Asia would be ruling the world.  If geographical size were power, Russia would be Power Number One and the Soviet Union would not have disintegrated. Irrefutably, it is the Military Might that adds awe and aura to a nation’s standing in the regional and international equations. Israel would simply not exist today if it were not so. Today its utterance and posturing shakes up the neighbourhood and makes the world sit up and listen to it – their consent or dissent just don’t seem to matter.
                Even so, in the reckoning of military might, an array of high technology, sophisticated fighting machines and equipment – an area where critical deficiencies have seriously hampered the Indian Army’s modernisation programme – is but one factor, significantly weighty though. The man behind the gun, however, shall always be the decisive factor in projecting and executing this military might. No amount of modern technology and wherewithal can substitute human – the soldier whose wellness makes the ultimate difference between victory and defeat in war. Modern world’s high-tech protective gear, high precision weaponry, satellite communication systems, computerisation and nano-tech breakthroughs will deliver little until the user is motivated to dare adversity and danger. Napoleon accorded three times more value to the soldier’s morale vis-à-vis material. In 1993 when the Government expressed inability to finance raising of the Rashtriya Rifles, Gen BP Joshi relied on military morale and raised the Force equipping and manning it from the existing manpower and equipment of the Indian Army.  Again, at the outset of Kargil War, it was this intangible but enormous asset of military morale that prompted the Army Chief, Gen VP Malik to say, “…..we will fight with whatever is available….,” despite critical deficiencies of arms and equipment.
Traditionally, military personnel are not expected to demand favours nor admit weakness. Enquire about his ‘morale’ and even a dying soldier would spring up and scramble to fight. The same is true of his commanders too. No unit or formation commander would ever confess a decline in morale or erosion of espirit de corps in the Forces no matter how pathetic their state might be. On an expedition – war or adventure – Indian soldiers have never sought rest, comfort or even food until it is all over! Little wonder, Kautilya whom the world knows more popularly as Chanakya, had cautioned King Chandragupta, “The day the soldier has to demand his dues will be a sad day for Magadha for then, on that day, you will have lost all moral sanction to be King!” Edicts in Atharvaveda (Kaand 4/Anuvakah 7/Sukta 31 & 32) and Kautilya’s Arthashastra (Sangram/10th Adhikaran/Ch 3) also underscore a powerful advice to Governments, “To win wars, influence neighbouring states and to promote his national interests, the King must build up an Army of soldiers so honoured, privileged and motivated that their wrath unnerves the enemy; their sacrifices beget love and respect of their own people; and their valour is rewarded with the highest esteem and admiration by the King and his ministers.”
In the post Kargil period, however, the military morale has been sadly on a downhill slide as is manifestly evident from the increasing cases of soldiers committing suicides, fratricides, insubordination and defiance. Sporadic cases of mutiny in the last decade or so have raised many serious questions on the military management. What is even more shocking is that such incidents are not confined to units deployed in operational areas alone. Angst against exploitation and injustice to their families back home has been driving soldiers to suicide and fragging even in peace locations. Answering a question in the Rajya Sabha on 22 Jul 2014, Defence Minister Arun Jaitley admitted that suicides among security personnel of the armed forces were a serious issue. He informed the House that the Armed Forces had lost 597 personnel to suicide in the last five years (that is, at a rate of 10 soldiers every month or 120 every year). He also revealed that 1,349 officers quit the Army during the same period. And while the Army bears the brunt, this dangerous trend is shared by all three wings of the Armed Forces.
Causes for this onset of decay are many. For decades, a perception of ‘raw deal’ by the successive pay commissions has been allowed to grow in the Armed Forces by governmental neglect. Denial of growth opportunities, unfair salary and pension fixation, erosion of status, dilution of military privileges and isolation of military from decision-making process even in matters of national defence, security and welfare of military personnel are some of the sores that have festered over the years. Provisions such as preferential hearing of soldiers’ cases by civil administration and courts exist only on papers now and many district magistrates, police officers and judges are either not aware or remain deliberately callous in attending to genuine problems of soldiers and their families. Subsidised canteen facilities, medical facilities, military quota, field allowances and numerous other privileges that were once unique to military have been systematically usurped and multiplied by the civil services and politicians. Compare stocks and prices in Parliament House canteen or any other departmental canteen in Government offices and military canteens to know the difference. Today, AC suites in the state guesthouses and Bhavans in New Delhi’s Chanakyapuri are available to politicians at Rs 45 per day with sumptuous non-veg dinner for Rs 130 per diner whereas Army officers passing through Delhi are gratified after paying Rs 500 or more for a room in a Delhi Cantt officers mess – if they get one at all!
