Monday, February 22, 2016

Downgrading the military is bad for nation's health

By: Nitin A. Gokhale 

In the last 48 hours, the Indian army is again and again in the headlines. 

One, for its deployment in Haryana to control the Jat agitation in the state which spiraled out of control, thanks to inept political and administrative handling. 

And two, losing a young officer, a para-commando officer, from Haryana—who incidentally was a graduate from the Jawaharlal Nehru University—in an on-going operation in Kashmir. 

It is not clear if the para-military forces—CRPF and BSF—were deployed in Haryana after the police lost control over the situationbut what is evident is that increasingly, the Army is being called in to deal with what essentially are law and order situations. 

The decision to deploy the Army in Haryana at the first indication of trouble instead of using it as the last resort is debatable but given that the agitators were hell bent on destruction of public property and indiscriminate violence, perhaps the decision was unavoidable.

The Army has in the past done whatever job it has been assigned to do and will continue to do so in the future too, its reservations on certain aspects of decision-making notwithstanding but what hurts the men in olive green is the continuing attempts to downgrade the Army’s status and constantly downplay its contribution to the national effort.

The award of the 7th Central Pay Commission (CPC)—thankfully only a recommendation so far not accepted by the government–is a case in point. 

[ COMMENT : Mr. Justice A. Mathur, Chairman, 7th CPC is an
' HONOURABLE ' man. So too was BRUTUS !! ]

It seeks to place the Army at par or below the central armed police forces (CAPFs) through granting lower grade pay and lesser allowances. 

This is harmful to the Army–and the nation in the process–in the long run for several reasons.

Progressive degradation of status of Armed Forces personnel has had alarming adverse impact on self esteem of personnel and hence their operational effectiveness. 

International Journal of Management and Social Sciences Research (IJMSSR) in its issue of 12 Dec 2013 listed the findings of its research stating that only eight per cent of youth surveyed opted to join Armed Forces as against 58 per cent choosing to join other Central government services although Armed Forces Officers cadre constitutes 72 per cent of all Group A and All India Services strength. 

Though not being spoken formally, the following facts are undeniable if the current trend continues.

·  Shortage of officers in Armed Forces will be extremely difficult to be fully mitigated.

·  Self Esteem of those joining as officers, is taking a hit quickly after joining. This, despite many in-house measures, is reflected in relatively lower morale and less than desired level of commitment of younger generation officers.

·  Owing to large scale unemployment, intake of recruits (as Jawans) has not declined yet, their quality and amenability to discipline and of being shaped into combatants with high degree of commitment and sacrifice, has been declining by the day. So far significant numbers have been responding positively to the quality of leadership by the officer cadre. However, with declining self esteem of officer cadre itself, their collective capacity at stemming the rot and keep jawans motivated, is eroding. Increasing numbers have already begun displaying unwillingness to serve beyond initial period of engagement. This trend is already affecting retention of skilled manpower, adversely.

And this despite the fact that personnel of Armed Forces, on an average, incur Least Lifetime Cost to the Government on account of the following:-

·  Largest numbers serve for shortest period and retire early (between ages of 35 yrs to 54 yrs). Hence, draw least per capita government salary.

·  During entire career, they serve maximum time in junior ranks and least time in senior ranks hence, draw lower salaries for maximum portion of career.

·  Owing to combination of both of above (largest numbers retiring early and in lower ranks), their last pay drawn is much lower than civilian counterparts. Pension, though being 50 per cent of Last Pay Drawn as applicable to all, pension amount of Armed Forces personnel is much lower.

And yet, as an Instrument of last resort, the demands on the armed forces are significantly higher in terms of proficiency, commitment and sense of sacrifice. 

Armed forces being ‘Instrument of Last Resort’ do not have the luxury of ‘failing’ or handing over adverse situation to any other government agency. 

This singular fact demands of its personnel much higher degrees of commitment, leadership, risk taking, proficiency in multiple technological and tactical skills and willingness to sacrifice.

It is therefore imperative that armed forces should at least be considered ‘First amongst Uniformed Services’. 

Unfortunately, the 7th CPC has not considered this and placed Defence Personnel even below the Indian Police Service (IPS) by awarding them two additional increments at 4, 9 & 13 years Service (now at par with IAS) while military personnel continue to get only one increment each at 2, 6 & 13 years Service. 

Overall, taking pay and allowances cumulatively, the 7th CPC has further placed Armed Forces either at par or below CAPF.

This faulty award is because of faulty assumptions and inadequate Appreciation of Actual Roles and Required Degree of Proficiency & Risks. 

For instance, equating of CoBRA unit of CRPF with ‘Special Forces’ and assuming their hardship & risk as more severe than ‘Airborne Forces – Para units,’ reflects gross ignorance of roles, desired proficiency levels & attendant risks of various components of Armed Forces and the CAPF. 

Consider 7th CPC recommending ‘Risk & Hardship Allowance’ for National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) personnel when employed in disaster relief. 

Since Disaster Relief is the only role assigned to the NDRF, how can the organization seek extra allowance over & above their salary for doing their primary and only task? 

By this logic, ask the armed forces personnel, why shouldn’t the military be awarded special allowance when called out to aid civil authority during disasters which is not its primary task?

It’s time a thorough review is done in the way we as a nation compensate our soldiers. 

Otherwise, one of our most admired institutions is bound to face decay that will come at the cost of nation’s security.

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