It is now a well known fact that there is a continuing shortfall in the strength of the officer cadre in all the three services viz Army, Navy and the Air Force. Senior service officers including the Director General of the National Cadet Corps have been exhorting the youth of the nation to join the forces to make up the deficit. However, the condition has been continuously deteriorating due to constant reduction in the intake of officers to make up even for those going out of the services annually due to superannuation, premature retirements, casualties in various types of actions against militants/insurgents and various other reasons. Such a paucity in the category of junior leadership in the forces is bound to have a telling effect on the course of a military operation, if any, forced upon the country in the near future and may adversely affect the future of the Defence Services themselves and that of the country in the long run.
The extent of their denigration has reached such levels that today most parents from amongst the high middle class background not having links or relationship with families in the forces are reluctant to marry their daughters to the officers of the services. This is mainly because of the fact that they face tremendous hardships, such as of constant danger to their lives due to conditions of service, prolonged service in hazardous and inhospitable terrains and frequent separations from their families and isolation from the majority of the civilian class. Very few parents would like their daughters to go through such life of hardships. Financially also the officers in the defence services hardly stand anywhere near their counterparts in other equivalent services or in the public sector undertakings or the corporate world.
In this respect the Defence forces have been thoroughly betrayed by the “Achkan & Dhoti” clad politicians who have been promising them the moon when they were fighting for the Nation and sacrificing their blood and lives for upholding the unity and integrity of the Country. Most of these promises are forgotten during the peace time and in place of the moon they are very often offered the pea nuts through an unkind Nexus of the Politicians and the bureaucrats. They have been invariably exploited just because under the Army, Naval or Air Force Acts they cannot express their resentment or dissent on Government’s misdeeds and inactions or go on strikes like any other services. Inspite of all the injustice done, they are always expected to be above board, non interfering with any other non-military activity, act as show pieces for the public and also be under a constant scrutiny of one and all for a high standard of discipline at all times.
The times have changed and the effect of these changes are being felt in the services too. The new generation of youngsters are not the ones who would take things lying down. They prefer to seek justification for every thing bad being thrust or good thing being denied to them. They would not like to join the forces just by seeing the smartness of the uniform or by counting the embellishments they are likely to secure for themselves. They are much more materialistic now and do not believe in the age old dictum of the services ie “there is not to reason why, there is but to do and die”. They certainly have a much better sense of reasoning and decide on their careers themselves rather than depending upon the advice of their parents or teachers. Most of the younger lot is comfort loving and not as persevering as their elders.
Under these circumstances why would the cream amongst our youth prefer to join the services when there are hardly any worthwhile incentives to encourage and motivate them unless of course other avenues for employment are totally closed for them. Those age old slogans like ‘join the services and serve the nation’ perhaps do not inspire our youngsters any more, when they have the living examples of the scams and hawala prone and highly corrupt ministers and politicians and of course similarly inclined bureaucracy on their top to misguide their destiny. This grim picture is despite the fact that the Government has brought about tremendous liberalisation in lowering the intake standards for the Defence Services in the last decade or so, to their actual detriment.
The Sixth Pay Commissions (6PC) report was expected to bring happiness and smiles on the faces of all including the Defence Forces. The Defence Forces had great expectations from the 6PC to not only undo the wrongs done after the 4th PC by illegal fixation of the pay scales of the Defence officers due to some nexus at some level, but the 6 PC, instead of correcting the anomalies for those victimized officers, did their level best to inflict maximum harm and damage to the main fighting elements of the Defence forces and pleasing only some top rung Senior officers who only constitute an iota of the Defence Forces. Unfortunately, these top rung Senior officers also did not adequately stand by their subordinates in undoing the grave damage done by the 6 PC report to the serving as well as the large number of War veterans of the Defence services.
On the three Services Chiefs making some noise the Government nominated the anomalies committee to look into the grievances of the three Services. No one in the hell expected any justice from these IAS secretaries whose colleagues were responsible for denigrating the status and reputation of the majority of Officers (mostly middle rung) and personnel below officer ranks (PBORS). Inspite of the assurances from all quarters the Services got nothing but pea nuts and instead the terms of some other civil services got further enhanced through this biased anomalies committee.