Persistent representation on pay commission anomalies by the Services Headquarters to the MoD and Prime Minister yielded no positive result from the UPA Government even as hordes of anguished Ex-servicemen staged protests returning their service medals over non-grant of one-rank-one-pension (OROP). What is even more frustrating is that while both the Governments – UPA and NDA – had declared their approval and decision to implement OROP, no tangible gain has fructified yet.  
The need to maintain a youthful profile of the Armed Forces implies that a large number of JCOs and other ranks retire from the service at an early age of 35-48 years. Likewise, a majority of commissioned officers also retire between 52-54 years of age. This period is the most crucial phase in the life of the retiring personnel since the burden of family and social responsibilities is heaviest on a man at such a juncture. Increasing expenses on ailing parents, education and marriage of children, separation from family and a host of other responsibilities suddenly surround the retiring soldier. There are no second-career opportunities, no assured lateral absorption in government services nor is there any satisfactory rehabilitation scheme for hordes of youthful retiring service personnel. 
Unlike Civil Services, career progression in military narrows sharply as one advances in the service. With each successive promotion the pyramid becomes narrower because in a unit of 800 personnel there can be only one Subedar Major who will occupy this position for 3-4 years. Likewise, there can be only one Chief and seven Army Commanders at the top who shall serve 2-3 years, implying thereby that only eight out of every set of 3000 officers can aspire to reach these levels no matter how competent the remaining are. Whereas nearly 90 per cent IAS officers make it to secretary/additional secretary level, only 0.003 per cent officers in the armed forces reach that level.   The reason for mass screening out, unfortunately, is not incompetence or disqualification on grounds of merit but the scarce vacancies at the top. On the contrary, no civil servant retires without reaching the top pay scale in his stream, no matter how incompetent one might be. In such a situation, no cadre deserved a service compensation like ‘non-functional upgrade’ (NFU) more than the Armed Forces. Here ironically again, only civil service officers are granted NFU. There is no reason why such compensatory dispensation should be selectively granted to the civil services and denied to the soldiery.  
The long awaited and direly needed modernisation programme of the Armed Forces has remained mired in the complex procurement processes and bureaucratic red tape at the MoD and departments. Instances of corruption in some cases have vitiated the processes even further. As per a report tabled by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence, Army’s modernisation programme has been declining steadily and ominously. A mere 27 paisa out of every rupee was being spent on capital expenditure (CAPEX) during 2008-09. It slid to 18 paisa per rupee by 2013-14. Narendra Modi’s arrival as India’s Prime Minister did boost aspirations of strategists and thinkers within and outside the Armed Forces. For once, it appeared that in its quest for a global role India could now embark upon a ‘transformation programme’ repositioning the military from its defensive and counter-offensive posturing to the level of a potent fearsome war waging Force capable of enforcing peace and deterring hegemonic adventures in South Asia and neighbourhood. Even as Arun Jaitley might seem overburdened as a Minister with two major portfolios – Defence and Finance, he is also the most suited man with acumen and understanding of both vis-à-vis the India’s strategic interests and military requirements. He will need to start streamlining the systems within the MoD itself.
