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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Monday, May 25, 2015

Musings of an Armed Forces Veteran on OROP

Col RP Chaturvedi has very nicely, freely and frankly amplified his thought process on non-implementation of One Rank One Pension (OROP) to the Armed Forces veterans, Even after its announcement by PM designate Narendra Modi at Rewari Rally and by the NDA on assumption of office various authorities are dilly dallying the whole process on some pretext or other and have so far  been denying the veterans, the fruits of their sacrifices committed during their long tenures in the Defence Forces. The RM who had been giving expected dates of issue of Government orders off and on, seems to have been thoroughly let down not only by the concerned ministries who have displayed least inclination to fulfill PM’s promise in giving OROP to the highly expectant veterans but also by the bureaucracy itself who seem to be bent upon opposing and sabotaging the implementation process on most unjustified arguments now being given by the Raksha Mantri. The NDA obviously has yet to live upto fulfilling PM’s oft repeated promise of OROP to the veterans.

One Rank One Pension (OROP) is perhaps the longest playing Reality show in India today. It even beats popular cinema, including the phenomenal ‘Dil Wale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge' (DDLJ) being screened at the Maratha Mandir, Mumbai for over twenty years. OROP however differs from DDLJ in its vibrancy. The political paradigm, the legislative cast, and the level of the latter’s honesty of intent keep changing. There is one constant; the Babu, lying in ambush, watchful of any improvement in the Fauji's service conditions, pay or perks, and ever ready to scuttle such effort. This may appear a harsh pronouncement, but Babudom's demonstrated apathy towards the Faujis does not inspire confidence in Fauji mind. Need evidence? There is enough to write a book.

The current legislative cast centre stage is, Defence Minister, Finance Minister and the Prime Minister. The verbal jugglery and contradictory public statements of these three keep stoking the suspense and confusion around the implementation of OROP-somewhat like the Finale' of TV Reality shows when winner is announced. Him? Me? Him? Me? OROP? No OROP? When OROP? How OROP? Twisted Definition masquerading as OROP- Kaddu being passed off as Mango? Dhak Dhak ! Dhak Dhak! Dhak Dhak! NDA Government's assumption of power in 2014 raised expectations that implementation of OROP would be one of the first items to be ticked off the new government's 'To Do' list, specially with Mr Modi's oft repeated and apparently passionate commitment to its early implementation. The hopes were raised further when Mr Arun Jaitley assumed dual charge of Ministries of Defence and Finance, as he could have synthesized the two ministries to act in concert for early implementation of OROP. Unfortunately Mr Jaitley failed our expectations. His apathy and lack of sincerity about the subject demonstrably stood out during a meeting with ex-servicemen (ESM) soon after assuming office. Walking in an hour late for this scheduled meeting, the Defence cum Finance Minister went through the meeting without making eye contact with participants and left them with two insights.

One. That promises made during elections are not meant to be honored-hinting that NaMo's commitment to Faujis about OROP was just an election ploy. Really? But we Faujis-men of honor, took our prospective PM seriously, assuming him to be ethical (Pran Jayein par vachan na Jaye). The meeting left the veterans confused if Mr Jaitley had got it all wrong or whether PM was indeed unethically promising something he knew he would not honor.

Two. Continuing to avoid eye contact, Mr Jaitley asked the shocked veterans to "Lower your expectations" regarding OROP. Hullo? Veterans are not beggars looking for alms. Expectations? OROP is a term precisely defined by several Parliamentary Committees over decades, AFTER hearing all stake holders including MoD and other ministries and departments.

“OROP IMPLIES THAT UNIFORM PENSION BE PAID TO THE ARMED FORCES PERSONNEL RETIRING IN THE SAME RANK WITH SAME LENGTH OF SERVICE IRRESPECTIVE OF THEIR DATE OF RETIREMENT AND ANY FUTURE ENHANCEMENTS IN THE RATE OF PENSION TO BE AUTOMATICALLY PASSED ON TO PAST PENSIONERS. THIS IMPLIES BRIDGING THE GAP BETWEEN RATE OF PENSION OF CURRENT PENSIONERS AND PAST PENSIONERS AND ALSO FUTURE ENHANCEMENTS IN THE RATE OF PENSION TO BE AUTOMATICALLY PASSED ON TO PAST PENSIONERS.” So what does 'lowering of expectations' mean?

