Friday, April 11, 2008

Fossil Fuels Finite Resources

Finite resource
The fossil fuels are likely to be completely depleted in 50 years at current consumption rates. This cheap energy which we obtain from the sub surface planet earth had taken millions of years to form but mankind is likely to exhaust this vital resource in a span of 150 (1900- 2050) years. The Middle East which has the world's largest reserves is depleting its resources. When these countries oil wells run dry they will revert back to biblical times! The cost of petroleum products have increased twofold in the last four years. India is gripped with acute shortage of electrical power and the situation is likely to worsen. Cleantech/ Greentech are the only logical saviours of the future mankind. One of the primary reasons for inflation and rising cost of products and services is mainly due to increasing cost of fossil fuels. Whatever hikes one gets from Pay Commission it cannot match/ catch up with the galloping costs of energy. The rising cost will materially affect the purchasing power of everyone and more adversely those whose incomes are well below the poverty line.

The concept of "clean" technologies embraces a diverse range of products, services, and processes that are inherently designed to provide superior performance at lower costs, greatly reduce or eliminate environmental impacts and, in doing so, improve the quality of life. Clean technologies span many industries, from alternative forms of energy generation to water purification to materials- efficient production techniques. The term "clean technology" describes technologies developed by biological, computational, and physical scientists and engineers that enable more valuable use of natural resources and greatly reduce ecological impact, although this may be only one of a technology's benefits. The impact of clean technologies in areas of agriculture, energy, manufacturing, transportation and water will have profound effect the world over in the coming years.

ESM Policy
Advocate, prescribe and practise clean/ green technologies. One of the immediate measures that come to our mind is use of energy efficient bulbs in our homes. The additional cost of bulbs alone will pay for itself by savings in electrical power within a year. There are ever so many methods, all that one has to do is to "google" and get a list of things you can do to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.
Clean Energy Technologies

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Vox Populi Appeal to Commander- in- Chief

Dear Madam President,

As Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces, you would be greatly concerned about the decline in their morale, particularly in the lower ranks (PBOR- personnel below officer rank) and middle level officer ranks upto Colonel (and equivalent). They are the backbone of the Defence Forces and bear the brunt of the worst conditions.

The recent 6th CPC has ignored the case placed before it by the Services HQ to undo and alleviate the many years of financial hardship suffered by the Armed Forces, particularly that endured by the PBOR and junior and middle level officers upto the rank of Colonel (and equivalent).

The CPC recommendations in its Report has many anomalies and is a total ‘muddle' as far as the Defence Forces are concerned. They applied a ‘management approach’ rather than a ’leadership approach’ in their thinking because of a reliance on members with a management background, but no ‘leadership’ experience. The members of the CPC did not know even the basics of how to lead men and women into battle in the most fearful and hazardous conditions and to even lay down their lives.

The haemorrhage of middle level officers through chosen premature retirement and the disincentive that this provides for entry of the best candidates in to the Officer training academies will lead to a rapid further decline in military morale, leadership, efficiency and fighting capability.

As Head of State this will cause you much concern and I trust that you will direct your PM and Government to reconsider the representation by the Service Chiefs, more thoughtfully.

Yours faithfully

Col Maurice Abel (Retd)

Comments: The Service Chiefs are under immense and intense pressure of the Government to toe the official line. The bureaucracy exploits the individual weaknesses of Higher Command of the Defence Forces. RM personal intervention alone will yield results. The present ratio of highest paid to lowest (COAS: PBOR) is almost 10:1, this ratio needs to be prudently tailored to 5:1, else the morale of troops will continue to deteriorate.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Army needs to learn

Does the country deserve the type of Armed Forces that we have inherited in our country today? A conversation between OSD at the Directorate General Resettlement, Ministry of Defence and me would perhaps provide a realistic answer to the question.