Today the situation is dismal. The armour and the mechanised infantry remain equipped with obsolete or no night fighting capabilities. Only a small number of units have adequate night fighting capability. Deficiencies in armour ammunition including war wastage reserve have already reached critical levels. With no gun inducted ever since Bofors, artillery is ageing fast too. With no spares available, requirements are being met by ‘cannibalising’ – an emergency recourse that has reduced effectiveness by half. The state of army air defence is even worse. A major part of the main AD equipment is obsolete and inferior to what is being acquired by our adversaries.  L-70, Zu23-2B and ZSU23-4B (Schilka) guns are from 1960s vintage. AD missile units are equipped with Igla 1M, Strela 10M, OSA AK and Kvadrat missiles – all obsolescent in the wake of more advanced and effective systems like Spider (Israel), S-400 (Russia) and Patriot (US) available in the international market. Army Aviation is similarly carrying on with obsolete Cheetah and Chetak helicopters. New acquisition of 197 helicopters is stuck even four years after trials and re-valuation of Russian Kamov 226 and Eurocopter AS 550 models.      
For the infantry soldier, the indigenously designed INSAS rifle has proved to be inferior to the modern assault rifles being acquired by our adversaries. Critical deficiencies hampering infantry soldier’s combat potential include carbines, GPMG, anti-material rifles, anti-mine boots, lightweight bulletproof jackets, bulletproof helmets, third gen NVDs, anti-mine vehicles, snow scooters and new generation grenades.
One major reason why the situation is so dismal is the procurement procedure itself. In the high-tech high-speed digital age today, it takes as much as 3-4 years to have a procurement proposal approved because such proposals have to pass through a maze of tortuous processes involving more than 15 departments and agencies. “Expeditious processing also will take at least 48 months for a project to be approved,” says a senior IAS officer who retired early this year from MoD.  How this bureaucratic lethargy is taking toll of life and equipment is evident from the increasing loss of combat aircraft, war ships and submarines. Official callousness has become so frustrating that a meritorious Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral DK Joshi resigned in anger owning responsibility that lay at someone else’s desk for the repeated mishaps in submarines and ships. Ill-equipped men pushed into operations are either committing suicide, killing their colleagues or seniors in sheer frustration.  
Perhaps for the first time in post-independence India, political parties realised the value of military personnel and ex-servicemen but only during the few months preceding general elections. All parties attempted to placate soldiers and ex-servicemen with a view to winning their support and vote during the recent Lok Sabha elections. Utterances from the Bharatiya Janata Party and Narendra Modi himself, however, seemed more reassuring. They indicated evidence of strategic vision and understanding of military requirements and the plight of serving soldiers and ex-servicemen. In his maiden budget speech, Defence and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley eloquently declared in Lok Sabha, “There can be no compromise with the defence of our country. I therefore propose to allocate an amount of 2,29,000 crore for the current financial year for Defence.... Modernization of the Armed Forces is critical to enable them to play their role effectively in the Defence of India’s strategic interests.” Thus, it would be fair to assume that the present Government is sincerely sensitive and alive to military requirements and the country’s strategic needs. In the initiation of defence reforms, it would be prudent to start from revamping the MoD so as to weave military expertise in the policy-decision mechanism at all levels of defence, security and strategic planning and coordination. Besides a positively inclined political leadership, India now has some seasoned bureaucrats with proven credentials of professional integrity and wisdom to grasp vital necessities of national defence. In Ajit Doval, we have a man of proven excellence who has vast experience in varied fields that fit him perfectly in his present position as National Security Advisor and Foreign Policy Advisor. Results of his ‘advice’ are already visible. Joining in this strategy-synergy blending with the Government is the new Army Chief, Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag, whose crisp and sharp warning to Pakistan against any future misadventure across the Line of Control eloquently echoed Prime Minister Modi’s stand on national security and mutually respected neighbourliness. Gen Suhag’s credentials as a war hero, Special Forces Commander and an enviable performance record of prestigious instructional and staff appointments set him apart as a man who shall live up to the Government’s trust to deliver results. Together, the Team ‘Modi-Jaitley-Doval-Suhag’ exudes vision and confidence. India was perhaps never poised better to refurbish and lubricate its military might for bigger global roles.
The setting is perfect for much needed transformation of the Armed Forces by revamping MoD and by making soldiery an attractive, prestigious career for the youth of the country.

