Sunday, April 20, 2008

Press release Defence Fraternity

Over the years, the defence fraternity has been repeatedly done down by successive governments. The Sixth Central Pay Commission (6th CPC) has further harmed their interests to a very large extent. The request of the Defence Chiefs to have a separate pay commission for the defence forces was turned down. The government also rejected the request to have a representative from the defence forces on the Pay Commission. It was expected that in view of the severe and unique service conditions of the military personnel and the fact that defence personnel constitute 50 per cent of the total government servants, the government would have safeguarded the interests of both serving personnel and the veterans. Unfortunately, what has happened is exactly the opposite. The irony is that although the Commission was looking into the pay and allowances of over 50 per cent of the total government employees, it was not thought fit to post even one person on the staff of the Commission, numbering over 100!

Unlike other central government services, the defence forces can neither form unions nor associations to press their demands. Their problems can only be projected through the Service Chiefs. However, the veterans do have the right to project their problems and concerns to the authorities directly - individually or collectively. This has been done but without any positive outcome. The so-called Review Committee set up to examine the anomalies and concerns of the defence forces does not even have a member from the Services. Consequently, it will only tinker with the recommendations and achieve nothing. As a last resort and with great reluctance, we have decided to project our views to the country directly.

It is clarified that the veterans do not take part in protests, dharnas, strikes, rallies, agitations and so on. They also dislike hitting the streets in protest. This is against the ethos of the defence forces. Within this ambit, the veterans of Chandigarh and surrounding areas will mark their disenchantment with the recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission by conducting a special memorial service at the Chandigarh War Memorial on 27 April 2008. Details are in the enclosed notice.

The requests of the veterans are as under:

• The recommendations of the Sixth Central Pay Commission, as they relate to the defence forces be scrapped. A new Pay and Pension Commission, with representation from the army, navy and air force amongst others, may be set up immediately. It should be tasked to submit its recommendations within six months
• Till the new Pay Commission submits its recommendations, an ad-hoc interim relief, as a percentage of emoluments and pensions currently being drawn be granted to all serving personnel and all veterans.
• The long standing demand of “one-rank-one-pension” must be accepted immediately, as whenever pay and pension of Service personnel are enhanced, older pensioners are left out in the cold.
• There is also no constitutional mechanism for resettlement of our ex-servicemen who retire at very young ages, when their financial burdens are at a peak. A comprehensive workable plan for giving them a second career be made expeditiously.
• All anomalies of earlier Pay Commissions, which are still awaiting resolution, may also be entrusted to the new pay commission.
• The new pay commission should pay special attention to the pay structures of PBOR and middle level officers.
• Pay, allowances and pensions, especially of officers, should be made so attractive that young men and women are attracted to join the defence forces. This would reverse the present trend of continuing shortages of officers and make the defence forces stronger. There should be no dilution of standards for the selection of officers.
• Better pay and allowances and pensions for the PBOR are also needed, so that better and more educated persons join the defence forces.
• The lacunae in the Military Service Pay, as recommended by the Sixth Pay Commission, need to be removed.

The following Notice, giving details of the Memorial Service, may please be published in your newspapers, to give maximum publicity to the event.

[*Military Veterans: Retired Officers & personnel below officer ranks (POBR) of the Army, Navy & Air Force]

VETERANS of the Army, Navy & Air Force and their spouses are requested to assemble at the War Memorial at the Bougainvillea Garden, Sector 3, Chandigarh, at 11 AM on 27 April 2008 to pay homage to the Martyrs, by placing of wreaths and express their solidarity in drawing the attention of the Government of the Union of India for the amelioration of their problems relating to pay, pension & resettlement, by way of a silent service comprising lighting candles, wreath laying and placing of flowers at the Memorial. All VETERANS shall be suitably dressed (shirt and tie for officers) with a head gear and miniature medals. There shall be no speeches, no sloganeering and no Demonstration of Protest. The entire proceedings shall be conducted as a solemn affair with dignity & decorum, befitting VETERANS. Only the nominated spokespersons shall talk to the PRESS and MEDIA. We have no truck with any political party and the function is completely apolitical.

No longer Matter of Honour

In times of danger, not before,
God and soldiers all men adore.
Danger's past and all is righted,
God's forgotten, the soldier slighted. Harold Y Grooms

Apolitical ethos
The appointment of three IAS men to look into the injustice done to the Defence Services is typical of the way in which our Services have been subjugated since independence. Govt can of course point out that the Defence Secretary is there to look out for their interests but, as this article will bring out, he heads the Department that has consistently undermined the defence forces for 60 years. That the Forces have survived this invidious onslaught and yet remained apolitical is a tribute to their patriotism and grit. But will the Services emerge unscathed from this latest effort to mete out 'justice'?. Readers may judge for themselves.

