About 150 ex-servicemen of the Army, Navy and Air Force, led by Lt Gen NSI Narahari, Lt Gen VJ Sundaram, Lt Gen A Natarajan and Lt Col TA Parthasarathy (a World War II veteran) paid homage to the martyrs at the War Memorial at Minsk Square, in Bangalore on Sunday. The military veterans of the Navy, Air Force and Army personnel below officer rank (PBOR) placed wreaths and flowers at the memorial. They expressed their solidarity in drawing the attention of the Centre to their problems relating to pension and resettlement (with reference to the 6th Central Pay Commission), by way of a silent prayer holding lit candles, for two minutes. The Memorial Service was conducted as a solemn event with dignity and decorum with the 'veterans' turning up in headgear and medals. The ex- servicemen also expressed their anger over years of neglect and apathy by the Union of India, in not addressing the various issues. To draw the attention of the government, they planned the nation wide memorial service on Sunday 27 April 2007.
Hello Friends, The Rally at Chandigarh was held as planned at 1100 hrs on 27 Apr 2008 in a very somber and dignified manner. My guess would be that there were about 1000 all ranks present. About 20 ladies also attended.
Homage was paid to the Shahids by offering wreaths, bouquets and flowers, lighting candles and observing two minutes silence. Considering that it was the first such Rally, the Bandobast and organization was good.
Where do we go from here. Given below are some suggestions:
An action Committee needs to be formed forthwith at all India level.
Any parleys with any one must be held by this Committee and not by any single individual. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT INDEED.
An action plan should be worked out. Drafts be sent via email and suggestions asked. It is crucial to work out a strategy. What to put across and what to accept if offered and at what stage. Often the Generals have failed the world over in closing a war having won it!! We must dig in our heels and not accept any thing short of what is decided upon.
The action Committee must have adequate representation of JCOs and OR/equivalents. THIS IS AGAIN CRITICAL. It should not become officer heavy body.
We the Corps of Signals veterans have in place two networks already, which can be used for dissemination of information. www.reportmysignal.blogspot.com and Report my Signal email Forum run ably by Brig CS Kamboj, VSM.
Based on above norms, more suggestions can come forward to look at the way ahead. Kindly forward these inputs to other officers/ JCOs/ OR you know. Thanks and Regards.
Harbhajan Singh Lt Gen (Retd) PVSM Signal Officer-in-Chief 1988-91
As happened with the previous Pay Commissions, the same has been repeated with the 6th Pay Commission. Assurances given to the Chiefs of the three Services that their recommendations will be fully taken care of, have fallen through, as in the past. Pay scales, parity with civil services are crucial matters, but what is galling is that every time a representation was made to the Government to have a separate pay commission for the Defence Services due to peculiar nature of their responsibilities and functioning as also the hazards, dangers and privations the members of Defence Services have to undergo, this has been ignored. It is a well known fact that those in civil appointments lack even the rudimentary knowledge about the Defence Services and the way they operate and function.
The Pay Commissions were there upon asked by the Defence Services to at least co-opt one member!! A deaf ear has been turned to this also every time. The Pay Commissions do have members and staff from organizations like the Railways and one is at a loss to understand any cogent reason, why and how all the Pay Commissions have failed to co-opt a member in Uniform!! This is blatantly ignoring the Defence Services, who have been loyal to the hilt to the Nation and the Constitution. Thousands of its officers and soldiers have laid down their lives to defend the territorial integrity and interests of the Nation. FOR TOMORROW OF EVERY INDIAN, THEY HAVE GIVEN THEIR TODAY, on so many occasions. Time and time again they have charged at the enemy with the slogan BHARAT MATA KI JAI and JAI HIND on their lips. Such disciplined bodies of troops have been treated in such a shoddy manner by the bureaucracy and the politicians! It is a very serious matter indeed and needs investigating!
There can be very serious and long term repercussions of such attitude by those in authority! Discipline, loyalty, obedience cannot be taken for granted by higher ups. Some best known battalions, naval and air force elements have mutinied in the past because their superiors did not look after them or there were higher policies in force which did not take in to account sensitivities of all ranks. A similar situation is being reached now in the Defence Services because of the attitude of the Pay Commissions, bureaucracy and our political bosses.