The writer is a military veteran, author and social activist.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Unholy Duel - Unnecessary 'Dharma Uddha'

Shankaracharya Vs Sai Ram!

Karan Kharb
Rev Shankaracharya Swami Swarupanand ji Maharaj is again in the news raking up a controversy that threatens to weaken people’s faith in this high Institution of Hindu Faith. There are many sects within Hindus and some religions – Jain, Buddhists, Sikhs et al – that practice variants of the Primary Fatih and essentially its subsidiaries.  

A neo-entrant sect of Sai followers seems to have annoyed him for treating Sai Baba as a divine incarnation and eulogising the saint by installing his idols in Temples. Issuing diktats in a Taliban style, the Shankaracharya has virtually banished the Sai followers from the Hindu fold by decreeing that they be forbidden from entering the Ganga and Hindu Temples even as nothing anti-human or anti-civilisation has been observed in the practice of Sai followers.      

Recently a ‘Dharma Sansad’ has also endorsed the Shankaracharya diktat.  So much brouhaha about an innocuous practice, no matter how superstitious or deviant it might be, is surely against the very tenets of Hindu religion they are claiming to protect. The whole outrage against the Sai affair is ridiculous and cheap when viewed in the light of these very high Priests of our Faith winking at the rampant mal-practices going on in religious places.  We have not heard them condemning the immoral activities and crimes indulged in by the likes of Swami Nityanand Saraswati, Bapu Asa Ram and a host of other Gurus and Swamis who stand exposed today.   

Just what are the basic Articles of Faith enshrined in our Holy Scriptrues in this context?  A few excerpts from the relevant provisions in these Scriptures:-  

1.            ‘Dharma’ as defined in Manusmriti (मनुस्मृति) is a personal regime in life adhering to ten tenets: Patience, Forgiveness, Abstinence, Freedom from Greed, Hygiene, Suppression of Desires; Wisdom, Intellect, Truth and Freedom from Anger.    

धृति, क्षमा, दमोऽस्तेयम्, शौचम्, इन्द्रियनिग्रह |
धीर्विद्या, सत्यमक्रोध: दशकम् धर्म लक्षणम् || (Manu. 6/92)

2.            In Bhagvadgita, Lord Krishna explains 26 attributes of ‘Dharma’ to Arjun (Chapter 16, Shlokas 1-3):-    

अभयम्, सत्त्वसन्शुद्धि:, ज्ञानयोग-व्यवस्थिति, दानम्, दम:, यज्ञ:, स्वाध्याय:, तप:, आर्ज्वम्. (१)
अहिंसा, सत्यं, अक्रोध:, त्याग:, शान्ति:, अपैशुनम्, भूतेशु-दया, अलोलुपत्वम्, मार्द्वम्-ह्री:, अचापलम्:. (२)
तेज:, क्षमा, धृति, शौचम्, अद्रोह:, अतिमानता न, दैवीम्, सम्पदम्, अभिजातस्य. (३).  

3.            What is God? The Vedas have elaborate exponential explanations that help us to realise and understand God.  विश्व के इतिहास में यह तथ्य निर्विरोध रूप से प्रमाणित एवं स्वीकृत है कि वेद (कम से कम ऋग्वेद’) इस संसार का प्राचीनतम् ग्रन्थ है। भारत में भी हिन्दू धर्म के सभी सम्प्रदाय/घटक वेदों को शाश्वत, सत्य एवं सर्वोपरि मानते हैं । ईश्वर को भी वेदों में विस्तार से परिभाषित किया गया है. संक्षेप में ईश्वर के स्वरूप को  इस प्रकार वर्णित किया है:-  

ईश्वर सच्चिदानन्दस्वरूप, निराकार, सर्वशक्तिमान, न्यायकारी, दयालु, अजन्मा, अनन्त, निर्विकार, अनादि, अनुपम, सर्वाधार, सर्वेश्वर, सर्वव्यापक, सर्वान्तर्यामी, अजर, अमर, अभय, नित्य, पवित्र और सृष्टिकर्त्ता है। उसी की उपासना करना योग्य है।  

(God is Embodiment of Truth and Bliss.  He is Formless, Omnipotent, Judicious, Gracious, Unchanged, Sterile, Infinite, Incomparable, Basis of all Being, Master of all, Omnipresent, Omniscient, Enduring, Immortal, Fearless, Eternal, Pure, and Creator of Universe. Only He is worthy of worship.)     