Is Mr Jaitley suggesting a change of definition? Reinventing the wheel? How illogical. If you want a Mango shake, and are served a Pumpkin Shake, and told it is 'Mango Shake', would you call it Mango Shake? It stays Pumpkin shake. Not a Mango Shake. Amazing, this simple point missed Mr Jaitley’s legalistic mind. Change of definition does not stay OROP and is NOT acceptable to Faujis. Period. This was the 'Dhakka Start' we had with the First Defence Minister of NDA 2014, who showed little empathy for his watch, little understanding of issues involved, and little ability to control, guide or steer the well-entrenched and obstructionist MoD bureaucracy, congenitally hostile to Faujis.

Little wonder OROP stayed in cold storage during Mr Jaitley's part time, disinterested and casual stewardship (?) of MoD. Veteran disenchantment with the NDA consequently started growing. Mr Manohar Parrikar's appointment as Defence Minister towards end 2014 was welcomed with a collective sigh of relief by the Veteran community. An unassuming, hands on, modest, hard working and result oriented man, Mr Parrikar has been an extremely successful Chief Minister of Goa over two terms. Alumni of Indian Institute of Technology Mumbai, he possesses a scientific tamper, a remarkable clarity of mind in getting to the crux of issues, and excellent

peoples skills.

Within weeks of assuming office he got to grips with the long pending issues gathering dust in MoD, including OROP, by not just listening to the 'ghisa pita' MoD briefings, but also by interacting closely and extensively with stake holders - in case of OROP, with ESM. He thus got a better balanced picture of the situation, and then applied his technical and analytical skills to work a way around the obstacles, of which there are plenty in his ministry. Despite every argument 'against' OROP having already been heard by successive Parliamentary and Defence committees and being either rejected or resolved, the Babus of the parent ministry of Faujis never tire of pulling them out and presenting them as fresh logic against OROP time and again! Mr Parrikar has painstakingly worked with a sense of purpose to fulfill the BJP’s commitment of implementing OROP. His resolve is a welcome change, and in contrast, to the argument that election promises are just hoax. Veterans believe NaMo‘s commitment to OROP is real; and feel Mr Parrikar is much more closer to PMs Line of Thought than Mr Jaitley is.

Despite Mr Parriikar's clearly visible efforts and resolve, while OROP is YET to be implemented and the case file keeps shuttling leisurely from Finance Ministry to other ministries – we are familiar with this bureaucratic delay tactic- a regular confusing Tamasha is played out in media daily, with contrary signals of the 'announcement' being just 'three days away' or ' just there'. There are also (laughable) rumors

of the OROP issue being addressed to the 7th CPC for resolution. Hullo!! Are you kidding? Do Legislative decisions/ award get addressed to Pay Commissions for 'resolution'? CPC has different terms of reference as any professional knows. So such irresponsible and tension inducing 'maza lene wali khabar' from portals of power are certainly malicious. No marks guessing who is playing games.

The daily Nautanki resembles the 'Mutt and Geoff' technique of interrogation of suspects, which involves one interrogator roughing up and being tough towards the prisoner, while the other is sympathetic, soft, friendly; ensuring one or the other 'breaks his will'. The OROP drama has its own Mutt and Geoff, and while the Veteran community has so far played along, now the idea of being taken for a political Mutt and Geoff Drama, is dawning on most. Far from ‘breakng Veteran will’ it’s strengthening it.

There are also Red Herrings floated around, like 'If you give OROP to Faujis, EVERYONE will ask for it'. While this obstructionist and illogical idea has been put across ad nauseam and killed repeatedly by various Parliamentary Committees on OROP, let me re-explain. 97% of Faujis are compulsorily retired between age 35 and 42, to keep a young profile in the Defence forces (That is the reason that soldiers are referred to as 'Jawan'. Oddly, term 'Jawan' also gets used by the ignorant, to refer to anyone in uniform- CRP, BSF etc, where the right term is 'constable'). Faujis don’t' get to serve till 60 like other government employees. Consequent monetary loss to Faujis as compared to their civilian counterpart is minimum 60 Lacs at age 60. It is partly to address this that OROP is needed for Faujis. If there are any other departments or forces that send people home before superannuation, compulsorily, the same could be applied to them, but aside from that, it is a reasoned demand approved for Faujis by all political parties.

Shockingly the 'All will Ask for it' logic does not get extended to the Parasitical and one of its kind illogical and unjust loot in the world, called 'Non Functional Financial Upgrade' (NFFU). Self served by civil services to themselves at the officer level (Non Officer Civil employees are not covered), this parasitical dole implies that if your batch mate is promoted, you, despite not being promoted, will start drawing the same salary as him even if you continue to poodle fake in the lower job. Nuances vary, with IAS having 2 year lead over others; which the others are now fighting to get parity over this loot of tax payer's money for rewarding mediocrity. Tell me, which corporate would pay a guy higher salary for doing same lower work just because his colleague gets promoted? Government of India does this. Its like all life Happy Hour. And there are provisions to rise to be equivalent of a Lieutenant General at retirement time, even if you mark time all your life. Just stick around and enjoy, maybe work if inescapable, and enjoy the fruits of your friend’s promotion. Wow! Can it be any better?

