Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Cheating the Jawans of Their Due

The Armed Forces have been the most disciplined organ of the Government ever since independence. But they are cheated by the bureaucrats, who love to play with the sentiments of the soldiers to ensure civilian supremacy.

A lot has been written and said about the one-rank-one-pension scheme. Yet, there is a need to write more about it so that each and every citizen of the country understands its nuances and the reason why the veterans — proud soldiers of yesteryears, have been forced to agitate and sit on a hunger strike.
Chanakya gave the following advice to Chandragupta Maurya: “If ever things come to a sordid pass when, on a given day, the Mauryan soldier has to look back over his shoulder, prompted by even a single worry about his and his family’s material, physical and social well-being, it should cause you and your council, the greatest concern and distress. I beseech you to take instant note and act with uncommon dispatch to address the soldier’s anxiety.
It is my bounden duty to assure you, my lord, that the day when the Mauryan soldier has to demand his dues or worse, plead for them, will neither have arrived overnight nor in vain. It will also bode ill for Magadha. For then on that day, you, my lord, will have lost all moral sanction to be the King! It shall also be the beginning of the end of the Mauryan Empire.”
Chanayka’s advice has been accepted universally. A soldier enrolls into the nation’s Army with a pledge to make the supreme sacrifice for the motherland, and the nation promises to look after him and his family’s material, physical and social well-being. It’s a solemn promise that motivates him to attain martyrdom without even blinking an eye. Is our country going wrong somewhere in honouring this promise?
Facts speak for themselves. To keep the forces young and fit, the soldiers of the Indian Army start retiring between 34 and 37 years of age. In the civil street, this age is termed as the prime of a youth. On the other hand, compatriots in the police and other Government jobs retire at the ripe age of 60 years.
The remainder of the Armed Forces personnel (fewer officers) retire before 50 years of age. A bulk of the officers retire between 54 and 58 years and only one per cent retire at the age of 60.
The disadvantage that accrues from retiring at a younger age is that you draw a fewer number of annual increments, resulting into lesser salary at the time of retirement. It has a twin financial effect on the after-retirement life of the soldier: Lesser pension (which is a derivative of the last salary drawn) and fewer savings (a derivative of the total earnings during service).
Within the Armed Forces itself, those who retired in the early years get lesser pension than those who retire in the later years, as each Pay Commission enhances salaries considerably.
The one-rank-one-pension scheme simply means that the pension of the retired officer will be based on the total length of service and the rank held by him at the time of retirement rather than the date of retirement.
In other words, a Sepoy with 15 years of service who retired, say, 10 years back, should get the same pension as that of a Sepoy with the same length of service who retires today.
It is very simple, but a few vested interests in the bureaucracy have always convinced the political leadership to the contrary. It involves bringing the pension at par with present retirees as on a cut-off date, say, April 1, 2014 (the date agreed by the Government for its implementation) and an annual increment thereafter.
The Indian Armed Forces have been the most disciplined and responsive organ of the Government ever since independence. Immediately after independence, when the forces were busy fighting the Pakistan invaders who had entered Jammu & Kashmir for its forced annexation, the salary of the Armed Forces was reduced by five per cent (a princely sum in those days). It was happily accepted in the national interest.
Then immediately after the 1971 war, a conflict that raised the nation’s sagging morale after the debacle of 1962, the Third Pay Commission reduced the pension of Junior Commissioned officers/other ranks from 70 per cent to 50 per cent and enhanced the pension of civilian employees from 30 per cent to 50 per cent.
To justify this, the mandarins of the Ministry of Defence, for the first time, came out with the concept of one-rank-one-pension. It was stated that the Government would soon start the one-rank-one-pension scheme for the Armed Forces to compensate for the loss that would accrue from this reduction.
Here again, the forces were cheated by the bureaucrats who always loved to play with the sentiments of the soldiers to ensure the civilian supremacy over the Armed Forces. The ostrich-like approach of the political leadership who has had no or minimal concern for the Armed Forces, encouraged the bureaucrats.

(The author is a Jammu-based political commentator and security and strategic analyst)

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