Wednesday, November 1, 2017
Soldier & Honour –Inseparable Twins : Are we pushing him into losing his patience and faith in the establishment so that he takes recourse to strikes, dharnas and agitations like his civilian counterparts?
Dear Mr Prime Minister,
I had the opportunity to listen to your Man Ki Baat on 29 Oct 17. In the first half of your broadcast you reflected a lot on the contribution and quality of India’s soldiers – from Army, Navy, and Air force. You eulogised the soldier and honoured his commitment towards the nation.
The soldier’s conduct, performance and contribution in missions as part of United Nation’s Peace Keeping Force (UNPKF) came in for a special mention. It was good to hear that the government and its leadership recognised the same.
The fact that hardships and sacrifices of a soldier are understood and appreciated by none other than the nation’s Prime Minister means a lot to the man in uniform. When he hears this in a remote and inhospitable part of the country or when serving in a conflict zone in some corner of the world, it is indeed very reassuring for him.
It surprises many as to why a soldier’s belief in the establishment has remained nearly intact despite many disappointments that he has suffered over the years. This is something unique and cannot be found in any other institution. This is because of his unwavering commitment towards his nation and belief in what he is doing without seeking too much in return. While credit must be given to every soldier for sustaining this commitment, some credit is also due to his training and the military leadership under which he works.
An Indian soldier, Mr Prime Minister, is a simple soul even in today’s world where selfishness and greed abound amongst most of his fellow countrymen. His needs are few and simple. He neither agitates nor cribs even when some of his legitimate grievances are not addressed.
Is it any wonder that the issue of One Rank One Pension (OROP) never saw light of the day for 42 years from the time it was first raised in 1973? While your Govt can certainly be credited for implementing same, the sad part is that even your Govt cheated him by not implementing it in its agreed form. The 6th CPC used the scissors liberally when it came to dues of a soldier but kept the same away by design for all other services. Non Functional Upgradation (NFU) is another issue where Govt has denied the soldier his rightful dues while being overtly liberal to all others.
The above issues are all financial and money related. For a soldier honour and stature take priority over money. From 1947 to date while his responsibilities have increased at a hectic pace northwards, his honour and stature have only moved southward at a rapid pace.
While you, Mr Prime Minister, had no control over such matters till 2014, you cannot claim ignorance or shed responsibility of this deliberate down gradation that is taking shape under your very nose in last 3 years. During discussions on NFU, a case was made out by the bureaucracy that military officers were not even Class A officers – something that was a given till your Govt came to power. The 6th and 7th Pay Commissions and NFU played havoc with a soldier’s seniority and status vis-a-vis other Govt services.
Overnight civilians paid from the defence budget who serve alongside military personnel in various departments and organisations suddenly jumped up many notches in stature based on their enhanced pay packages. As a follow up to this injustice, on 18 October 2016 a letter was issued by the Govt, with approval of the Defence Minister, defining the rank equation between the officer in uniform and civilian officers working in Ministry of Defence.
A civilian officer with a time based promotion to the rank of Joint Director after just after five years of service in Group A was equated to a selection grade Army Colonel with an average service of 20 years!
Unfortunately even this was not the end of discrimination and demotion of the man in uniform. There is already another calculated move to downgrade a military officer to Group B Service. Can anything be more dishonourable or unjust Mr Prime Minister?
To his credit the soldier has remained quiet and disciplined for decades despite this deliberate degradation of his stature over the years. The Govt also knows that the disciplined soldier will continue to remain so. Does that imply that he will be taken for a ride year after year?
Should he assume that all the praise and eulogies that you shower on him from time to time are all farcical? Are we pushing him into losing his patience and faith in the establishment so that he takes recourse to strikes, dharnas and agitations like his civilian counterparts?
It is a bitter truth today that a career in the forces is not attractive for youth of the country. This is primarily because of continued down gradation of prestige of the soldier on one hand and the raw deal given to him over the last many decades when it comes to pay and allowances.
Don’t you think it is time to take some corrective action and restore the honour that is due?
To top it all one often hears from various quarters of the establishment that “expectations and demands of the armed forces that live in their own fiefdoms, have become highly unrealistic”. In reality it is the other way around - expectations and demands from the armed forces have increased manifold.
Today to make a simple foot bridge at a local Mumbai suburban railway station the government needs the Army! One wonders what happened to the mammoth railway organisation or the entire Maharashtra Govt or massive public sector enterprises like NBCC that none of them can execute this simple task.
I hope, Mr Prime Minister, you are aware that officers in all these organisations, unlike those in the Army, enjoy the infamous NFU and enhanced pay scales of the last two pay commissions.
A soldier will never let his nation down in any situation irrespective of how his Govt treats him. A soldier puts his complete faith in the nation and its Govt from the day he joins because he knows that henceforth his personal rights will be curtailed. He knows that while other citizens can question the Govt or take legal recourse; he will not be able to do so.
Somewhere he does hope that the Govt of the day will ensue that his interests are protected. Unfortunately today his loyalty, commitment and selflessness are being taken for granted. At times he feels he is being exploited even beyond the call of duty to make up for inefficiencies of others who remain unaccountable. Often military has been dragged into unnecessary political controversies that are neither good for the forces nor the nation.
These are not good signs for a nation aspiring to become a super power.
Mr Prime Minister, it is time Govt enunciates the position of the soldier clearly and unambiguously in terms of his status and stature. Armed Forces have a lot of faith and respect for you and your strong leadership.
It will be a sad day indeed if a soldier starts feeling that you do not mean what you say and like most other politicians your words too ring hollow.
Rest assured the Indian soldier will continue to honour his commitment to the nation – irrespective of what you or others after you do or not do.
Lt Col Saroj Chadha (Retd)