And mind you, this NFFU Club is ONLY for Civil Services Officers. Forgotten is the lower bureaucracy who have no such system. There is a strong case to squash NFFU totally- its anybody's guess how much money goes into this parasitical scheme.

With above mind set, little wonder similar divide and rule suggestions keep appearing for 'selective application of OROP' to certain ranks/groups. This divide and rule tchnique has never got us anywhere as a nation, and yet Babudom keeps coming up with such pearls of unimaginative ideas. OROP as a principle is a universal system applicable to ALL defence personnel. Officer Men mix is undeniably the sole battle winning factor that fetches results. One cannot split them. Sadly, the Fauji has to explain, fight, go to court, and still not have OROP till the Almighty calls. Many have died waiting for OROP. Many more would likely do the same, as Mr Jaitley advises to 'lower expectations' and scrutinize till cows come home. Finance can afford the luxury of 'time being limitless'. For others, it is limited. As indeed it would be individually even for the minister. The THIRD legislative cast on OROP stage is PM Modi (NaMo earlier in this narrative). An extremely sharp man with a vision for India, he has risen from grass root levels of political pyramid and learnt lessons along. His views have been consistently developed, refined and self tested. He has deep rooted understanding and intuitive insights into political maneuvering. I personally believe the BJPs loss in Delhi elections was more an effort at 'AAP Mukti' as the preceding strategy of 'Congress Mukt Bharat'. Had it not been so, the many almost juvenile blunders would not have been made in Delhi. No Sir, NaMo is too smart for that.

With a firm hand on affairs of state, while policy is clearly centralized, execution is largely delegated but closely monitored. NaMo has an excellent sense of timing and PR. The large emotional issue of OROP is clearly a card that can be played again and again, normally before elections.

So when does the OROP card get played? It’s anybody's guess, but 2019 seems long way off. There will be multiple opportunities, like during Bihar elections or Bengal or UP elections. Or both? A multi-use will be attempted.

The veteran community is closely watching this with concern. In an era of connectivity and an active media, secrets, intrigue and double speak is difficult to conceal. The Fauji finds NaMo's volte-face to a commitment that catapulted him to power difficult to come to terms with. They are aware that last minute , perhaps mellowed down/ watered down version (Mango and Kaddu? ) of OROP may be announced closer to some sensitive timing, to garner support/ votes. First, it must be clear that OROP is a defined concept and needs implementation in letter and spirit. Dilution will NOT be acceptable to Faujs. Second. A 'Fail Safe' time line needs to be defined- Kargil Divas seems good, 26 July, by which time 'Money iin Bank' with OROP credits must be affected. This is a Legislative award, already been cleared in parliament and money set aside for it. All that remains is not so much an "Announcement" but the issue of implementation letter by MoD, on which the CGDA can credit money to pension accounts. Necessary tables are ready with Service Headquarters. How come fresh tables are being talked about? Reiniventing the wheel? Whichever way, beyond the ‘Fail Safe’ time line, a confirmation of betrayal would be assumed by ESM organizations that OROP has not been given. No last minute announcements would help change the situation.

It would therefore be most desirable for the PM to conclude the OROP story now, by clearing the implementation of OROP to slip into veteran bank accounts NOW, in the manner of "Ja Simran Ja, Apni Zindagi Ji Le", when Amrish Puri lets go of Kajol's hand to grasp Shahrukh's on the moving train in DDLJ.

Really, the train is steaming off. Many Veterans have already 'Gaddi Chadh Gaye' waiting for OROP, and many are boarding every minute. Why delay Mr PM? And Why ‘Doodh mein Mainganen Daal Rahe ho’ Jaitley Saab'?

With Warm Regards,

Col RP Chaturvedi,


Sunday, May 24, 2015

Lt General Harbaksh Singh

Remembering Lt Gen Harbakhsh Singh By Captain Amarinder Singh

Lt Gen Harbakhsh Singh passed away on November 14. Many don't know who the General was. Being out of sight for 30 years put him out of mind as well, and a few words is all that he warranted in sketchy obituaries and those too in local Punjab papers.