Doctors discriminated
One example will suffice to support this contention. The 5Th Pay Commission (PC) conceded that Non Practising Allowance (NPA) paid to Govt doctors be counted as pay while computing pension entitlements. However, subsequently orders were issued to recover the 'excess' pension paid to pre-'96 retirees. Thereupon, most retired doctors' associations filed cases in various High Courts, a majority of which were upheld. The Central Govt went in appeal to the Supreme Court who issued notice to the concerned departments. Instead of filing their responses however, major Departments – notably, Railways and Health – withdrew their cases and allowed NPA- pension to their old pensioners. The Defence Ministry however, has continued the litigation to deny this to Defence Doctors– the only group singled out for discrimination.

Degrading defence services
This endeavour to steadily degrade the Forces explains why no representation of the Central Govt's largest employees has ever been allowed on any of the PCs, leave alone conceding the just demand for a separate Defence PC. What hope can the Services have when even some of the anomalies of previous PCs remain unresolved.

Bureaucratic strangle
That the 6th PC has brought defence officers down two notches below their civilian equivalents vis-à-vis the 5th PC has been extensively covered in the media. What is not widely appreciated is the complete stranglehold that various bureaucratic departments of the MoD have established over the military – imperilling the nation's security, in the bargain.

Poor quality armaments
Ours is perhaps the only major Military with no say in the production and quality of indigenous defence ammunition and equipment. On 20 March 2008, during war- games showcased before foreign military attaches, a mortar bomb exploded in the barrel and killed three crew members. Dismissing the incident, a defence spokesman stated that such incidents occur routinely. Since a bore- safety device in the bombs fuse is designed to prevent in- barrel detonations, worldwide such accidents are extremely rare. In 1995, after an alarming frequency of accidents, Army managed to convene a meeting with Defence Production bureaucrats. It emerged that the Ammunition Factories had contrived to prevent the DGQA from inspecting the quality of their product! Further, they had no procedure to guarantee that the bore- safety device had in fact been fitted. Even after these shameful disclosures, they managed to evade independent quality assurance.

Substandard four wheelers
In this turf war between two Defence Production departments, the lives of our jawans remain imperilled. Even where the DGQA is active, the quality of Ordnance Factories remains shocking. Jabalpur Vehicle Factory- made Jonga was another killing machine. Used mostly in mountains, its rear wheel was notorious for coming- off on bends, sending servicemen hurtling into the khud. The author had two providential escapes from this death- trap.

Defence procurement sans sanity
The Military has virtually no say in these grave matters. Defence procurement is the third area where Defence pleas go unheard for decades. The import of surveillance radar was held up for thirty years because DRDO was 'developing' it. Another item was illuminating shells for our field gun. DRDO had wasted twenty years in 'development'. Result: we were totally blind at night. In 1996, MoD was requested to import 2% of our requirement of illuminating shells and let balance 98% come from indigenous production whenever DRDO's reverse- engineering succeeded. Joint Secretary, MoD chaired the meeting which, apart from two army officers, a DRDO official attended. As we presented our case, it became apparent that the two civilians had connived to turn down the plea. It took the Kargil war for importing night- fighting equipment on a 'war-footing' (sic). In fact, then Army Chief stated, 'We will fight with what we have'. Back to 1962! Due to these voids, 700 young Indian lives were sacrificed, but nothing disturbed the slumber of the two bureaucrats. Recent changes in the procurement structure only meet the problem half- way. Wielding authority without responsibility is Indian babudom's special invention.

Kargil aggression
Except for a brief interregnum when the forces were reasonably adequately equipped was post 1965 till the early '70s. Thereafter the neglect started once again and a deaf and blind bureaucracy awoke with a shock to the poor state of equipment when faced with the Kargil aggression. We did, but paid the price in terms of the blood of too many young lives snuffed out at the alter of crass neglect and utter irresponsibility of the Govt. Did any bureaucrat who had held up urgent defence procurements accept responsibility? Did any of the well- heeled fat cats of the Ordnance Factories Board or MoD (Production) own up responsibility for shortfalls in ammunition and equipment with the troops fighting in the icy altitudes of 16000 t0 19000 feet? We all know the answers - a resounding NO.

