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Monday, November 9, 2015
OROP :: The question, whose army is it anyway! And Who Will Soldier for India - Mr Arun Jaitley? - CPOs Or the Contract Security Guards??!!!!! - By Lt Gen Harwant Singh, Veteran
The Finance Minister of the country, who was also the Defence Minister for a few months, informs us that terms of service (retirement at age 35-37 ) for a soldier are well spelt out from the beginning and recruits join knowing it fully well. So stop projecting short service span of defense forces as if it occurs as some kind of sudden unannounced midway layoff from the Govt! He further informed us that this luxury of such early retirement and pension is not available to Central Police Organizations such as CRPF/BSF/ITBP who need minimum 20 years service for even VRS. Some logic indeed! The FM should offer army’s terms and conditions of service, even without the travails of military service, to these CPOs and then see the response!
The Defence Minister informs us that since there has been no war these last four or five decades, people have lost respect for the military, though the recent survey put respect for military amongst the public at No.1 position.
Yet another minister tells us that military men are paid to die so what is so great about dying in the line of duty! Finally Jains and Chetan Bhagats of the journalistic community too have joined in this tirade against the military. Militaries in democra-cies enjoy the highest respect but in India it is fashionable for babus and the political class, to paint it in poor light. Therefore, the question, whose army it is anyway!
So if eighty five percent of the military men are sent home at the age of 35-37 years, where is the problem and why compensation for early retirement! The problem is that the country needs a young military so that it can meet the challenges of the profession of arms and the soldier is being made to pay for it. To-day there are very few indeed who join military service as a family tradition and fewer still are those who join for the love of the country.Wards of the politicians and babus do not join in any case.
Those who join are the ones who fail to get any government service: even of a peon in a government office. This will, surely impact national security in the long run, because man behind the gun continues to be more important than the gun.
Interestingly out of 44 Presidents of United States of America over thirty had served in the military. Churchhil served in the army and had taken part in the last cavalry charge in history.
Neglect of national security is not new for us. Philip Mason, from the Indian Civil Service ( ICS ) in his book , ‘A matter of honour,’dilating on the long history of military defeats of armies of India, lays the blame at the door of politics and the types of governments that had grown up in India. Therefore, the question, are we now blessed with a government, any different!
British left us a world class military, which proved its mettle in every conflict it took part in. Soon after independence and before the new government had the time to degrade it, the First Kashmir War was upon us. Indian army successfully snatched the Kashmir valley and much else territory from the very jaws of invading tribal hordes and the Pak army. But alas the Indian government under Pandit Nehru, aided and abetted by the babu, took just over a decade to run it to ground and consequently it crumbled before the Chinese in 1962.
Then in 1965 while the military had barely recovered from the Chinese debacle of 1962, when Pakistan tried once more to grab J and K. Indian army thwarted this attempt and in the process decimated Pakistan’s offensive potential, even though it had been starved of contemporary weapons and equipment and was terribly short of infantry. The real good performance was put up by the military against Pak army in East Pakistan. Its 1971 campaign against Pak army in East Pakistan is worthy to rank amongst the great campaigns in history. The last time India’s army won a victory against foreign army of importance was in 220 B C when Chandragupta Mourya defeated Selucus Nicator --- Alexander’s general. Therefore India’s military had to be rewarded for this great performance.
This reward came in the form of further degradation of the military. Earlier, New Pay Code was brought in, which pulled down the pay of defence services officers only. This scheme was not applied to Kings Commissioned Indian Officers ( KCIOs) and was the first attempt at, ‘divide and rule,’ and bring in a split in military. In the First and Second Pay Commissions MoD alone represented the military’s case. The Third Pay Commission in 1973 wanted to hear military’s case, direct from it, but the MoD ruled against it, on the grounds of discipline! Unfortunately the top brass of the military accepted this patently absurd stance of the MoD
3rd Pay Commission brought down the pensions of defence services from 70% of last pay drawn to 50% and elevated from 30% to 50% in the case of civil servants. But 85% of military men did not get even this 50% and instead got only 37% due to shorter span of service, (less than 20 years. )
We live in a competing world and if you are in India, the choices are limited, because jobs are limited and unemployment is rampant. An employer, must assess the employability for the job, a candidate aspires to seek. But given military’s terms and conditions of service this luxury is not available to it. This aspect of quality of manpower will seriously impact national security.
Places where successive Pay Commissions tried to improve matters, MoD and CDAs stepped in to negate these. The 4th CPC, as a sort of consolation for OROP gave rank pay upto the rank of brigadiers. CDA conveniently deducted this amount from the basic pay, which in turn impacted whole range of allowances as well. Nearly three decades later this case is yet to be fully resolved. Supreme court orders on payment of rank pay are yet to be fully implemented.