Born in 1913 in Badrukhan in Sangrur and having graduated from Government College at Lahore, he was commissioned into 5 Sikh in 1935. He was a graduate of the 1st course at the IMA after a year's attachment with a British battalion, The Argyl and Sutherland Highlanders, wherein he saw active service on the north-west frontier. He commanded a company of 5 Sikh in 1942 in Malaya against the Japanese. Severely wounded in the head, a steel plate, which he carried to his last day, was a constant reminder. He was in a military hospital when General A.E Percival, the Allied field commander, surrendered all Allied forces in Malaya and Singapore to the Japanese in 1942. Then followed three years of a miserable existence and near starvation as a Japanese prisoner of war. Released at the end of the war in 1945, he remained in hospital for some months with beri-beri and other problems brought on by malnutrition and inhuman conditions in Japanese POW camps. Posted as second-in-command of 4 Sikh on release from hospital, he was perhaps the only deputy ever to ride a horse on parade in an infantry battalion, as he was too weak to march.

We now come to three episodes in his brilliant military career which makes him stand out as one of the outstanding commanders in modern Indian history. India became independent on August 15, 1947, and Pakistani-backed regulars, irregulars and tribesmen crossed into the state of Jammu and Kashmir on October 22. In spite of a determined effort by the J&K state forces and by the initially inducted Indiantroops, the enemy reached the outskirts of Srinagar on November 20 and the fall of the capital city was imminent. On November 21, reports came in of a concentration of around 3,000 enemy troops on the outskirts of Srinagar at Shalateng, just 4 miles from the city centre, preparing to attack the city. Colonel Harbakhsh Singh, then second-in-command of the newly inducted 161 Brigade was given the task of conducting the battle. He attacked Shalateng on the November 22 with two infantry battalions, 1 Sikh and 1 (Para) Kumaon with a troop of armoured cars of 7 Cavalry and, in a brilliantly planned and executed operation, routed the enemy leaving 472 enemy dead on the field. The threat to Srinagar was now over. If the capital city had fallen, it would have been one of the greatest disasters in Indian history.

Promoted to command 163 Brigade, his was one of the two brigades launched by General Thimmaya, then in command of Sri Division (later 19 division), on May 17, 1948, to clear the enemy out of the Jhelum valley, up to Muzaffarabad and Domel. The first by 161 Brigade under Brigadier L.P Sen on the Jhelum axis, and the second in a flanking move by his 163 Brigade over the Nasta Chun Pass to Tithwal and beyond. While 161 Brigade was held up near Uri, Brigadier Harbakhsh Singh's offensive, as discussed by General Birdwood in his book, A Continent Decides, was a triumph. "Pakistan s situation was now grim, and had India only used air supply more aggressively to maintain the impetus of this outflanking success, her forces would so severely have threatened Muzaffarabad as to force a Pakistani withdrawal from the whole of the northern sector. Luckily for Pakistan, they paused". Tithwal fell on May 23. In six days, Brigadier Harbakhsh Singh had in a lightning move secured all territory starting from Handwara to the Kishanganga over the Nasta Chun Pass and Tithwal after fighting aggressive battles.

Finally after commanding 5 Division and 4 Corps for a while, during the Chinese operations of 1962, where many soldiers believe that had he been allowed to command the Corps during the second phase of the battle by the Chinese which started on November 20, the situation would have been quite different in NEFA. Sadly for the Corps, their old GOC, General B.M Kaul, was sent back to command, from a sick bed in Delhi, by Krishna Menon, the then Defence Minister. General Harbakhsh Singh was then given command of 33 Corps at Siliguri and he finally took over as the Western Army Commander in November 1964.

War clouds gathered once again in 1965. Pakistan took the offensive in April in Kutch and was successfully repulsed. In August, Kashmir became the target and on September 6 India went to war. The western Army offensive across the Punjab border which started at 4.30 a.m. on September 6 went well till Pakistan counter attacked 4 Division on the 11 Corps left flank at Khemkaran.The 4 Division comprising 62 and 7 Brigades, a strength of six infantry battalions, had not quite recovered from the drubbing it received in 1962 at the hands of the Chinese, lost two-and-a- half battalions in a matter of hours, less through enemy action more by desertion, and was virtually overrun. The situation on the 7th afternoon was grim, while the Division fell back to the village of Asal Uttar and hurriedly prepared a defended sector based on the surviving three-and-a-half battalions and the 2nd (Indp) Armoured Brigade. On the 9th, Pakistan s 1st Armoured Division, whose existence was not known to us, attacked the Division. Their operational order was captured by us. The plan was to attack and overrun the weak 4 Division while a strong combat group was to cut the lines of communication of both 4 Division, 7 Division on the Barki Axis and finally to cut the GT Road at the Beas Bridge, effectively sealing off 11 Corps HQs and Corps troops at Raya, and the LOFC of 15 Division in one sweep. The situation was extremely grim and as a consequence Delhi panicked.