I was wounded in war and was posted to the Directorate General Resettlement, Ministry of Defence in 1973 immediately after a year’s hospitalization to enable me to get an ear surgery done at the Army Hospital Delhi, which had been damaged during the war. The facility for microsurgery of the ear was available only at the Army Hospital Delhi Cantt then. Immediately on posting, I was directed to meet all officers of the directorate to get to know the charter and working of the organization as a part of induction training and familiarization. I came across a Director rank IAS officer Mr Menon who was positioned as the OSD War Widows cell. He informed me that he has been positioned at the DGR in addition to his own duties in the Ministry to coordinate provision of Gas Agencies to War Widows and Petrol Pumps to the war wounded officers. On a query he told me that the gas agencies and petrol pumps, which were allotted for the purpose, were not adequate to meet the requirement and they have been distributed even before he joined the organization. He had nothing more to distribute to the applicants on the waiting list. There was a long waiting list and the applicants were regularly visiting the DGR hoping for the miracle to happen. On a query as to what was he doing about it now, he told me that he spent about an hour or so in DGR every day and was just passing time at the cost of his main job. He also informed me that there was no chance of getting any more Gas Agencies or Petrol pumps for allotment, as it was too lucrative a business to be given away to these categories of people. I grew curious and asked him why then was he here. “I am here just to enable the government to tell the Parliament that a Special Cell has been created in the Ministry to look after the welfare of the war widows and the war wounded,” replied the officer. Till I left the organization in 1976, no more gas agencies or petrol pumps were allotted barring two ladies who had personally met Mrs Gandhi and got gas agencies allotted to themselves.

It is unfortunate that the genuine spirit, the National pride and interest of the Servicemen and the Ex- Servicemen have not been recognized by the political and the administrative system in the country. The people for obvious reasons are mute spectators to the whole issue. It is therefore, apparent that the Servicemen and the ESM need to strengthen themselves through the available methods, within the political system and the system of governance in the country. This needs to be done urgently for the benefit of the future generations of Servicemen. If the Servicemen and ESM expect the system to deliver, they are mistaken.

Brig V Mahalingam (Retd)

We thank Brig PT Gangadharan (Guards)for sending us the thought provoking article.

Read the full article: Army needs to learn

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

No bonanza for the Armed Forces

The Sixth Pay Commission presented its recommendations to the government on March 24 as expected. What was not expected, however, was the measly hike in emoluments of the defence forces. Nonetheless, all major newspapers on March 25 praised the Pay Commission for the bonanza given to government servants; the electronic media had preceded them with similar comments.

This hype is perhaps understandable as there was lack of time for a detailed analysis. This piece will attempt to highlight some aspects of how the defence forces have been taken for a royal ride!

Before the Pay Commission was set up, the service chiefs had again pointed out to the government the necessity to set up a separate pay commission for the defence forces, as there was no commonality in the conditions of service of the military vis-a-vis the civil government servants of all categories. The request of the service chiefs was not accepted and no reasons were assigned for this.

The service chiefs then suggested that at least a member from the defence forces should be appointed as part of the pay commission. This too was brushed aside. The third request made to the government was to at least ensure that the issue of ‘relativity’ was not made applicable to the military, again on the same grounds that no other cadre/ section of government had anything in common with the conditions of service of the defence forces.

Now that the recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission have been made public, even this request has been negated. The military has once again been given the wrong end of the stick, by not only equating but diminishing the status of the officers and men of the defence forces.

The concept of the running pay band for all ranks was mooted by the defence forces and was incorporated in the Fourth Pay Commission, but was not recommended by the Fifth Pay Commission. Now, it has come back, but with a twist. The present commission states that it is a good concept to adopt for the civilian employees and consequently let the military also follow suit! How kind! Linked to this is the question of status, or in other words ‘relativity’.

The recommendations of the commission state that the status of all government employees would be determined by the ‘grade pay’ as fixed for civilian employees. A cursory look at the relevant tables will show that we are back to square one, wherein a colonel of 16 to 18 years service is being equated with a civilian in the PB-3 category, having 7 to 10 years service.

