Friday, October 20, 2017

Downgrading the military: Conspiracy theory or fact - By Deepak Sinha (in Voices TOI)

October 11, 2017, 2:08 PM IST

Frankly, if what is burning up the wires on social media groups of military veterans has even a little kernel of truth in it, then one can only conclude that this Govt has a death wish, & what is worse, is bent on creating a constitutional crisis by taking on the military head on. 
While social media does resonate with rumor- mongering gone berserk, as is often the case, there can be no smoke without fire and for all our sakes, especially the political class I do sincerely hope this issue dies a natural death.
As conspiracy theories go this is certainly not a bad one. In the beginning there were the Armed Forces. Not only did they get the British their Empire, on which ostensibly the Sun never set, but was also the glue that held it together. Thus, more than Civil Servants, the Armed Forces mattered most to the Sovereign and to which all other branches of Govt reported. The glue came unstuck when the Indian National Army of Subhas Chandra Bose, consisting primarily of members of the British Indian Army, took on the British, leading to their departure just about two years later. After Independence the Armed Forces saw themselves at par with the Civil Services directly accountable to the politician in power, as civilian control of the military in a democracy is supposed to be exercised.
Unfortunately, the politician- bureaucrat combine had a different perception and in the military saw a threat to their own survival, borne out in country after country in the neighbourhood. Thus the Armed Forces found themselves denigrated and downgraded, treated worse than step-children. 
The Sino Indian Conflict of 1962, and the subsequent defeat forced the bureaucrat-politician nexus to reverse their actions but the scintillating victory of 1971 made Mrs. Indira Gandhi fearful of the very same ghosts that haunted her father. She however went about dealing with the challenge systematically.  Actions like putting the Armed Forces under the Central Pay Commission, but without representation, reducing pensions while enhancing those of civil servants and upgrading the Police and other uniformed services, a practice that continues to this day. 
We have now had the Ministry of Defence unilaterally lower the military rank –civilian officers parity at the Service Headquarters in the name of functional parity, something that it intends to formalize soon through a Committee under an Additional Secretary, which has a Lt General as a member, who is otherwise at par, clearly pointing to its intentions.
Add to this, issue of the Non Functional Financial Upgradation that bureaucrats gifted themselves in the 6th CPC, munificence from a discredited and scandal-ridden Govt for services rendered. In essence it was supposedly introduced in order to address the wide disparity in career progression across different Organised Group `A’ Services (Central Services) and to bring about some parity between them and the IAS. It did this by granting a higher pay scale on non-functional (NFFU) basis to the All India and Organised Group `A’ Services till SAG and HAG level after a gap of two years compared to an IAS officer of the same batch who is posted at the Centre at the SAG or HAG level. In effect it ensured that regardless of vacancies or the duties being performed every member of these services received the same pay as his batch mate from the IAS, albeit two years later since they were superior creatures on the firmament.
Ironically, it was not applicable to military, despite the fact that it was most impacted by stagnation in its ranks due to its pyramidal structure. Surprisingly, senior officers within the military were most welcoming of this state of affairs. Not so much because they were high-minded principled people who understood what a morally reprehensible step it was but primarily due to sheer sense of their own importance and over-inflated egos…their inability to comprehend or accept how somebody holding a lower rank could get the same pay applicable to them. 
It was only when they realized that they had been shortchanged, as only a few made it to the HAG+ grade, thereby ensuring OROP in perpetuity, that they woke up to the adverse impact NFFU had on inter-se status and functionality  between military and their civilian counterparts.
The only recourse available to return to the status quo ante at this stage was either to ask for NFFU for the military, which the hierarchy did and was in line with the recommendation of the Chairman of the 7th CPC, or for this obnoxious scheme to have been done away with for all services as the other two members of the 7thCPC suggested. 
As is often the case in this country, vested interests ensured neither course was adopted by the Government, thereby forcing a serving military officer to approach the Armed Forces Tribunal against a perceived injustice. As was to be expected the Tribunal ruled in his favour and asked the Govt to implement NFFU for the military as well. The Govt then decided to approach the SC from which a verdict is expected at the end of the month.
There are whispers now that in a last ditch attempt to stop NFFU from being granted, the Govt is looking to downgrade the Armed Forces to Gr‘B’ Service. It is said that this has been done through the report of the Equivalence Committee which has illegally brought down Lt and Capt to Gr 'B' and reduced JCOs to Gr C. 
One hopes that these rumours are not founded in fact because if such an action were to be taken it would spell doom for the military. Given the manner in which the Service Chiefs have refused to stand up for the rights of their commands over the years, the drama over cleaning of tourist sites being the most recent, it is unlikely that they would do anything if such a step were to be taken.
The same however cannot be said of a very vocal and active veteran community, leaving aside a few with political ambitions, which will certainly refuse to be treated in this shabby manner. That despite two years of Govt intransigence it continues to fight peacefully and in a disciplined manner for the full implementation of OROP is a credit to its discipline, resolve and focus. 
Action to downgrade the services will only give further impetus to this community which in turn will lead to repercussions from within the serving fraternity. This can only end in disaster for our democracy. 
Given that the present government came to power claiming nationalism as its core value, the fact that it may well end up responsible for the destruction of our Armed Forces is indeed ironic and there should be little doubt that this one act  will reduce Mr. Modi and the BJP to the detritus of history.
(Source : TOI - )


  1. Dear sir,
    Every defence officer is writing about status after 1947 and now. Anyone have any time to think about Jawans welfare. Always and every time officers talking about NFU , allowance and parity with IAS/IPS .Pls think about quality food , pay and allowance , promotion etc for jawans .

  2. You will not get any justice from Modi/Jaitly other wise they should not have gone to Supreme Court It will be decided by SC only