It is said that morale makes a soldier, sailor and airman victorious against extreme and unforgiving odds. Therefore it comes as a surprise that while the Indian state finds Pakistan as an enemy state and China as an adversarial one, and remains tormented by an unending succession of internal revolts, the Ministry of Defence of the Government of India leave no limits breached in serving the cause of these inimical forces to de-motivate the Indian soldiery – the term ‘soldiery’ here bring synonymous to the warriors in the three Services. In so doing, the defence bureaucracy takes advantage of cluelessness, and perhaps carelessness, of their political bosses – the Defence, Finance and the Prime Ministers – to stir up mischief that must be unthinkable against the pristine majesty of the state.
Simple facts, dismaying no end, are illustrative. But the import of these may be truly appreciated only when tested against the principles of just governance. These principles recognise the salience of the final effects on the ground, and on the people, rather than motivated interpretations of rules and partisan trickery with rules, regulations and procedures. The defence bureaucracy’s abuse of such principles, just to keep the military institution in a perpetual state of professional and social starvation, is actually out of tune with the modern trends that have been adopted in all other Ministries. The urge to perpetuate that state of affairs is so compelling that even the interventions of the nation’s apex Court are brazenly diverted and deflected without compunction. But the main concern here is that the partisan trickeries being played in all of the Departments of the Ministry of Defence and its Finance Division relate to military morale and its culture of ‘nation-before-self’ that is fundamental to India’s power to protect her sovereignty and integrity as a nation-state, and that takes generations to build but just few acts of dishonesty to destroy.
Reams have been written in the media about the machinations and intrigues, and exposure of the defence bureaucracy’s subversion of the well being of the Indian soldiery. Therefore, just certain indicators should suffice to point out as to how the soldiery is being purposefully pushed into a sense of cynicism against the state it fights for, cynicism that could poison its so far invincible nationalist fervour. Consider the following representative examples, that ‘it happens only in India’:-
Military officers having decades of service are made ‘equivalent’ to civilian officials many years junior in service; it beats all common sense as to how ‘equivalency’ could be established between two career ladders so distinct from the day of recruitment to the day of demise !
Soldiers, when they have to do so, are paid less for the same job that a civilian does. A civilian chief engineer, posted to the hinterland, receives higher salary than a military counterpart who performs the same job but in difficult border areas, most of them even possess higher qualifications! Then, since he is paid higher, the civilian chief engineer claims superiority over that military counterpart !! Finally, the Ministry of Defence approves that arrangement !!!
Be that as it may, through a deliberate but innocuous scheme, the status of military officer is surreptitiously lowered. Further, while civilian ‘equivalents’ are elevated to higher scale of pay even if they are not promoted to higher responsibilities, such grace is denied to the soldiery. The justification for that largesse to the civilians is mind boggling in its brazenness: ‘civilian employees deserve such compensations because (in spite of the bureaucracy’s best efforts) it has not been found feasible to promote (mostly all of) them’. The principles of governance are clear thus: civil servants are to be paid for responsibilities they do not shoulder, while military personnel must routinely shoulder the added responsibility of rushing to rescue the state from the consequences of civil servants’ mal-administration !
The above justification is then turned on its head by ensuring that military personnel are entitled to lower pension as compared to the civilian employees. Here, the bizarre ‘justification’ is that to ‘keep military forces young’, soldiers have to be retired at their thirties and forties, while civil employees including policemen serve till 60 years ! Then, ostensibly to protect the interests of civilian and police services, the much proposed ‘lateral transfer’ of young retiring soldiers to civil departments is blocked. The anti-soldier trap is thus firmly shut !!
The understanding of the latest Pay Commission would be hilarious had these not been so damaging. Reportedly it considers forest service to be more complex than military skills and the Central Armed Police Forces to be the same, rather with certain edge, as the Defence Services ! It also detects ‘excellence’ among the Defence Accounts Service officials to be educated on ‘improprieties’ of the provisions of military disability pension, without, of course, consulting any military knowledgeable !! One fears that a body so high in their past glory and headed by a former Supreme Court Justice remains so innocent of the philosophy of state functions, the military covenant, and even the Indian Constitution.