In addition, while a major or equivalent in the defence forces has been given a status of 6100 and a lieutenant colonel of 6600, there are four different grades squeezed in this at 6100, 6500 and 6600 from the civil side. Thereafter, between a colonel (7600) and brigadier (8400), an additional grade of 8300 has been squeezed in.

The biggest anomaly however is at the lieutenant-general level (11000). Till now, lieutenant-general and equivalent officer was equated with the S-30 grade on the civilian side i.e. equivalent to an additional secretary or the Director General Police (DGP). There is an obvious attempt now in the Sixth Pay Commission to deliberately downgrade the status of a lieutenant-general by interposing two more grades (S-31 and S-32 at 13000) between a lieutenant-general and the apex level of army commanders and equivalent (80,000 fixed). This is a typical ploy of the bureaucrats to sneakily upgrade themselves, as they have done in the past.

A good point from the point of view of the defence forces is the recommendation accepting the necessity for the grant of military service pay (MSP), but associated with it is that the rank pay, which all officers up to the rank of brigadier are getting (from Rs. 400 for captains to Rs 2400 for brigadiers) has been withdrawn. By extrapolation, this rank pay at today’s prices would have been equal to if not greater than the MSP of Rs 6000 for all ranks. So, what have the defence forces gained?

I also do not understand the rationale of a fixed sum of Rs 6000 as MSP for all officers up to the rank of brigadier and Rs. 1000 for all Personnel Below Officers Rank (PBOR). MSP is meant to compensate military personnel from the privations which a career in the defence forces entails. Whether in peace stations or in field areas, a soldier is ready twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. There are no defined working hours for them. In addition, they are the only citizens of the nation who have restrictions on their fundamental rights.

The defence forces are constantly and continuously exposed to hazardous situations and there is always a threat to their lives and limbs. On an average, the number of army personnel killed in active operations is nearly 415 annually; a very high figure indeed, when there is no war being waged.

Throughout their careers, they have to maintain stringent physical standards. This is as much applicable to a jawan as to those holding the highest ranks in service. This takes its toll in terms of nearly 5000 personnel being invalidated out on medical grounds every year.

There are many drawbacks in family-related and professional aspects. Military personnel have frequent dislocations to family life, children’s education, as well as additional expenditure on account of regular transfers. Over half the service of defence personnel, particularly those from the army, is spent in field areas, where families are not permitted, resulting in long separation of soldiers and officers from their wives, children, parents and other kin.

Statistically, army personnel suffer separation of nearly 18 years in a career span of 24 years. An extremely turbulent life by any standards! The Indian Army’s heavy commitments in counter insurgency and counter terrorism operations and their effect on the quality of life on all ranks are too well known to need any elaboration.

It is for these reasons that the defence forces had projected the dire need for MSP. However, what has been recommended is highly inadequate. I also do not understand why officers above the rank of brigadier have been excluded. There is also no rationale for having only one fixed scale for officers and another for PBOR. A reasonable and just amount would be 25 per cent of the basic pay, encompassing all ranks from a jawan to the Chief of the Army.

One additional point needs to be stated. The Commission has given a plethora of recommendations on both small and big points, but when it came to an extremely legitimate request of the defence forces relating to enhancement of pay of lieutenant-generals -- who though otherwise fit to become army commanders cannot be promoted, as they have less than two years of residual service – they have shied away by leaving it for the government to decide. This, when the same system has been in vogue in the civil services for decades!

Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi, PVSM, AVSM, VSM

The writer is a former Vice Chief of Army Staff
Reproduced from The Tribune 31 March 2008
SCPC has taken the military for a ride

Monday, April 7, 2008

Goodwill of Ex- Servicemen

Your goodwill counts. Do not look for evidence of this. Just believe it. When you make it your mission to do what is in the best interest of others, you have secured your own fate. Your talents are not a secret to be kept. Go public and tell everyone you meet what you love- are passionate about, and good at doing. Retired life does not mean one goes into hiding, but to enjoy everyday the fruits of your hard earned pension.

