Much has been written and spoken about Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s statement; one of the reasons that respect of the armed forces has diminished is because for the last 40-50 years we have not fought a war. Our unbridled presstitutes went berserk raking in loads of moolah with TRP’s shooting up while opposition politicians cried blue murder. Not without reason MK Dhar, former Joint Director IB wrote in his book ‘Open Secrets – India’s intelligence unveiled’, “The susceptibility of the fourth estate to the intelligence community had tied our hands down. They are one of the too many holy Indian cows. Some of them, as described by a senior member of the fourth estate, are ‘taxi on hire’. Any paymaster can hire this particular brand.”
But getting back to Parrikar’s statement, wonder how many noticed that Parrikar’s this particular comment was preceded by saying “In the past, when there was a letter from a military commanding officer to an IAS officer or any other authority, it received attention of the highest order. Today, that respect has diminished”.
Like many others who have prostituted the profession of Journalism, Will probably be nominated to Rajya Sabha”.
Now, one can keep conjecturing whether through his comment about armed forces respect having been diminished because of not fighting a war in last 40-50 years, Parrikar was articulating his own perception or that of the “IAS officer or any other authority” he talked of. The fact remains that a CO writing about any issue related to a soldier or his family to a Deputy Commissioner receives little response, even acknowledgement being out of the question.
Notwithstanding above, the Defence Minister should realize that in terms of respect of armed forces, what has been happening in the country is a constant effort to lower it, as would be apparent from succeeding paragraphs. Of course we have paid individuals dedicated to such task, morality and ethics being alien to them.
One example in the recent past was a prominent daily spreading deliberate rumours of an army coup having been attempted. Interestingly, describing this very Journalist, former Ambassador K Gajendra Singh wrote on April 5, 2012, “A top US / Mumbai corporate interests count, who also disseminates the ruling party’s line and is suitably rewarded by invitations to official dinners etc. Like many others who have prostituted the profession of Journalism, Will probably be nominated to Rajya Sabha”. Now we have a former IB officer, President of a so called ‘Patriot’s Front’, advising the government to strategize and put in place anti-coup measures because of the peaceful veteran protests at Jantar Mantar, even going to the extent of suggesting that Indian armed forces could surrender like the Pakistani army in East Pakistan during 1971 and Japanese army in WW II. Obviously such idiotic statements by this confounded self-appointed strategist are deliberate, with a malicious motive and on behest of his handlers.
Not many know how the NSG became the highest paid security force in the country.
Respect is a relative term and difficult to quantify like say loyalty. But then it is not difficult to decipher that the veterans protest at Jantar Mantar and elsewhere in the country showcases the plight of the military, bringing the country, not veterans, to shame. The President (Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces), the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister should be concerned. One may say that the Defence Minister has met the representative of the protesting veterans twice. But then he has not committed to any date for issue of the OROP implementation letter despite the veterans assurance that moment the date is officially announced, the protests would be called off. What the veterans fail to understand is that when we have a dynamic Prime Minister who personally takes a progress report every 100 days from MoS of every ministry, why a future date can’t be given for issue of the OROP implementation letter, even as mischief mongers are adept at taking every issue around the mulberry tree.
Additionally, any talk of injecting the idea about equating CAPF with the armed forces for OROP is most unfortunate especially with a CAPF policeman serving and drawing full pay till 60 years age compared to a military soldier retiring at 34 years, besides the perks that the CAPF enjoys including assured job to family member of a martyr, which is denied to the armed forces. Not many know that with the expansion of the SSB due commitments on the Nepal and Bhutan borders an SSB officer got his equivalent of Brigadier rank with just seven years service few years back compared to 27-28 years service in case of the military.
…there has been deliberate mischief to lower the pays, perks and status of the armed forces. That is the Jatil Samasya (complex problem) which needs to be addressed, not OROP alone.
