Friday, November 4, 2016
Double-think run wild - By Raghu Dayal (The Army as an epitome of the defence forces is a rare institution with a splendid legacy that does the nation proud -values in national life, sustains the spirit of Sir Philip Chetwode defined IMA’s credo “The safety, honour and welfare of your country come first, always and every time.” Sardar Patel had warned of the danger of interfering with the service hierarchy. Let it be duly nurtured and cared for as part of seismic reform in governance. Prime Minister Modi needs to realise the country is in dire need to reform the system post haste
The country is baffled at the strange dichotomy that has come about, of late. In a unique morale-boosting gesture. Prime Minister Narendra Modi joined jawans for Diwali, effusively extolled their bravery, vigil and sacrifices that, as he says, enable countrymen to sleep in peace and comfort. Simultaneously his sarkar appears to be creating fissures and opening chasms between entrenched babus and hapless faujis, distorting the tranquillity and harmony essential for the nation’s security and development.
No doubt, the Modi-led NDA government finally cleared the decades-old OROP imbroglio for military personnel, but only after much dithering and delay that elicited unsavoury agitation by the veterans. The Government avoidably lost the grace. And then what has transpired during the last few weeks by way of a striking mismatch between rhetorical adulation and unabashed political messaging of the army’s bold initiatives, on one hand, and a pervasive perception generated by civil bureaucracy Rs of steady erosion of pay, perks and position of people in the armed forces, on the other hand. In a way, the overtures on the part of babus signify that the PM’s “sandesh for soldiers” on the eve of Deepavali and his personal presence on the occasion among jawans, preceded by Central ministers visiting border outposts such as Siachen for Rakshabandhan tantamount to propitiating only ‘a false god’.
How else would the government explain the outrage by the Service chiefs , firstly, at glaring anomalies in their post-Seventh Pay Commission salary structure vis-a-vis civilian employees, thereafter a substantial reduction in pensions of disabled soldiers, while effecting no cut in the entitlement of civilians or paramilitary forces. Utterly oblivious of the cardinal spirit of Izzat for his company, command, and country that drives a soldier, and for which he never swerves from making the supreme sacrifice, the Ministry of Defence lorded over by the civil bureaucracy hurt him where it mattered most, by verily downgrading his status in comparison with his civilian counterparts. Notwithstanding the Ministry’s avowal that its recent notification, that has raised a storm of protest by armed forces officers, does in no way change the long established equivalence of the service ranks in relation to those of civilian officers, it appears to be a contrived case of sophistry to explain away the act. It is reported that a Pranab Mukherjee-led Group of Ministers had decided the hierarchy in 2009. Question legitimately arises, what then was the provocation for the “functional equivalence” to be “reaffirmed”.
The issue is embedded deep in the administrative structure that has endured in spite of countless attempts at changing and reforming the system. Haven’t we often heard of sane voices that the firm hold of the bureaucracy in Raksha Mantralaya has hurt the vital procurement process, and that this is detrimental to the country’s security. Recall George Fernandes as Raksha Mantri in Vajpayee-led NDA-I government compelling senior civilian officers to stir out of their cosy confines to get an inkling of the serious hardships that soldiers encounter in desolate terrains and challenging environs.
The paradox is that the political masters have to rely on this very steel-frame for any reform. The Administrative Reforms Commission-I, 1965, seems to have grasped the problem when it advised that the Department of Personnel should not administer itself any service cadre so that it could devote itself to policy-making without holding a brief for any service interest. The modus operandi is simple: like Humphreys of Yes Minister, astute members of what now constitutes an omnipotent trade union, the IAS cages every commission or committee; “processes” all reform proposals with a vice-like grip on ministers. Many among Cabinet Secretaries, State Chief Secretaries and those in the PMO facilitate their machinations to succeed.
The civil service has emerged as a corps d’ elite, the new class, “privileged persons divorced from the people and standing above the people”. Anthony Downs, in his Inside Bureaucracy, demonstrates how bureaucratic behaviour is primarily determined by consideration of power, prestige, money, security, and convenience. The Government grants almost automatic pay increases, as it permits an automatic perch at highest pedestals based on the rank secured at entry level over thirty years ago. The cadre system has become as pernicious as casteism in society. The National Academy of Administration had once recommended compulsory retirement of 25-50 per cent of the officers in the 52-55 year age-bracket, as it is done in the army. Despite acknowledging and reinforcing the pervasive perception that governance is “admittedly the weak link in our quest for prosperity and equity”, there has been no tangible move by the Government to free the system from bureaucratic stranglehold.
Realising the crucial need for senior specialist officers to steer the government’s economic agenda, the Central Administrative Pool was announced in 1957 for building up a reserve of officers with special experience of economic administration. Pretty soon it was consigned to oblivion. ARC-I recommended that all Class I officers (All India and Central Services) with 8-12 year service be eligible for posts at the Centre. Again, the Surendra Nath Committee, 2003 stressed the importance of providing domain expertise in the Central Staffing Scheme. Pay Commission-VI rooted for officers from within the Government as well as outsiders on contract for higher echelons, while Pay Commission-VII advised officers with specific domain knowledge from All-India as well as Central Services to be screened for empanelment by a specialized body. Nothing was allowed to happen.
Be it agriculture or finance, energy or transport, education or health, rural rejuvenation or urban development, municipalities or military procurement, sports or maritime ports, utilities or PSUs, the IAS occupies the commanding heights of the Civil Service structure, arrogating “to itself all power of governance”, relegating “all other services to secondary position”, as the Chairman, Pay Commission-VII once remarked. The IAS acquired a new trait Rs bureaucratic imperialism, encroaching upon the areas which legitimately belonged to the technocrats, educationists and other groups (Jagmohan). It has now acquired close to total domination over even Constitutional institutions. The Election Commission and the Information Commission are manned by retired IAS officers. So also the CAG and CVC.
Contrary to general belief, liberalisation has expanded the power of the bureaucracy, creating a permanent establishment that never retires. No less than nine among the twelve economic regulators owe their roots to the privileged cadre. No wonder that too many babus spend their last years in service kowtowing for post-retirement sinecures, thus debilitating the system.
The Army as an epitome of the defence forces is a rare institution with a splendid legacy that does the nation proud. Amidst rapidly declining discipline and values in national life, it still elicits awe and admiration for several rich traditions it has sustained in the spirit of what Field Marshal Sir Philip Chetwode defined IMA’s credo Rs “The safety, honour and welfare of your country come first, always and every time.” Sardar Patel had warned of the danger of interfering with the service hierarchy. Let it be duly nurtured and cared for as part of seismic reform in governance. This is an imperative. Machiavelli’s Prince knew that there was “nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things”.
Prime Minister Modi needs to realise the country is in dire need to reform the system post haste.
(SOURCE :The statesman- http://www.thestatesman.com/news/opinion/double-think-run-wild/174086.html#9s1vMpMtxwoeoYmv.99 )