But that is not all. When it comes to representations on status, emoluments, service benefits and constitutionally as well as traditionally granted privileges of the military personnel, the defence bureaucracy is ever forthcoming in making blatantly dishonest references. Thus out of context and irrelevant precedence’s are quoted, relevant ones suppressed and obstructive inferences offered up the bureaucratic and political chain to dismiss the military’s pleas – no doubt, this narrative too would be explained thus. Even Courts are not spared from such mischief, all this just to prevent any relief, mostly related to pensions, from accruing to the veteran soldiery, and following judicial grant of such reliefs go in appeal and then stall. Finally, when its last subterfuge has failed, and even the nation’s apex Courts castigate the the Ministry of Defence to dispense justice to military personnel, the Government of India simply decides to ignore the directions of the judiciary. The ludicrousness of it all may be gauged by the fact that the Government’s Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare is considered to be the biggest obstacle to the welfare of the veterans.
Indeed, the culture in the Government of India is indicative of not just of the exploitation of the military institution, but sheer insensitivity against its otherwise celebrated soldiery. If the unresolved anomalies inflicted upon the body military by the 6th Pay Commission shows how little the Government cares about its soldiery, new anomalies of the 7th Pay Commission rubs it home. But what mocks the purported majesty of the Indian state is that its veterans have gone to the length of returning their service medals, while their Commander-in-Chief, the President, found it impossible to intervene !!!!!!
All these machinations are aimed just at one objective: to maintain cadre, and by default pay, superiority – the Administrative Service over the Police and Revenue Services, Police over Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) Cadres, these over scientists and academics, and finally, all of these over the military. Recently, shady rituals have been added to the military-subversive trend. This trend shows through subtly construed insinuations against the military institution – false conclusions prised out of ‘spooking’ movement, ‘human right violations’, ‘lifting’ of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, ‘corruption’, etc. Thankfully, notwithstanding all such anti-military machinations, the wisdom of the citizenry has prevailed in dismissing such attempts.
Successive Governments had been past-masters in keeping the military institution ‘in its place’ – read, ‘in the dumps’ – to exploit the culture of gallantry amongst the Indian youth and then to wash their political sins with their blood: 1948, 1962, Siachen, Kargil, Kashmir and the ever-continuous armed insurgencies elsewhere, to wit. If that exploitation was a deliberate policy under the Congress-led administration, the present BJP-led Government, behind its pompous proclamations, seems to be rather nonplussed, if not callous, over the consternation gaining into military hearts – hearts that make the soldiery fight. That the nation would have to pay for this farce, must be a very disconcerting feel.
Soldiery’s morale is also sustained by the state undertaking to provision the best possible wherewithal for them to stake their life upon. In deflecting from that hoary covenant, there seems to be a consensus among the bureaucracy, financiers, scientific community, arms peddlers, and even politicians, who setting aside their innate distaste of each other, join hands to prevent the Indian military institution from graduating out of obsolete weaponry, crippling shortages of ammunitions, spares and accessories, and protective accoutrements. That makes the wanton destruction of military morale a complete venture.
Indeed, successive Indian Governments have the distinction of retaining the nation’s sovereignty and integrity at the least possible expenditure over its military institution – so far. But then, carrying that chip too far when surrounded and seized by more and more powerful external and internal enemies might bring disaster when the nation finds itself stranded with no means of rescue. Indeed, rhetoric apart, when it comes to that situation, the military, and neither the armed constabulary of the CAPF nor diplomacy, would have to be depended upon. The Indian history has seen such situations before, when successive generations of ‘Jai Chands’ betrayed Mother India to promote their ego at the cost of national security, the last one being the insidious hand over of India to the rule of the British.
Insidious forces hover … we are warned…