Having returned to HQ Western Army at Ambala from 4 Division at midnight on the 9th and after a visit to the operations room, the Army Commander retired for three hours rest before leaving at four' clock the next morning. The instructions to me, his ADC, was not to awaken him unless it was urgent. At 2.30 a.m. the Army Chief, General J.N. Chaudhary, called and spoke to the General and after a heated discussion centered around the major threat that had developed, the Chief ordered the Army Commander to withdraw 11 Corps to hold a line on the Beas river. General Harbakhsh Singh refused to carry out this order. The next morning, 4 Division stabilised the position and when the Chief visited command headquarters at Ambala that afternoon, the 10th, the crisis was over and the subject was not discussed. Had the General carried out these orders, not only would have half of Punjab been under Pakistani occupation but the morale of the Indian Army would have been rock bottom, affecting operations in other theatres as well.

His funeral was on November 15. Very few knew about it, therefore apart from his friends and contemporaries, former officers of the Sikh Regiment of which he had been colonel for over a decade, and others such as I, who had been on his staff, gathered at the Delhi cantonment to say our final farewell. The Army did him proud by giving him a send off befitting a great soldier. And while the ceremonies were on, and six Lieutenant Generals removed the National Flag from the body which was to be cremated, I couldn't help wondering how fortunate it was for the country to have had the right man at the right place at the right time. The words once used to describe Field Marshal Lord Wavell, seen apt for describing General Harbakhsh Singh: "He was essentially a soldier's soldier, and takes an assured place as one of the great commanders in military history".

The Last Post was sounded and the pyre lit, and as the smoke curled its way into the heavens and the bugle sounded reveille, transporting the General to Valhalla, to join the ranks of the many great soldiers who once trod this earth, there were moist eyes all around. As the mourners said their silent farewells, the words of Sir Walter-Scott from The Lady of the Lake came to mind:

Soldier, rest thy warfare is o'er,
Dream of fighting fields no more;
Sleep the sleep that knows no breaking,
Morn of toil, nor night of waking.

I said my final farewell, "Goodbye my General, till we meet again."

Monday, May 18, 2015

An open letter to Indian leader Narendra Modi: Japan Times

Much has been said on the high expectations, over promising and under delivery already, but this is an interesting read:

Dear Modi-ji,

It is one year since you assumed office. Your government can surely point to a general boost to the country’s morale and self-confidence. But actual accomplishments remain modest. Against the scale and magnitude of what is required to catapult India into the ranks of the first powers within our lifetime, the effort is frustratingly half-hearted and the pace of change frightfully slow. At this rate, far from catching up with the world’s A-listers, India will keep slipping farther behind with each passing year.

There are four portfolios that you should prioritize with a sense of extreme urgency. First, choose a tough law minister to chop, rationalize and simplify the plethora of laws surplus to requirements for running a modern economy. S/he should ask: Is this regulation really necessary? Excessive rules — a sad legacy of 60 years of License Raj mentality — add to the cost burdens and incentivize corruption. Please trash them.

Second, appoint a powerful minister to perform radical surgery on the bureaucracy. Business executives rate India’s bureaucracy the most inefficient in Asia. The top bureaucrats likely have urged caution, emphasizing the importance of continuity in public policy. With respect, prime minister, if the people wanted continuity, they would have voted the Congress Party-led coalition back in with Rahul Gandhi as leader. Instead they gave you a decisive majority — the first in 30 years — to break the continuity and chart a radically new course. Throw out the seniority principle in choosing departmental heads, give them five-year contracts to implement reforms, and change the entire structure of recruitment, training and promotions.

I was disappointed you did not choose a non-career diplomat as ambassador to Washington. Your diplomats are individually brilliant, but their collective impact amounts to the whole being less than the sum of the parts. Quadruple the entry into the foreign service immediately and then be increasingly selective in performance-based promotions.

In all walks of life, some promising people disappoint, others burn out early and others blossom late. Choose proven performers from business, journalism, universities, the defense forces, sports and the arts to fill up to one-quarter of your ambassadorships. Imagine the impact if a famous actress like Shabana Azmi or a legendary cricketer like Rahul Dravid were your ambassadors to Washington and London. They are individuals with proven character traits of integrity, conviction, maturity, dignity and tact. Their access to all sectors of society in the host countries would be the envy of other ambassadors.

Third, your finance minister has been a disappointment: cautious and middling when the need of the hour is for bold and decisive leadership. The retrospective tax law was one of the worst cases in the world of a country shooting itself in the foot; it should have been thrown out in last year’s budget. Instead, the tentacles of tax terrorism are threatening to spread to the middle class. Please break the protectionist mentality, switch from penalizing imports (many help the cost competitiveness of Indian manufacturing and are essential to “Make in India”) to facilitating exports, have faith in the Indian trader’s world beating entrepreneurial skills, and force the bureaucrats to serve the people and business houses instead of bossing them around. Limit the government to providing high quality yet affordable public goods of health, education, infrastructure and law and order.