At least the Veterans have come to the conclusion that enough is enough and they have to protest, agitate and make their voice heard against the insensitivity's of the powers that be by ignoring very genuine and repeated representations by the Defence Services. It will be the first time that such protests will be organized at large scale, all over India, by those who have desisted from taking any such steps so far. The feeling will no doubt percolate to those in Uniform as well. But this is what can happen when a body of people, including soldiers, seamen and airmen hit a stone wall; that is the bureaucracy and the politicians.
Senior officers of the Defence Services are trained to be polite and respectful to all and in particular to their superiors, including those not wearing uniform. They have accepted willingly to be faithful and loyal to the Constitution of India, unlike the Military across the Borders. There have been no attempts at a military coup in India. This courtesy and discipline should not, however, be mistaken for subservience. Even disciplined people have limits to patience, if their genuine requests are ignored time and again and they are made to feel slighted and neglected. Their feelings can boil over or they can adopt an attitude of ambivalence.
Any nation that ignores its Defence Forces is doomed. Mere high rate of growth and booming economy are not what makes nations survive in the long run. In site of being called SONE KI CHIRRIYA, Indian Forces were defeated by the invading armies time and again in the past. India faces serious nuclear and conventional threats from some of our neighbors. An unhappy military may not acquit itself well in the future.
Parochial thinking of the bureaucracy to serve their own ends through the rather ignorant and inexperienced politicians who do musical chairs at New Delhi, after every election is doing a great harm to the security of the Nation by doing down the Defence Services. The Defence Services are no more preferred career of the young and quite a few of those who do join up ask for premature retirement. Even in the ranks, the preference is for Para military forces. Though weapons and equipment are essential, it is finally the men behind the gun who matter most. This continued apathy of the powers that be, will have long term adverse effects on the fighting efficiency and security of the Nation, if officers and men of the Defense Forces remain a dissatisfied lot.
Serving and retired personnel of the Defence Forces are a highly competent resource in all disciplines of technology. Some of them are most highly qualified in electronics, civil and mechanical engineering, Information Technology, medical field, management, flying, seamanship, Personnel Management. You name the field and the expertise is there. It is a very wrong perception that military personnel are good enough for security duties only!!! Such qualified personnel need to be paid in line with their counter parts in the civil side.
It is not too late to take bold measures to assuage the feelings of hurt, neglected and being slighted amongst the Defence Forces. The review of the Pay Commission recommendations should not be left in the hands of Group of Secretaries, who are top bureaucrats but the Prime Minister himself ought to take charge of the proceedings with a General Officer as advisor. Unless this is done, the bureaucrats will not suggest any tangible changes as they do not understand the functioning of the Defence Services and are not sensitive to their needs. They will suggest some incremental changes and put the ball in the court of the Ministers.
It is not too far fetched a situation, where the Chiefs of the Army, Navy and Air Force as also the Army Commanders and equivalent, refuse to accept rather lucrative increase in their emoluments, unless all officers and men that they command and lead to war are duly compensated by the Pay Commission. Any such happening will leave the present Government red faced and make its chances of coming back in power in the forth coming elections, bleak indeed. It is up to the Congress Party President and the Prime Minister to show statesmanship and take bold decisions as asked for by the three Chiefs. This will be a masterly stroke to show to the Nation that this Government is bold, pragmatic and decisive. Otherwise the repercussions can be very serious indeed as regards the quality and efficiency of the Defence Services for decades to come. JAI HIND.
Dear Colleagues, In the afternoon of Apr 25, I had separate meetings with the Hon'ble Raksha Mantri and Principal Secretary to the Hon'be PM. The latter meeting was on the directions of the PM with whom I had spoken telephonically on 23 April. Both meetings were unhurried and were held in a relaxed atmosphere. I reiterated all the points of concern to the ESMs. I mainly highlighted the following three:
Resettlement of ESM
Representation by a retired officer on all committees/ commissions deliberating the issue of pay/pension.