Where do we go from here?
Once every gun that a soldier cleaned, every drill he performed, every foot he marched, had one final purpose— victory over the enemy. Life was simple and clear cut. Most of the decisions were made for him in advance by his leaders. Having completed the tenure in the Armed Forces, the drive begins to slacken once retired. He is now confronted with the harsh realities of a corrupt bureaucracy, red tapism and he feels totally let down, the Ex- Servicemen needs to make a hundred decisions for himself and to pick up the loose ends of his old life as a civilian. He often feels confused, frustrated, even a little purposeless. In this state of mind he naturally recollects the collective spirit and comradeship of yesteryears in service. ESM are his friends, with whom he went through ups and down in Peace and War. He looks up to them for succour and help.

Veteran Organisations
ESM organizations,therefore, to thrive and succeed, need some directing purpose. Beyond the sentiment of rekindling and relighting old memories. Helping the new ESM in such obvious needs for his post retirement settlement. In general terms, the answer is obvious: to promote group welfare and recognition and the good estate of the nation in years ahead. In specific terms the answer is not so simple. What is best for the ESM as a class? And how can he best serve his country, no longer as soldier but as a empowered citizen?

Sunday, April 6, 2008

2008 The Year of Ex- Servicemen

Allahabad, Mar 28 (ANI): Defence Minister A K Antony today said that the Government has asked the Armed Forces to send a report to the Government of shortages of personnel in the Services.
He said that he had asked the Armed Forces to “carefully study the scenario and come out with a report on the possible ways to make a career in the armed forces more attractive for the younger generation.”
Antony was inaugurating the Defence Pension Training Institute here. Minister of State for Defence M M Pallam Raju accompanied him.
In his inaugural address at the ceremony, he asserted that the Government is committed to ensure “a life of dignity for people who have retired from the armed forces”.
“An important step in this direction would be to develop a grievance- free pension sanction and disbursal system, and the new institute has been set up to overcome the skill deficit that has been coming in the way of achieving the end,” Antony said.
He also said the Government has declared 2008 as “the year of ex- servicemen”, to ensures that all possible measures would be adopted “to make things easier for the nearly 22 lakh defence pensioners in the country”. (ANI)

2008 Year of ESM

I have reproduced the above article as two important measures for ESM has been announced by the Defence Minister AK Anthony.

  • Government has declared 2008 as “the year of ex- servicemen"
  • Grievience Free Pension Sanction and Disbursal System

    What ESM expects from the Ministry of Defence?
  • Modernisation, automation and net linking of all Zilla Sainik Boards.
  • All grievance applications of ESM pending in Zilla Sainik Boards be processed within 30 days.
  • All welfare measures and list of ESM beneficiaries displayed prominently in Zilla Sainik Board Offices.
  • Home delivery of services to ESM especially the disabled, aged, sick and widows.
  • User friendly ECHS and CSD facilities.(Judicial use of about Rs 400 crores profits from CSD for troops welfare)
  • AWHO services and housing to be extended to PBOR living in rural India, as it is presently biased towards Officer Cadre and pro-metro-centric.

    Work ethos
    Soldiers serene silence is broken solely with the loud thunder of battle cries in defence of the nation. They are subjected to the Army Act and remain disciplined and loyal at all times. In contrast the Civilian Defence Employees enviably enjoy the freedom to mobilise and strike at will and take the organisation to ransom at their own time of choosing, as it is within their democratic rights. The Civilian Defence Employees are tasked to serve the Soldiers interests and to provide the Military wherewithal for combat in Peace and War. The mute question is whether they can deliver what they are tasked for?

    See the slide show India Gate Protest. These vivid photographs are a telling proof of the quality and services the Armed Forces can expect. Can trade union system with its scant respect for "work ethos" improve our military capability or morale of the troops?

    Myths Busted
    Dreamers Club
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