For more details read:  Yajurveda 23/62; 31/1; 31/13; Rigveda 1-164-39; 1-52-12; 10-129-7; Satyarthaprakash (ch. 1).    

4.            More than anything else, all our scriptures preach universal fraternity (वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम्). There is no room for animosity. Only untruth, violence and vices must be shunned by all. Virtues like TOLERANCE and FORGIVENESS cannot be discarded – more so by those who occupy the most revered Seats of Faith.  By castigating followers of a particular sect – Sai Ram or Sat Sai Baba - and banning them from entering the Hindu Temples is most unfair, high-headed and impetuous besides being illegal.  The Shankaracharya posturing runs counter to the basic principles of our Faith, eg:- 

सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिन:, सर्वे सन्तु निरामया:।
सर्वे भद्राणि पश्यन्तु, मा कश्चिद् दु:खभाग्भवेत ॥ 

               None can impair the power or influence of the Supreme Power – God, Ishwar, Bhagwan, Allah – call Him what you will. There is no power on Earth that can guard, protect or save God because He is immune to harm, danger or fear. It is He who controls all. He can neither be endangered nor threatened nor diminished no matter how many wars we might wage on each other in His name.  

Only ego and ignorance will provoke irate responses. Knowledge of Truth will foster universal Love, Goodwill and Compassion.  Lack of it will trigger Self-righteousness, Ego, Rivalry, Jealousy and dispute.  

May Truth prevail!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A well wisher's advice to a flloundering, mud-slinging General -


From a Concerned Veteran as others may be hesitant in even trying to do this

Bold & Italics are mine.
Dear General,
I write to you with anguish at the way things have recently played out for someone who most veterans hold in high esteem. Having said so, we who have directly or indirectly ensured that you are where you are today would greatly appreciate if you place your energies towards the alleviation of your former colleagues and towards whom you have a duty to perform rather than get involved in the unsavoury episodes of the past that have cropped up now or may happen in the future as you are now a “Public Figure” outside the purview of the Army Act 1950 & the Official Secrets Act 1923, or even the DSR, for the General public, more so with regard to your personal matters.

I have taken the liberty of copy/pasting your profile from Wikipedia, with the Bold and italics being mine..