I pointed out that our action to hold the rallies was taken after knocking on all doors and when all other options had been exhausted. In this connection I recounted my earlier meetings with the RM, UPA Chairperson and the PM from September 2007 onwards. Both again assured me that all doors are still open and that the government is examining our problems in all earnestness. I expressed the sentiments of the ESM by pointing out that the empowered Committee of three Secretaries, again without a defence member, does not inspire much confidence.
On the question of having an ESM member as part of deliberations, I was informed that our member could instead be given a chance to put forward our views to the Committee and that the Committee would consider these seriously. Since this would have been no different from the Defence representatives earlier making similar presentations before the Pay Commission with no positive outcome, I expressed myself against the option.
It was mentioned that public expression of such resentment is not expected from soldiers. While asserting that we would maintain a disciplined and dignified approach in whatever we do, I pointed out that this actually amounted to acceptance that soldiers are different from others. That being so, one wonders why they are not being treated differently while fixing salaries despite demands for a separate pay commission?
The scheduled ESM rally on 27 April came under discussion. I pointed out that the report of the Pay Commissions has aroused strong passions and the movement has gained tremendous momentum and more than 60 stations are holding the event. I then told them that the most emotive issue is one-rank-one-pension.
In the last few days while the government has given positive signals regarding various other issues such as pay of PBOR, problem of middle band officers, MSP etc, the one-rank-one-pension has not even been uttered by anyone. While discussing how to cool down tempers, I informed the Principal Secretary that if before 27 April 2008, the government makes a statement in the Parliament indicating that the issue one-rank-one-pension will be viewed favourably it would help assuage the feelings of the ESM. In such a case while not calling off the rallies, we would not make speeches on 27 April and would hold the event mainly as a memorial service to the martyrs. He assured me that he would convey my proposal to the PM.
A Special Memorial Service was held at the Chandigarh War Memorial in Sector-3 on Sunday 27 April 2008. The Service commenced at 1100 hours and was attended by a large number of Veteran Officers, Junior Commissioned Officers (JCO’s) and Other Ranks of the Army, Navy and Air Force. All veterans had displayed their medals on their chests and wore other military accoutrement's. They also wore black bands on their sleeves. Many spouses of the Veterans had also participated.
The entire event was conducted peacefully, with military precision and discipline. All present paid floral tributes to the martyrs and candles were also lit, as an act of homage. After paying their tributes, all veterans and their spouses assembled in front of the Memorial and a two minutes silence was observed by all. Thereafter, everyone dispersed.
The Special Memorial Service was organized by the veterans of Chandigarh and surrounding areas to reflect their disappointment and disillusionment with the recommendations of the Sixth Central Pay Commission, which were termed highly unfavourable by the Veterans.
This Press Note issued at the venue by the organizers of the Special Memorial Service lists the following demands:
One Rank One Pension 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. Almost every political party has been including this issue of one-rank-one-pension in their election manifestos and then been ignoring it. This demand must be implemented by the government without any further delay.
Address All Anomalies The Services headquarters have already addressed a detailed letter to the government, pointing out the discrepancies and anomalies in the recommendations of the Sixth Central Pay Commission. These relate to status, pay, allowances, military service pay and pensionary benefits. These must be rectified at the earliest.
Compensation for the War Disabled The Sixth Central Pay Commission has recommended neither ex-gratia grants nor reasonably adequate increase in the War Injury Pay or addressed major issues highlighted to the Commission, both individually and by organizations dealing with the war disabled. Resultantly, the war disabled personnel would continue to live a life of misery and penury, neither respected nor assisted by society. Having sacrificed their limbs and organs for the Nation, they deserve a substantially better deal and not merely a doubling of their disability allowance after a lapse of 12 years.
The Way Forward The widespread and strong resentment against the recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission is a fact for all to see. The defence forces, as well as the Veterans have no confidence in the so-called Empowered Committee, even if an odd person from the military is added to it. The government must constitute either an Armed Forces Pay Review Board (AFPRB), with a serving member each from the three Services and one retired person among others, or form a Group of Ministers (GoM) to study all aspects de novo. The AFPRB or the GoM should complete their task expeditiously. Anything short will not satisfy the serving guardians of our nation, or the Veterans.
Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi (Retd) Lt Gen Harwant Singh (Retd)
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