Not many know how the NSG became the highest paid security force in the country. For the ignorant, LK Advani, then Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister was going to review an NSG parade. Alighting at the venue from his car, the receiving officer told him that the boys were looking for some more money. In his speech post the parade, Advani simply announced an NSG Allowance that would be 25 percent of Basic Pay. There were no discussions or deliberations and the Finance Ministry implemented the decision in two-months flat. Here we have the OROP issue going around in circles for past 40 years despite OROP being approved by two Parliaments and Modi’s call to the erstwhile UPA government to implement OROP forthwith while addressing an ESM rally at Rewari in 2013 as BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate, even as the government surrendered Rs 6000 crores on 31 March 2015 and failed to utilize Rs 1000 crores earmarked for the National War Memorial in the previous budget.
If the Government and the Defence Minister would care to examine the issue of respect of the armed forces holistically, they would discover it is not the systematic lowering of armed forces in the Order of Precedence alone but right from the 3rd CPC, there has been deliberate mischief to lower the pays, perks and status of the armed forces. That is the Jatil Samasya (complex problem) which needs to be addressed, not OROP alone. To top this, while the armed forces have never questioned civil control (which translates to political control), the bureaucracy considers such control as their own birthright, even as generalist bureaucrats of the MoD continue to detest the military in the same way as their British period ICS ancestors did. This is no vitriolic, as following few examples would prove:
Field Marshal Manekshaw denied his pay of Field Marshal for years, till finally a babu took a cheque of Rs one crore to him lying on the hospital bed.
- Field Marshal Manekshaw denied his pay of Field Marshal for years, till finally a babu took a cheque of Rs one crore to him lying on the hospital bed.
- MoD represented by a low-level functionary at funeral of FM Manekshaw whereas in any other country the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and the Defence Minister would have felt proud in doing so.
- A war wounded Vice Chief of Army Staff battled civil courts for seven years to get his authorized disability pension.
- A former Defence Secretary summoned by Supreme Court for contempt of court for not implementing the Courts directive to disburse Rank Pay.
- Inaction against MoD official (s) who did not sanction submarine batteries (available within the country) for months that led to sinking of Sindhurakshak and Sindhuratna.
- Inaction in retrieving 17 bodies of naval personnel lying in the sunken submarine on the ocean floor for past one year plus.
- Shifting of the venue for receipt of martyrs bodies at Delhi airport to an area wholly unsuited for such solemn ceremony. Would the Defence Minister care to visit the spot?
- Unaccountable MoD officials with lackadaisical response, more so because despite numerous defence scams, none has been questioned, leave aside punished.
- 20 anomalies still unaddressed in the 6th Pay Commission, and no military member in 7th Pay Commission despite this demand past several years.
- Case for separate pay commission for armed forces given quiet burial.
- Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare (DESW) without any servng or military veteran continues malfunctioning, denying dues even to widows and war disabled; withhold payments till the veteran is dead or in abject penury.
Above are just few examples though volumes can be written on these issues. If mention has been made of senior officers, it is to facilitate readers imagine how the lower rank and file are being treated. Respect related to war is just a small part and of little relevance in a politically bastardized India; when the IPKF in Sri Lanka was fighting, losing lives and limbs on account of IEDs, the Government of Tamil Nadu was officially calling the Indian military traitors. When the IPKF finally returned, not a single representative of the Tamil Nadu government appeared at the port to receive them. The attitude of the J&K politicians (most thick with radicals) is another story. This besides, the Defence Minister would know that conventional wars only occur once in a while but we have been fighting sub-conventional wars over past several decades, and we are going to see more and more of the latter.
To some extent the armed forces themselves are responsible for lowering of respect and intransigence of the hierarchy, simply because they have failed to grasp the dynamics of our democracy, where the power of the vote is supreme.
Forces inimical to India are pulling out all the stops to degrade the armed forces, lower their respect, heighten distrust of the administration against the armed forces, drive a wedge between veterans and the armed forces, break the institutional integrity of the armed forces, as also drive a wedge between the armed forces and the CAPF-Police. With respect of the latter, one solution would be to disband the military and handover the country to the Police, which Nehru initially wanted, committing suicide in the bargain. The saner approach would be to restore the respect of the armed forces. For this, Defence Minister Parrikar will first have to address the rot within his own ministry and the DESW. A net assessment of the issue may also help him arrive at the crying necessity to reorganize the MoD and higher defene organization of the country with support of the Prime Minister, inaction on which has brought India’s defence to the present dire state.