Finally, India has no future without world-class education. As someone intimately familiar with the world of higher education, I am saddened to see the widening quality gap between India’s and the world’s secondary and tertiary educational standards.

Consider the recently published fifth edition of the QS world university rankings. This year it drew on responses from 85,000 academics and 42,000 business executives to rank the world’s top 50 universities subject by subject across 36 disciplines. Only one Indian institution made it on the list: Delhi University is ranked 17th in the world in development studies. Thus no mention of the supposedly world-class Indian institutes of management or technology: they are world-famous only in India.

By way of comparison, my own university is rated in the top 50 in 23 disciplines and in the top 10 in four (including mine, politics and international studies), while Tokyo is judged in the top 50 in 29 and in the top 10 in six subjects. Chinese institutions are listed a total of 50 times (remember: India has only one). Among them, Peking University is listed in the top 50 in 22 subjects (and in the top 10 in one), Tsinghua University in 15 disciplines (in the top 10 in two), and Shanghai Jiao Tong University in seven disciplines. How exactly is India going to compete with China in the future?

A university degree is neither necessary nor sufficient for a good minister. But your present minister .doesn’t inspire confidence in her vision and competence to overhaul the education system. Success in this key enterprise will also make redundant the distorting and damaging program of caste-based quotas that has divided Indian society and shackled the economy.

You have traveled extensively to foreign lands in the past 12 months. The ambitious agenda outlined in your many speeches is indeed admirable. I appreciate you are seeking desperately needed foreign investment to kick the sluggish Indian economy into high gear. It must be deeply satisfying to be feted by governments that denied you a visa for a decade. You are human in soaking in the adulation of the adoring Indian communities resident abroad. I recognize too the merits of courting sources of investment finance, technology, credits and markets to drive your domestic agenda by convincing foreign audiences that the new India under your dynamic leadership is open for business.

They will not come because you travel abroad to court them with slogans and promises. They will come if you deliver results by tending to the urgent domestic reform agenda so that the size of the Indian market grows dramatically, business is easy to do, price signals determine investment choices and healthy profit can be made. This would make it easier to hire and fire workers, expand the base of skilled labor, increase worker productivity, connect suppliers to markets by building fast and reliable transportation corridors, and eliminate the discretionary authority of officials and politicians that imposes arbitrariness and magnifies opportunities for them to extort businesses and ordinary people alike.

Prime minister: Reciting slogans in foreign lands wins applause but the rush of investment money will begin only when you make the laws and environment friendly for doing business, creating wealth and jobs, and educating and training a skilled modern workforce. Prove yourself different from the sclerotic Congress Party. They wasted 60 years. Please do not waste the remaining 48 of your 60 months.
Yours sincerely,

A well wisher.

Ramesh Thakur is a professor at Australian National University.



An early comment on the letter:
However erudite and thoughtful the entire article may be, but I am amazed at someone making out as if the only areas from where 
"individuals with proven character traits of integrity, conviction, maturity, dignity and tact" can be found are Bollywood and Cricket! 

The author seems to be over awed by the fact that these specimen of society earn bags full at the cost of Indian public, which itself has given in to the various styles and tantrums of these money making heroes. This obviously is an unqualified assumption or presumption of the author.

Yet another :

Modi Ji, you had been outstanding during your pre-election speeches and in making lofty promises of all kinds and asked for 60 months as against 60 years ruled by Congress. You  do not seem to have realized that most promises which could have been fulfilled without much ado, during the last one year could not be fulfilled by you and your worthy ministers and top bureaucracy, putting a question mark on credibility of your so called impressive seeming speeches and countless promises. Your speeches making new promises from day to day, in enormously large rallies and gatherings to induce and entice the millions of your countrymen who worked with great hope to make you the Indian PM, are now turning out to be hollow and just dramatized performances to get yourself elevated to the highest executive office of India. Most of your ministers seem absolute misfits for the posts you have elevated them to, and seem to be not only lacking a will and dynamism to perform their normal duties but also have proved to be totally incompetent to hold such high and prestigious offices.

Dear Mr Modi, you, boasted a lot just after taking over as the PM that yours will be a government that works, but to an utter dismay and to the contrary, the hand-picked bureaucracy of yours, has been a total disappointment, as they have yet to display any sense and capability to achieve any worthwhile targets toward fulfilling your promises, but have instead been an impediment in performing their normal duties. The government of yours just does not seem to be working at all, leave alone working towards achievement of your oft repeated tall and ambitious promises.  It may not be long before the millions of your countrymen start getting a feeling that you only made false and hollow promises to bluff them in your ambition to become Indian PM. Mr Modi please be advised that in the absence of sincere efforts on the part of your ministers and bureaucracy your credibility  is seriously at stake.



