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Tuesday, November 8, 2016
IGNORING OUR SOLDIERS’ ANGUISH (TWO REMEDIAL STEPS THE MILITARY MUST INITIATE - (1) THE SERVICE CHIEFS MUST DEMAND DEFENCE MINISTER TO INITIATE DISCIPLINARY ACTION AGAINST THOSE BABUS RESPONSIBLE FOR EITHER ACTS OF COMMISSIONS OR OMMISSIONS THAT RESULTED IN INCORRECT DATA TO 7TH CPC AND OR THE MINISTER BE TAKEN TO TASK) - BY DEEPAK SINHA
Our military personnel must be given their due, not just in monetary terms but also in matters of self-respect. They have been routinely sidelined by the politician-bureaucrat nexus. Things were expected to change with the new regime, but that change is still not in sight
Nearly four decades after the famous charge of the Light Brigade was so gloriously portrayed in Alfred Tennyson’s paean to the ill-fated cavalrymen, Rudyard Kipling lamented the manner in which the country glorified their bravery but ignored the 20 others who survived.
Undoubtedly, our own good citizens are unlikely to be any different and their support extends to weeping copious tears for the martyred, waving the flag and tweeting Diwali greetings to our soldiers or, if you are a politician, arm-twisting some poor patsy into contributing to war widows’ welfare. As this glorification of the military, for what it does, reaches a crescendo around the country, the politician-bureaucrat nexus is hard at work to see how it can further reduce the soldier to tatters.
After the 7th Central Pay Commission (CPC) fiasco with the blatant use of lies to denigrate our senior officers and the military, thus enabling the Commission to recommend modified methodology to work out disability allowances, reducing them to a quarter of that authorised to their civilian counterparts, fresh attacks have been launched by the Ministry of Defence to downgrade parity of the military despite a Cabinet decision to the contrary in 2009.
In another show of high-handedness the Defence Ministry has attempted to bolster civilian supremacy by establishing two civilian ADG posts, outside the chain of command, to look after Military Engineering Services without any reference to the controlling headquarters.
As has been the usual practice in these matters, on representations from the military, the Minister for Defence has formed a high-level committee to go into the issues involved. But as we know from precedence, there is little likelihood of the military getting any redressal. That it is business as usual for the Defence Ministry, despite the ratcheting up of tensions along the borders with Pakistan and overdue attempts to enhance our defence worthiness by dispatching empowered teams to Israel and Russia to procure ammunition on an emergent basis to cater for any untoward contingency, clearly suggests we haven’t learned lessons from the 1962 fiasco.
The question that arises then is: why is the military so vulnerable to the shenanigans of self-seeking bureaucrats and politicians? Also, why is the military unable to stand its ground against the shabby treatment meted out? Does it not then seem unrealistic to expect a weak and spineless military leadership, which willingly prostrates itself without even a whimper to those in power, to ever be able to protect this nation’s interests and sovereignty? The fact of the matter, however, is that the military has more than exceeded the expectations and trust placed on it over the past seven decades since independence, except for that blip in 1962, for which politicians and bureaucrats are probably more worthy of blame.
Thus, before we hold servility and unfettered ambition within the military leadership responsible for the present state of affairs, we probably need to look at its ethos and traditions to understand why its actions have been repeatedly misunderstood. Not that there haven’t been leaders who have shamed the military in the past. Among numerous examples, the absence of the then Air and Naval chiefs from Field Marshal ‘Sam’ Manekshaw’s funeral. The shabby treatment meted out to the architect of our most famous and historic victory in the 1971 war and our first Field Marshal was inexcusable, not least because it was common knowledge that the Field Marshal was persona non grata with the then Congress-led UPA regime for his straight-talking ways and correct conduct.
It is quite likely that, what really distinguishes our officer corps from the average bureaucrat or even politician is their rigid adherence to form. It is unheard of for an officer to be improperly turned out or be late for an official function, and one is unlikely to witness an officer either not standing up when women enter a room and offer them his seat or hold open doors when guests are entering a room. This unbending adherence to etiquette with an emphasis on good behaviour and politeness, along with blind and unquestioning obedience to orders and the almost fawning respect given to seniors, is drilled in from the military academy days. It is subsequently nurtured in service until it becomes a second nature.
It is unfortunately this inculcated behaviour that is also responsible for the soldiers’ lack of awareness of where politeness and deference end and fawning obsequiousness begins. The tellingly stark photograph of our Air Force chief and Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, bent over the chair being offered to the Defence Minister, doing the rounds on social media, makes this so amply clear. Most military men will agree that it was just the officer’s inherent politeness that got the better of him, but his actions could just as easily be misconstrued as being submissive, especially by those unfamiliar with the military ethos.
In order to correct this unflattering perception that has been created, there are two steps the military must initiate. At the outset, the Service chiefs must insist with the Defence Minister that disciplinary action against those bureaucrats who are responsible for either acts of commission or omission that resulted in incorrect data being deliberately given to the 7th CPC and the Minister, be taken to task. Exemplary punishment will act as a serious deterrent to similar abhorrent manipulations in the future. Second, the military will have to take in-house action to reduce obsequiousness and uncalled for deference in its routine dealings. The use of the term ‘Sir’ must be banned and all officers must be referred to by rank in formal conversations and by their first names in the Officer Mess or during informal functions — as had been the custom earlier.
Finally, while implicit and unquestioned obedience to orders, especially during operations, is necessary and must be ensured, there is a need to encourage officers and men to stand up for what they believe is correct and for the greater good. It is worth remembering that submissiveness and compromise will never pay dividends in war.
(The writer is a military veteran and consultant with the Observer Research Foundation) (SOURCE : THE PIONEER)