Those who played this mischief on the defence services were never exposed and held accountable.
The 6th CPC ruled that pension should be fixed at 50% of the, “ the minimum of the rank in the pay band corresponding.” The civil bureaucracy mischievously reframed this sentence and placed pension of defence officers at, “minimum of the pay band corresponding.”
Four different ranks i.e. Lt-Col, col, Brig and Maj-Gen were in the same band (band-4) and the MoD placed all of them at the bottom of the pay band for the purpose of fixing pension. Thus a Brig (with rank pay as admissible to him) got more pension than a Maj-Gen. this too has not been fully resolved some ten years later nor the mischief maker babu identified and taken to task.In addition over a dozen anomalies created by the 6th CPC are still to be resolved.
Disabled civil employees of the government are retained till they reach the age of superannuation and given normal pension. Whereas for military personnel, for whom the chances of suffering disability is much higher due to professional hazards are sent out of service and often denied adequate disability pension.
These disabled servicemen have been fighting their cases with the Govt for years and the supreme court was constrained to observe that government is treating army personnel like beggars.
This early retirement, mounting family commitments and resultant financial financial worries have brought the life expectancy of soldier down to 61-63 years while the life expectancy of his counter part in the civil is 71-72 years and those from the railways it is 73 years. This is so, though at the time of retirement a soldier is physically fit in every respect.
While the pay and pension of military officers was being depressed in every possible way, the bureaucracy in the 6th CPC gifted to itself and all India Group A services ( over four dozen of them ) “Non-functional Financial Upgrade“(NFFU) but made it a point to exclude military officers from this largesse. This grant of NFFU has given these civil services one up on OROP. Now under NFFU, every one from those over four dozen civil services will retire, with 32 years service, in the minimum appointment equivalent to an additional secretary to the government of India ( equal to 3 star general) while less that 0.003 percent vacancies of three star general exist in the army. If any one at all deserves NFFU it is defense services because of their extreme pyramidical rank structure.
At the current pay and pensions, a soldier retiring at age 34-37 and drawing 37 percent of last pay drawn as pension gets around Rs 40 lakhs less than an equivalent civilian employee when both reach the age of 60 years, age at which the latter retires. This is so due to longer span of service and periodic increase in pay allowances etc for the civil employee. This figure of 40 lakhs would substantially increase if we take into account what a civil employee would get from the nest two to three Pay Commissions. Further the life expectancy of a sepoy in the Central Police Organizations (CPOs) or a police constable, is approximately ten years more than a soldier, his lifetime emoluments would work out to much more than the figure mentioned earlier.
Still a group former Director Generals ( DGs ) of central police organizations (CPOs) met the Home Minster to caution him that grant of OROP to defence services will demoralize their men. Of course the Home Minister did not ask them, if these policemen are willing to opt for the same terms and conditions of service as of a soldier, even without all the travails of life in the military!( go home at the age of 34-37 years) He could have asked these DGs one more question as to how many IPS officers who command these CPOs have died fighting terrorists in J and K and Maoists in the the North East! As also, has the grant of NFFU to them not demoralized military officers!
It is not only in pay and allowances that military has been left far behind by almost every other civil employees, but his pride (Izzat) and respect has been purposefully and viciously dented, in every possible way.
Comparison in pension with other armies in democratic countries would highlight how badly has the Indian soldier stands discriminated. In the United States Army pension, for defence personnel is 50 to 75 percent of last pay drawn while that of a civil government employee it is 33.75. In Japan it is 70 percent giving him 12 to 29 percent edge over civil servants. In France it is 75 percent with 15 percent edge over civil servants and in Germany it 75 percent of last pay drawn giving an edge of 15 percent over civil servants.
How this sustained degradation of the military in India came to be accepted by the successive chiefs of the three services needs serious introspection. It says much about the types of leadership the defence services have thrown up and how little they have cared for those under their command. As more and more officers are getting aware of these developments, there is a ground swell in the increasing criticism of top brass by them. To this if we add the efforts by some in the government, to bring about a divide between officers and troops on the OROP issue, we may soon have a catastrophic situation in the making.
Political leadership has done no better and its credibility stands dented. The ongoing hunger strike by veterans at dozens of places, all over the country, and government cold shouldering this sad development has some very serious implications. The police assault on veterans, who were staging a peaceful, 'sit down protest' at the government designated place and with due permission at Jantar Mantar, pulling off war medals of an elderly veteran, tearing his shirt and manhandling a war widow was the most shameful act of this government. This manner of handling of defence forces issues does not auger well for the country and we will end up paying a very heavy price for this. Finally given this sustained degradation of defence services, making military service unattractive for suitable youth, the question we need to ask is, ‘Who will soldier for India,’