One Rank One Pension Cleared in Principle, PM Modi to Take Final Call: Sources "NDTV"

Various news items on OROP
NDTV

NEW DELHI:  The Centre has in principle cleared the 'One Rank One Pension' scheme for retired armed forces personnel, sources have told NDTV. The government has made a provision for an additional Rs. 8,300 crore for this purpose.

The scheme, which seeks to ensure that a uniform pension is paid to defence personnel who retire at the same rank with the same length of service, irrespective of their date of retirement, has been a long-standing demand of the over 20 lakh ex-servicemen in the country. Majority of Defence personnel hang up their boots much before 60 years. Also, over the years the disparity in the pension drawn by personnel of same rank who retired for instance a decade ago and those who retire now is substantial.

Demand for One Rank One Pension has been an emotive issue with defence pensioners for long. And, between 2008- 2010 veterans have on several occasions marched to Rashtrapati Bhavan to return their gallantry medals.

Sources say once Prime Minister Narendra Modi is back on May 19 from his three-nation tour, a final round of discussions will take place with him. The official announcement is likely to be made later this month, coinciding with the first anniversary celebrations of the NDA government.

The government has already made it clear that One Rank One Pension will be implemented with effect from April 1, 2014.

http://www.ndtv.com/india-news/one-rank-one-pension-cleared-in-principle-pm-modi-to-take-final-call-sources-763827


WAIT TO GET OVER - One rank-one pension on way
TIMES NEWS NETWORK
The long-awaited one-rank, one-pension (OROP) for over 25 lakh ex-servicemen is set to be announced this month with a corpus of about Rs 8,300 crore, after several false starts since the NDA government assumed office a year ago.
As earlier reported by TOI, the defence ministry had earlier cleared the implementation of the OROP mechanism but it was being vetted by the finance ministry. Defence minister Manohar Parrikar told journalists in Goa over the weekend that the finance ministry would clear OROP “in a few days“.
It will be announced once PM Narendra Modi returns from his three-nation visit to coincide with the first anniversary celebrations of the NDA government on May 26. It will come as a big relief to ex-servicemen, who have been agitating for the OROP mechanism for several years now, with many of them even return ing their medals to register their protest against what all political parties have promised but never actually delivered.
OROP basically implies payment of a uniform pension to personnel retiring in the same rank with the same length of service, irrespective of their date of retirement. For instance, two officers who served as colonels for seven years will get the same pension even if they retire a decade apart. A colonel with five years in that rank will obviously get less pension based on a graded scale.
The Modi government has defined `military pension' as a category separate from other kinds of pension since soldiers, sailors and airmen as well as their officers, who retire at a much younger age and serve hardship postings, cannot be equated with other government employees.
Successive governments in the past had contended that granting full OROP was neither financially nor administratively possible since it could lead to a cascading effect, with similar demands being made by others like paramilitary personnel.
By the kind courtesy of timesofindia.com

RRM is stated to have said the following on
"One rank, one pension” OROP:

RRM Mr Singh said the government has “arrived” at a figure, and the “Defence Minister will be making the formal announcement any moment”. He said the government had consulted all parties involved in the decision making, and “we are hopeful that we have been able to cater to everyone’s expectations”.

Parrikar had indicated on Saturday that the OROP — earlier stuck in the Finance Ministry due to disagreement over monetary allocations — was more or less final. The formula applied by the Services was reaching a higher figure, while the one used by the Controller General of Defence Accounts (CGDA) was producing a lower figure. That deadlock has been resolved now, Singh said."

The complete news can be accessed at the following link:


One more news on OROP can also be accessed at the following link:


Saturday, May 16, 2015

Modi-Ji, This Broken Promise is An Act of Dishonour


(Dr. Shashi Tharoor is a two-time MP from Thiruvananthapuram, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs, the former Union Minister of State for External Affairs and Human Resource Development and the former UN Under-Secretary-General. He has written 14 books, including, most recently, Pax Indica: India and the World of the 21st Century.)

New Year's Resolutions, it is said, are made to be broken. There's something about a new dawn that inspires the earnestness of yearned-for virtue in most of us, and we solemnly pledge to do this and that in the course of the New Year which we never thought ourselves capable of fulfilling in the old. And then, as the New Year turns less new, we tend to regret those rash resolutions, modify them, ignore them, or most of all, simply forget them.