Auditors become military stategists
Defence auditors are another entity who enjoy exercising authority without responsibility. Their ignorance of matters military is the stuff of countless jokes among servicemen. Undaunted, they venture to offer inane objections to most proposals. The Tribune recently carried an article by the former Deputy Chief of Defence Planning Staff highlighting the fallacies in objections raised to the USS Trenton acquisition. One was amazed to read the observations which an accountant had ventured to put forward to naval professionals who had spent upwards of two or more decades in maturing their expertise. Of course, as is often the case, when these objections delay or thwart important modernisation proposals, it impinges on defence capability and ceases to be a joking matter. They simply need to be told where to get off!

Cost of neglect
It is well known that India's ruling elite remains entirely innocent of strategic matters. Consequently, our external and internal security environments are the most perilous of all major nations. The deterioration commenced with the 1947- 48 J&K war and India continues to suffer the fallout of holding back the Army when within an ace of ejecting the Pakis from the entire State. The 1962 debacle again underlined Nehru's ineptitude in defence of the Republic. When Indira Gandhi heeded Manekshaw's professional advice India won a famous victory in 1971.

Security decisions
Thereafter, the string of catastrophic security decisions resumed, leaving the Military to repeatedly pull the chestnuts out of resulting fires. The 1972 Simla agreement gave away all the gains of the war with no implementable solution of the Kashmir issue. Similarly, release of JeM-founder Masood Azhar for Kandahar-hostages directly resulted in the attack on Parliament. The ill-considered decision to respond with Op Parakram, only to pull back, destroyed the credibility of our deterrent capability. The lack of institutionalised professional military inputs at the policy- level is unique to our democracy. The resultant continuous operational exposure has put a huge strain on our personnel, for which the 6Th PC has failed to compensate them.

Skewed decision making process
Contrast this with other major nations. China's PLA is represented at the highest Party and Govt echelons. In USA, one Presidential aspirant is a veteran. In UK, Prince Harry's Afghanistan foray needs no recounting. Name one prominent Indian bureaucrat or politician with a son in the Forces. None comes readily to mind. If Govt does not possess the requisite insights into the special conditions of the Defence Services, what prevents them from integrating professional inputs into decision- making that critically affects servicemen.

Sixth Pay Commission the last straw
Before the '62 war, someone brought to Nehru's attention, the utter inferiority of the Army's weaponry. He replied in lofty disdain, 'It is the man behind the gun that matters'. This famed Indian 'yodha' has lived up to his lofty ideals of 'Naam, Namak, Nishan' despite all the neglect and indignities of the past 60 years. Will the 6Th PC be the last straw that breaks this fine spirit?

Officers now seeking to leave the Forces in droves, makes one fear the worst.

Maj Gen Pushpendra Singh (Retd)

Insult to Soldier, Injury to Nation

Dear Friends,

Everyone has Unions and Associations to voice their concerns and problems to the authorities, people and media. Defence Forces have their constraints and cannot express their problems in the manner that most of our civil services and brethren do.

But what role do we assign to ourselves as veterans (retired Officers and other personnel) to be of use to the nation and its Armed Forces? Whatever our regional, organisational differences, let's all get together for a common cause and show our solidarity at Amar Jawan Jyoti (India Gate, New Delhi) as proposed by some of our friends.

The Sixth Pay Commission has not harmed the Defence Forces. It has harmed the country, the Nation and the recommendations have dangerous potential to weaken the Nation's might to defend itself in times when threats to India's security are multiplying from within and without. A soldier is not a 'CHOWKIDAR', he is the 'WARRIOR' who challenges Death in its face and sacrifices his life so that his countrymen can live in peace and safety. Whenever civil administration has failed to deliver - be it natural calamities, communal disturbances, strikes or any other catastrophe - everyone turns to the Army for help. And even in restoring situations that were none of their responsibility, they have always accredited themselves with honours and love of the people. And lo, those who often raise their hands in handling adverse situations in their own domain and often depend on the defence forces for their own survival, sit in judgement and authority to decide what Defence Forces deserve! Those who neither understand the organisational structure nor the working environments of the Defence Forces sit and decide on their service entitlements. Nothing could be more ridiculous and demeaning for a self respecting Nation.

The treatment meted out to the Defence Forces, especially to the middle rung officers by virtually lowering their status so ridiculously is not only demoralising for the Forces but also wrought with dangerous dimensions that affect the security of the country. Military might is the power of the State with which it achieves all that cannot be achieved by other means - internally or externally. A militarily weak India is what our enemies always want. Who is working here for them? Let's wake up and speak out now.

Hereunder I fwd the original appeal from our veterans and Ex-servicemen Leagues/ Organisations. Please pass it on to as many friends as you can, exhorting them to join in. See you at Amar Jawan Jyoti on 27 April 2008.

Best wishes,
Col Karan Kharb (Retd)


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