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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

THE DEFENCE SERVICES MUST BE GIVEN THEIR DUE

by Col LK Anand Retd
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It is needless to highlight the fact that none of the past Governments whether enjoying thumping majorities in the parliament like those of Indira and Rajiv Gandhi, or those on the fringe like those of Narsimha Rao (who had to seek the dubious support of JMM for proving majority on the floor of the house), VP Singh and a few more of his like have not been able to do much justice for the Defence Services. VP Singh can at best be credited with championing the cause of “Same Rank Same Pension” for benefiting those old and veteran soldiers who were mercifully leading a paupers life till then.
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It was wondered whether this principle would be taken care of by the various Pay Commissions and the future ones as well including the Sixth Pay Commission. The fact would be clear only after the Cabinet’s approval of the recommendations of the Anomalies Committee appointed by the Government to look into the anomalies in the Sixth Pay Commission Report pointed out by the Chiefs of three Defence Services is accorded. It is very strongly felt that the Government would do well to first and foremost accept fully the recommendations of the three Services Chiefs irrespective of the most expectedly half hearted recommendations of the Anomalies Committee made of three IAS Secretaries without a representative of the Defence forces. The Chiefs would then become accountable to the Government, if the exodus of the middle rung officers from the three services and the existing shortfall amongst the officers cadre still continued.
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There are a number of other issues which have created severe heart burns amongst the top services hierarchy. The first and foremost is the gift of a proper Defence Minister to the country who has at least some background or connection with the Defence forces of the Country. It is a pity that none of the defence ministers in free India seemed to have any inkling of the defence strategy, mannerism, knowledge of the structure and hierarchy of the forces as also any worthwhile interest in the well being of the forces. To take the name of any one would amount to serious injustice to the others as all of them have almost been alike.
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On the analogy that a financial wizard like Manmohan Singh (now our Prime Minister) proved to be perhaps the most outstanding finance ministers of free India, why cannot an outstanding General, or an Admiral or an Air Chief Marshal be tried out in the chair of the Defence Minister of the country. It can certainly be hoped that he would call a spade a spade and do full justice to the cause of the Defence Services in their various spheres. Also, he would certainly not be as corrupt and an expert sycophant as almost the entire lot of politicians. At least he would not act like a nincompoop of a minister, calling a general as a colonel and a colonel as a captain. To say the least there are plenty in the country to fill up that coveted post to relieve AK Anthony to do the jobs which suit him more than that of the Defence Minister of India.
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The next very important aspect is the requirement of a uniformed Chief of the Defence Staff, to not only head the three services but also to provide a direct single link to the Defence Minister or the Government. He would also be able to co-ordinate the functioning of all the three services to bring in better cohesion and co-operation amongst them. The requirement of this important post has been felt and justified for long but perhaps the bureaucracy seems to be totally opposed to creation of the post due to their egoistic tendencies and the Government also finds it convenient not to accept it, to please the bureaucracy which has closer links with the ministers and the other Government machinery. It is thus high time that the post of Chief of the Defence Staff is created as early as possible to enhance the efficiency, co-ordination, strike power, co-operation and team spirit amongst the combined Defence forces of the country. This would inculcate a good competitive spirit, incentive and motivation amongst the senior services officers towards improved career prospects.
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Another very serious anomaly at senior level is the deprivation of the rank of a General to the Army Commanders of the Army Commands, and equivalent ranks in the Navy and the Air Force. We are liberal only to the extent that we call them Army Commanders without giving them the appropriate rank. It is difficult to understand the mystery as to why the bureaucracy and the past governments have been dragging their feet in conferring this deserving and absolutely justified rank on the Indian Army Commanders. One can only draw an obvious conclusion that none other than the ego and selfish ends of the bureaucrats have denied rectification of this long overdue anomaly in the senior ranks of the Indian army. Any one having the faintest knowledge and memories of the last two World Wars, can well recall that all armies in these wars were commanded by full Generals and an army group ie more than one army was under a Field Marshal.
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On similar analogy in India the Chiefs of Army, Navy and Air Staffs should all hold the ranks of Field Marshals and equivalent ranks in the Navy and Air Force, since each of these services has more than one command. Then where is the justification in denying these ranks to the Indian Defence Services? On the contrary there is a strong case for the Government to give the services their due and remove these anomalies as early as possible and grant the ranks of Generals to the Army Commanders and that of the Field Marshal to the Chief of the Army Staff and equivalent to the other two services. Such an action would certainly be a motivating factor for the Defence forces and would certainly act as a good incentive for attracting youth to the forces whose popularity is constantly on the wane.
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Undoubtedly, the forces are getting certain in service facilities and also certain post retirement benefits like most of the other Government services, yet there is scope for further improvement in the terms and conditions so that not only will the service personnel be able to render their services to the nation without any worries about their families and the future but will also assist in curbing any tendencies and temptations of resorting to corrupt practices which may be trying to creep into the services as well, in keeping with the overall scenario in the country.
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It may therefore be worthwhile considering a plan of providing all the necessities of life, such as a house, a car and other household necessities at subsidised rates at various stages of an officers active service in the forces. Similar benefits could also be considered for PBORS. This can be done by asking for the choice of the officers/ PBORS at the time of the entry in service and recovering an equated monthly instalment from the salary starting from his first pay. The planning should be such that as and when the officer is due to complete the required years of service the item should be delivered at his door steps. Such a scheme could certainly be considered for other Government services as well. If this scheme is accepted and adopted by the Government then it could perhaps be the most novel scheme for the welfare and benefit of the service class of personnel.
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The above is essential in view of the existing environment and escalating prices of every thing big or small when a service person is invariably bedevilled by the worries of his future and post retirement rehabilitation. As the things stand, it is almost impossible for a retired service officers/ PBORS to have a respectable house and other amenities together, without infringing into majority of his accumulated savings and retirement benefits to acquire them to be able to lead a real retired and carefree life just with his quite a meagre pension. As a result, his struggle for survival continues even when he needs peace and comfort towards the dusk of his life. Unfortunately, in civil life also, a serviceman is considered no better than a security personnel only, and is hardly ever offered a handsome and a more respectable job on the basis of his bio data.
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There has never been any doubt or instance in the past when the Defence Forces failed to stand upto the challenges before them or let down the Government or the citizens of India and it can be expected that it would not happen in future as well. A soldier is bound to do any thing for the Nation even at the peril of his life. There is thus no justification for any one in the country in denying him his dues under any circumstances. It is thus upto the Prime Minister, the Defence Minister and the politicians to now stop making superficial speeches in praise of the Defence Services with the aim of giving assurance to our population about their preparedness for facing any external threats. They should instead do something tangible for giving them the dues they deserve and they would always certainly live upto their reputation in the best of traditions.
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by Col LK Anand (Retd)

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