Time to Compensate Soldiers Based on Job Content
For a nation of population of 1.3 billion, loss of ten persons may appear routine, but death of ten soldiers in avalanche in Siachen on 05 February 2016 became a subject of debate world over. An avalanche is a natural phenomenon but events post 5th February on Sonam Post made India sit up and take note. Rescue missions were undertaken at 19600 feet in minus 40 degrees C working against time to find survivors, with neither shelters nor rest for the 150 men who were involved, giving everything they had in them, day and night, working with skill and determination through those six days, removing hundreds of tonnes of ice with hand shovels looking for their comrades with their Commanding Officer personally supervising.
Nations can buy equipment, nations can buy training and infrastructure, nations can attract best human resource for a price, but what a nation cannot buy is ethos, character and tradition passed down the generations.
In the meanwhile, sitting thousands of miles away, obituaries had been written on Twitter and Facebook with none convinced that anyone would have survived under thousands of tonnes of ice; yet the grit and determination displayed by officers and men of 19 MADRAS and Staff at the Siachen Battle School continued till the last body was recovered.
They managed to rescue L/Naik Hanumanthappa who later succumbed in the Army Research and Referral Hospital in New Delhi. But the message this rescue operation has sent and the ethos and character these 150 soldiers displayed was the answer why the Indian Army is invincible and why they have been able to capture Saltoro Ridge and why Kargil heights were restored back to India in spite of adverse terrain, operational conditions and lack of suitable weapons and equipment. It is certainly not an ordinary act, but an act beyond human endeavour. Soldiers of 19 MADRAS Regiment and the Staff at the Siachen Battle School made citizens introspect, whether the soldiers were human or superhuman!
They are certainly human but what make them look like mythological figures are ethos, character and leadership. Nations can buy equipment, nations can buy training and infrastructure, nations can attract best human resource for a price, but what a nation cannot buy is ethos, character and tradition passed down the generations. Or else how could it be that men, who in their entire life were never exposed to ice and snow (the MADRAS Regiment) could display such endurance in such adverse and extreme weather and terrain conditions?
World over soldiers are compensated in an extraordinary manner but not in India.
The question comes up, apart from ethos, character, training and morale, is there anything else that propel these soldiers to perform such extraordinary acts with ease? Are they compensated in an extraordinary manner? World over soldiers are compensated in an extraordinary manner but not in India. The soldier is still akin to a semi-skilled worker. Can other highly-skilled and so-called elite services do what these men did? An emphatic ‘no’ appears to be the answer.
Historically, societies and nations were always generous in compensating their soldiers, world over; for the simple reason that whenever there is a crisis soldiers come to the rescue of the nation and its citizens. But when soldiers are in crisis no one else can come to their assistance except their own comrades. That was the reason that kings and most governments world over continue to compensate soldiers with different yardsticks. That yardstick is not applied to the other government services irrespective of the status. Across the world military pay and pension is delinked from other government departments and is decided in consultation with the military alone. A recent case in point is the US, where the pay and pension of soldiers is directly a business between “Law Makers and Defence officials”. Andrew Tilghman wrote in Military Times, that the Pentagon in June 2015 sent top lawmakers a six-page “white paper” outlining in detail the military’s official position on the retirement reform efforts. Here what is more significant is that there is a direct connect between military and law makers and not through bureaucracy.
The reasons are very simple because compensation to soldiers is not a routine matter. It is a matter of national security and moral of military that outlines the national will. Weak military moral will erode national power and ability to use it as a decisive tool of state policy. The choice is either to allow this decisive tool wither away or inject timely impetus to maintain it at its best. That can only be understood by political leadership and not by bureaucracy. One wonders why there is a resistance to acknowledge that soldiers need to be compensated differently.
…the damage done by bureaucracy needs to be set right by the political class and there is a need to have dialogue with the military, not through bureaucracy to resolve and not to degrade the coveted ranks of the armed forces.
Successive Pay Commissions have deflated the edge that was offered to soldiers till 1973. It beats imagination why the Siachen allowance is almost 50% of what civilian counterparts will get while serving in Guwahati, Imphal and Aizwal? Enough has been written about this blatant discrimination, and even the Defence Minister has acknowledged this anomaly, but whether the Government will take cognisance of this fact or overlook the observation is a point of conjecture. On one side the 7th CPC increased briefcase allowance to civilian counterparts but on the other side they thought it prudent to recommended suppression of ration allowance to the army officers in peace.
In the 5th CPC, a Second in Command of BSF and SSB (Rs 12000 – 16500) were in an identical pay scale of a Major (Rs 12800 – 16050). But in 6th CPC Second in Command of CAPF were granted Rs 7600 as grade pay whereas a Major was granted Rs 6600. What is that had triggered the slide in pay and perks of armed forces officer remains unexplained. Unfortunately now, even the IPS is placed much above the officers of the armed forces for reasons not known. When insurgency in Assam was at peak, the MHA order Letter No T-7/HS/97 K, signed by the then Union Home Secretary, Padmanabhiah, in 1997 stated that: “For operational purposes, a Unified Headquarters would be set up under chairmanship of GOC IV Corps with operational control over all forces, including central paramilitary and State police employed on counter-insurgency duties, for coordinating the entire operations”. State DGP for all operational purpose was under GOC 4 Corps. 6th and 7th CPC has placed Lt Generals at par with ADG of police, whereas Lt Generals are higher in order of precedence than the DGP of state police and CAPFs.
In the backdrop of the above, it appears that the damage done by bureaucracy needs to be set right by the political class and there is a need to have dialogue with the military, not through bureaucracy to resolve and not to degrade the coveted ranks of the armed forces. Ultimately it is the political class that is responsible to the nation if the unthinkable happens and there are reversals during external conflict. You can motivate men and young officers for a period of time on the basis of ethos, history and duty, but you cannot motivate them on thin air and false promises for an infinite period. It is time to restore the dignity and compensate soldiers based on their job content.