“General Vijay Kumar Singh, PVSM, AVSM, YSM (retired) is an Indian politician and the Minister of State of External Affairs and Minister of state (independent charge) for North East Region besides other portfolios in the MEA, in the National Democratic Alliance government that was elected in the Indian general elections, 2014. He gained his seat in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of the Parliament of India, in those elections, defeating the actor-turned-politician Raj Babbar in the Ghaziabad constituency of Uttar Pradesh by a record 567,000 votes, the second-highest margin of victory after Narendra Modi.
Singh was previously a military officer, serving as the 24th Chief of Army Staff of the Indian Army. He was the first commando to be promoted to the rank of General , (A bit of a misnomer as we all understand that you are an Infantryman to the core who has done his share of Commando training & Instruction as have so many others and have done the Rangers course which too has been done by many, also that you were never part of the SF) and was also the first serving Indian military chief to take the Government of India to court. In 2014,(Something that traditionalists do not accept as a factor of “Just Not Done”) after his retirement from the military, he joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
From your profile, in my opinion, correct me if I am wrong, other than the general views shown in red, three specifics stand out.
1.     You are an Indian Politician.
2.     You are a Minister in the Central Council of Ministers.
3.      You won the elections by a record 567,000 votes.
4.      You were previously a Military Officer.
Your journey to this point in life as seen by me goes back to July of the year 1968, 46 years ago.  As I know you, my earliest memory of you goes back to the NDA in my first term, where as a fifth term sergeant you use to take post around the Ashoka Pillar and closer to No 2 Bn, better still Hunter Squadron. A chance encounter along escaping the ring around after movie function on the presidency drive via the drill square-QM fort-Dhobi Ghat route with my course-mate NKS Yadav brought us face to face with you. Magnanimously or possibly out of sheer boredom you let us go. Your sixth term memories are scant since you had become a BCC and glimpses of marching down the Presidency drive, starched KD’s, swinging canes and uncrossed satchel to boot is all that one recollects. A sight a number of juniors were inspired by. All this while we, as second termers were at the mercy of your course-mate, late VKS Pundir and his rather infamous ideas at disciplining a collection of goons who had no respect for “Mother India”. His tear jerker in the Assembly hall is a legendary tale though you may not have heard or witnessed it as you would have walked off after the movie, out of squad, using the NTT shortcut to the mess, as was the accepted privilege of sixth termers more so of appointments. Having done so in my own turn one has no regrets or acrimony on that score…..We just followed you because we thought what you did was right. The same way you would have followed your seniors..
I did not get a chance of ever serving with you ever in service. Our diverse arms, appointments, seniority levels being the reason for the same. However one did get a chance of distantly associating with you thrice in service. Firstly while handling the Samba case; I did get some cross references of a fracas in your unit then in the North East where you figured rather prominently. The second was closer home when I, as a DQ of an Infantry Brigade oversaw the mess created by your unit while handing over vehicles, battalion support weapons and accommodation and the like to you relieving unit. Maybe the name NK Gupta, SM will strike a chord. The last time one really saw you up close was in the movie “Prahar”. By the time you took over as the COAS I had hung up my spurs.
As the COAS when the controversy of the alleged move of units followed by your date of birth erupted I was one of a handful of veteran TV commentators who held forth of your correct approach at redressal of a grievance.
As hindsight I now wonder, though procedurally correct was the move ethically correct? It is for you to answer your inner conscience. We who thought you were right….We followed you.
We did have occasion to meet post your retirement if you recall, Once at your Delhi Cantt residence, the next at the Rezangla Memorial function and finally at the Dinner you hosted prior to your formally joining the BJP. In the interim period, I was fully involved in the propagation of ESM in Parliament as the only means of having our grievances, that are still aplenty, to be addressed at the National level. My original paper given to your principal advisor is proof enough of my involvement.  Your appearance at the Rewari rally gave most ESM a ray of hope towards this end. You are well aware of the stand taken by various ESM organizations and you became a binding factor of this common aim…….We continued to follow you.
You began consultations with the high and mighty of the BJP and we were told that you were in the forefront of espousing the cause of this mighty churning and that you would be instrumental in ensuring that adequate representation of ESM would figure in the ticket distribution for LS 2014. The original demand of 50 whittled down to 25 and finally to 5-6 was an exercise in futility. Relying on your leadership to achieve this, all other avenues were either blocked or forsaken at the behest of your advisors. Some ESM did bite the bullet of the ballot but came out croppers, barring the favoured few including you who now sit in the sanctum sanctorum of our democracy….. We continued to follow you.  
Your victory and elevation to ministerial rank was welcomed by all and the sweet feeling of “Achhey Din Aayenge” for this marginalized segment of society was echoed amongst one and all. We hoped that you would rally the motley group of 6 ESM MP’s all from your party towards solving our problems………We continued to follow you.
The incidents of the last two days have left a bitter taste in most veteran mouths. As can be seen from the outpourings on the social media, the sense of being let down seems to have set in and needs to be arrested.