Our new government didn't wait for the New Year to make something of a habit of breaking its promises, as a celebrated Congress Party publication on the BJP's many U-turns pointed out in early December. To some degree, this is unsurprising in most democracies: after all, as New York Governor Mario Cuomo famously pointed out more than two decades ago, "you campaign in poetry, but you govern in prose". 

Extravagant campaign promises tend to look much more difficult to fulfil when faced with the reality of government.

But still, it is something new to discover a government breaking a promise that it has repeatedly made not just in its campaign but on the floor of Parliament, expressed by the Finance Minister in his Budget speech and repeated by the Prime Minister himself. A failure to fulfil such promises is normally, in most parliamentary democracies, a resigning matter, but our government carries on, blithely unconcerned. Meanwhile, of this particular promise, there is no sign of any intention to actually fulfil it.

What am I going on about? Very simple: it is the pledge to ensure "One Rank One Pension" for our retired military personnel, who currently suffer gross injustice through the provision of pensions that have not been indexed to inflation, so that a Brigadier who retired twenty years ago gets a lower pension than a Captain who leaves the force this year.

This entirely reasonable demand - made by people who have risked their lives to protect our borders, our nation, and us - was acceded to by the UPA government, echoed by the NDA, and announced again by the new regime after its ascension to power. Barely two months ago, Prime Minister Modi declared emotionally on his visit to the troops in Siachen that "One Rank One Pension has been fulfilled".

But Modi-ji, it has not been fulfilled. Not one soldier has received an enhanced pension; meanwhile leaks in the newspapers "reveal" that the Finance Ministry has had a change of heart, saying that justice to our men in uniform would "cost too much". 

It seems the Comptroller of Defence Accounts has estimated that the cost of One Rank One Pension could be as high as 9,300 crore. It may sound a lot, but the estimated budget for Mr Modi's much-vaunted statue of Sardar Patel is 1,500 crore, which puts this sum in perspective.

At a recent media conclave, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar hedged his bets, suggesting that ex-servicemen would get 80% of the promised pension, and adding that "100% satisfaction to everyone is never given in real life."  This is an utter travesty. Is Mr Modi prepared to stand before the nation and say that we should not believe anything he promises, but that he will try to deliver 80% of it? If the Kargil war had happened on his watch, would we have to be content with getting 80% of the heights back?

Our soldiers never make 80% effort; they give 100%, indeed more. The nation owes them at least this much.

It is true I have a soft corner for our armed forces. I believe they embody the best of what India can be, but so rarely is: they are motivated, professional, meritocratic, competent, reliable, free of caste and religious prejudice, and they take risks the rest of us would not dare to. Yet we treat them in a disgracefully cavalier fashion. 

During my UN peace-keeping years, when I dealt with a large number of senior military officers and issues from around the world, I was appalled to see how poorly our professional officers were valued by our self-regarding bureaucracy. 

Whereas our officers, man to man, outshone their counterparts from Western militaries in their competence, intelligence and humanity, our system subjected them to various petty indignities. A full Colonel with over 25 years of service behind him is ranked by our babus below a Director in protocol terms. I have suffered through peacekeeping seminars in which a knowledgeable Indian military officer had to defer to a callow bureaucrat in discussions on military matters. At a time when post-Cold War peacekeeping called for serious levels of military expertise at the UN Headquarters in New York, India remained the only Permanent Mission to the UN (of any major peace-keeping contributor) not to post a military adviser. Our diplomats believed they knew it all themselves.

This attitude extends to conditions of service across the board. A Joint Secretary, with nineteen years of professional experience, is deemed the equivalent of a Major-General, who not only has thirty years but has commanded men and materiel, made life-and-death decisions and protected our nation. We pay pensions to a lot more Joint Secretaries than Major-Generals (only 0.8% of army officers ever attain Major General rank). Yet we are now quibbling about the cost.

Who are the people we are cheating here by pinching pennies? Some 20 lakh ex-servicemen and four lakh widows. It is time to ask the Government of Messrs Modi and Jaitley: gentlemen, have you no shame?

It is ironic that the BJP, which prides itself on a robust attitude to defence, should betray its own promises to the men who actually defend our country. Building a War Memorial is symbolism, which the Modi government seems much better at than substance. Actually making a difference in the lives of our retired service personnel is the kind of tangible benefit this government shrinks from too often.

As far back as 2003, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence recommended One Rank One Pension, calling it "a debt" the nation had to pay. It is a debt our Government must honour. Not to do so is an act of dishonor. It dishonours the nation and the flag these men have fought to defend. And it thoroughly discredits those who would treat the well-being of our jawans and officers as one more election promise to be lightly cast aside.

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Story First Published by NDTV: December 31, 2014 16:06 IST