Frankly speaking most of the Services class is at a loss to understand the logic, justification and wisdom of the Government or the Ministers lead by a weakling Prime Minister, as to why the services have been denied inclusion of their representative at a stage when the 6 PC was constituted or even at the stage of formulation of the Anomalies Committee or is it that the Government does not have the confidence in the hierarchy of the Defence Staff or is it that it is so misguided by the bureaucracy that it cannot turn down their mischievous suggestions on the fortune of the Defence forces or is it that it has become totally impotent in dealing with any matter of National importance in a strong and fearless manner.
The strong apprehensions that a large majority of the Defence services middle rung officers has more or less come true that will be saying good bye to the forces to lead a more comfortable and complete life in comparison to a truncated and dissatisfied life they are leading now. If this really is allowed to happen then the state of the Defence forces is bound to deteriorate further. This can well be attributed to the unfair handling of the issues by the Anomalies Committee.
Even the long standing demand of “One Rank One Pension” for the servicemen has been denied by the Government, inspite of the fact that the President of India in her address to the new parliament had highlighted this issue, thus greatly damaging the credibility of the Government in addressing the cause of the retired soldiers.
In view of the above facts the Ex Servicemen have become much more vocal and are expressing their true feelings in a frank fearless and gutsy manner. They have held our Political System and the bureaucracy responsible for the situation our Defence Forces are in at present. They have not spared even our past Defence Hierarchy and have adequately highlighted the gutlessness and sycophancy displayed by them in the past. Perhaps the Politicians and the IAS Babus appreciate this quality of the Defence Forces Top Brass when it comes to dealing with the Government/bureaucracy with respect to acceptance and conceding to their fundamental legitimate rightful demands. They either snub them in an insulting manner or throw a few peanuts for their digestion, which to our horror they gratefully and thankfully accept to please their (bluff) Masters in the hope of future gains. In this manner a systematic, successive and disgraceful denigration of the status and reputation of the so called respected and dignified Defence Forces of the past has been successfully achieved.
I am of a very strong view that unless something drastic is done now the situation of the Great Indian Army, Navy and Air Forces may become like that of low level Security Organisations responsible for looking after the Gates of the Government Buildings, Raj Bhawans, Ministers, Politicians, bureocrats Residences and some Starred Hotels responsible for housing Foreign Heads of States. Providing Guards of Honour for these Dignitaries of course would then become the responsibility of the Next in line IPS. I am sure you would all agree to what "My Time Machine" is looking forward to.
If the situation for the Defence forces has to become from bad to worse as it is happening successively since the Independence the faith confidence and aspirations not only of the citizens of this Great Country would be greatly damaged and defeated but also the inbuilt confidence of the forces themselves in their leaders who have to lead them in the battle as well, besides their Morale and Spirit would also plunge to drastically low levels. Which certainly is not a healthy sign for the Health of India.
The already developing discontent and disenchantment amongst the Forces especially in the lower and middle level of PBORS and Officers is on the increase and may create uncontrollable consequences unless the situation is not controlled immediately.
So it is a very firm and sincere view and belief that now the time has come for the "Serving Top Brass and All Ranks" of the three Services and all the Ex servicemen to unite and integrate together as a strong and cohesive team and take a firm bold and fearless stand against the nasty nexus of the politicians and the IAS Babus for getting the rightful and just demands fulfilled 101 percent and nothing less. We must now show them what we all really mean, if even one demand is not fulfilled. It is now or never. So now is the time to show the determination, courage and bravery we are well known and reputed for in the battle field. Let "Our tails be up and not sticking inside our Legs" for this specific mission.
So may I appeal to all my Serving friends in the Defence Forces and the Leaders of the various Ex Services Leagues/Organisations to do some thing Tangible for achieving Tangible results Viz not only to restore the past Glory and past Reputation but also to uphold and prevent further degeneration of whatever is left of the Courage and Bravery of our All Ranks Serving as well as Veterans/Retired.
By Col LK Anand (Retd)