 What led to this turn around?
 Let us look at it objectively.
1.     You have played your first innings rather well having reached the top of your chosen profession. That you went back to the pavilion, more as a case of Hit wicket or in current FIFA fever as a self goal is for you to introspect.
2.     Your acrimony towards Suhag and his appointment as the next COAS was a subject of contention during electioneering, taken up by Dr Swamy apparently at your behest.
3.     The Govt of the now ruling dispensation upheld the appointment of Lt Gen Dalbir Suhag as the next COAS as promulgated by the previous Govt overruling all dissent from within the party and outside. Remember what you told us…Rule No 1…”The Boss is always right.” The matter was considered “CLOSED”.
4.     Your angst, acrimony, authority, views on the subject as a COAS, action taken as COAS became inconsequential and irrelevant. It is quite common in any uniformed or non-uniformed service from unit level upwards that decisions taken by someone in the chair at any given point in time are overturned by their successors to suit their style of functioning. You had your way now let others have theirs. In the instant case of 3 Corps/4 Corps Intelligence operations, accountability of the Corps commander, you had an opinion and you took action as deemed fit. Your successor did not agree and overturned it. The apex body, the MoD concurred. So where does it leave you? Irrelevant, to my mind, notwithstanding your personal opinion.    
5.     The MoD submitted an affidavit in the Supreme Court pointing fingers at you in the case of Lt Gen Ravi Dastane as it was linked to that of your actions as a COAS, which as far as you were concerned was a closed chapter.
6.     You go and Tweet, using rather abrasive language implying that you still considered that you were right and the MoD, previous Govt, present COAS were all wrong.
7.     The opposition, media, anti VK factions, pro Suhag factions go to town with a smirk on their faces….saying and implying….”I told you so” “VK has an unfinished agenda”, “Suhag should be given a pink slip” and so on and so forth.
There are certain forms and customs that are demanded of a serving officer and a subsequent veteran, as gleaned from a pamphlet called, “Introduction to Services”, that are taught in the 4th term at the NDA. Not that one paid heed to it as a cadet but imbibed from it much later when I was teaching the same as an Instructor there.
An unwritten custom passed on from most seniors, those who could qualify as leaders was that post retirement you did not meddle in the affairs of the unit/formation you once commanded. In your case it extends to the entire Army. Breaking of the umbilical cord with the uniform is again an unwritten law, some cannot get over this is a separate issue. The link through three smart cards is all that is expected, viz, CSD, ECHS & Club Memberships. As a former COAS you have enough privileges that are outside the purview of this letter. Now that you have entered the political arena you are under further and intense scrutiny. Words and actions need to be very carefully articulated.
The purpose of this diatribe and rather unsolicited advice is due to the fact that a number of us veterans sense danger ahead. A sixth sense feeling of an ambush lurking in the dense foliage of the political jungle. For a first termer in parliament, that you are, you need to understand the various circumventing methods of falling into such a trap. Much as the circuitous routes to squadrons to avoid F parades, the methods to skip ED’s and restrictions and of course the dreaded Sinhgarh hikes. The aim of veterans was to have representation in Parliament. Amongst the 567,000 votes polled for you there must be at least 100,000 such votes of veterans, families, relations and their friends.
You cannot afford to walk into an ambush and let them down and through them the 43 Lakh ESM and dependants who are counting on you to deliver. We are still prepared to follow. you.
However I would like to caution you and add a caveat here. If you permit, here are a few submissions and suggestions: -
1.     Steer clear of the day-to-day happenings of the MoD & service HQ. They have people there who are now doing what we once did. Perhaps they will do a better job than us failing which they will perish. It seems the mandarins of the MoD, irrespective of the ruling dispensation would not have ESM running the show. With or without the active connivance of the present political authority above them.
2.     Concentrate on the awesome responsibility given to you to resuscitate NER. Having been the Eastern Army Commander, you know it better than most others.
3.     Beware of some of your advisors as their advice maybe detrimental to you in the long run. If they do not perform or are prone to pushing their personal agendas through you, show them the way out.
4.     With the massive mandate you carry based on the unequivocal support of veterans and serving soldiers, ensure speedy “IMPLEMENTATION” of the following amongst other equally important issues: -

(a)  OROP in its expected form, No Less.
(b)   Representation in the 7th Pay commission of our stakeholders.
(c)    NFU.
(d)   Lateral movement into CAPF& PSU’s with original seniority.
(e)   Relief as expected to the War wounded and other disabled personnel both serving and retired at par as given by MoSE to civilians.
(f)   Construction & Completion of the National War Memorial.   

I feel, I may have stated the obvious, or exceeded my brief, but believe you me, this is straight from the heart, and as a well wisher who has the overall aim of veterans getting a just deal, thereby ensuring, that serving soldier also gets his due. Please do not let go of this opportunity of rising above personal prejudices for achieving the larger picture.
We will continue to follow you subject to your heeding the direction the wind is blowing. Otherwise Sir, you would be treading a lonely path with no succour from this large mass of willing, disciplined and faithful followers of a cause dear to us. Individual personalities do not matter.
Sir, remember…..The honour……your own comfort and well being comes last, always and every time.
 For any back end work we are always available.
With Warm Regards,
Anil Kaul