To some extent the armed forces themselves are responsible for lowering of respect and intransigence of the hierarchy, simply because they have failed to grasp the dynamics of our democracy, where the power of the vote is supreme. Isn’t that why we are in this vicious environment of caste, creed, reservations and vote-bank politicking? Mercifully, the armed forces are spared from all such nonsense. But at the same time, if we are not exercising our votes and not letting our soldiers vote, then we are actually committing an offence by not letting your command exercise their franchise. There was a time when a soldier could vote for general and provincial elections at his place of posting provided he had served at that place for six months.
Today that time stipulation has been removed primarily because of the initiative taken by Rajeev Chandershekhar, MP, implying today every soldier can vote from his place of posting even with one day service in that station. Now witness what happened when the Mathura based Strike Corps decided to participate in the 2007 UP State Elections and informed the civil administration that troops at Mathura, Allahabad and Lucknow will so participate:
The veterans votes maybe considered insignificant but they certainly would have contributed to the BJP losing three traditional seats in Jammu regain during the J&K elections; cost of dilly-dallying on the OROP promise.
- When the civil administration was sent the list of eligible voters (that time the rule being minimum six months service) the response was that the number is very large and it would not be possible to provide the voter cards in the short time, elections being just two months away.
- The civil administration was informed that provision of voter cards is their responsibility not of individuals, which it still is. Civil administration confirmed a way out will be found.
- ESM sent RTI’s to the concerned MP and MLAs asking what had they done about the welfare and issues brought to the notice of civil administration about widows and families of serving soldiers in the area of their jurisdiction in past five years and what portion of their area development funds had been used to help improve cantonment areas.
- A politician with the nickname ‘Billa’ arrived at the office of Station Commander, Mathura Cantonment with a bag containing Rs 10 lakhs, saying this is only advance and wanted to know which political party the Corps Commander had ordered to be backed? The money was returned and he was politely told this is not how the military functions, Corps Commander had passed no orders and every soldier would vote as per his own wish.
- The civil administration set up a special cell in the office of DC Mathura to look after problems and issue related to widows, serving soldiers and their families.
- At Allahabad, an illegal colony within the area of the cantonment was removed by the army after formal orders of the civil court but Rita Bahugana Joshi created a terrible ruckus by ringing up Sonia Gandhi, who in turn spoke to Anthony and an inquiry was initiated. But moment Rita Bahugana Joshi discovered that the Division at Allahabad was participating in elections, she withdrew all protests and sought a date when would it be convenient for GOC of the Division to have a meal with her.
All that the military needs to do is make sure that every soldier exercises his franchise. This should happen in the upcoming Bihar and West Bengal Elections and every election thereafter.
- For voting during the 2007 UP elections, military was accorded facility of special booths within the cantonments under Election Commission of India supervisors. Eligible military personnel as per the approved list voted after showing their service identity cards to the election officials.
- Post elections, Station Headquarters of cantonments in UP state were approached by elected MLAs as to what improvements by way of lighting, roads, drainage were needed and how they could help?
Military’s participation in 2007 UP state elections required no sanction, not even from the Army Headquarters. Above has been related simply to show the power of the vote. The veterans votes maybe considered insignificant but they certainly would have contributed to the BJP losing three traditional seats in Jammu regain during the J&K elections; cost of dilly-dallying on the OROP promise. All that the military needs to do is make sure that every soldier exercises his franchise. This should happen in the upcoming Bihar and West Bengal Elections and every election thereafter. Logically, the Service Chiefs should pass such orders and take a feedback after ever election from the concerned commanders. The second alternative for those Service Chiefs who are afraid how the hierarchy will view it, is tell the formation commanders that they can carry on individually. Either way, respect from the hierarchy will come automatically.