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Monday, November 14, 2016

Demonetization: Witless and Anti-People

Narendra Modi went on national television at 8 p.m. on November 8 to announce that from midnight of that very date, i.e. in a mere four hours’ time, 500 and 1000 rupee notes would cease to be legal-tender. 
The justification advanced for this bizarre move was that it would strike at “black money”. An additional argument was thrown in, to the effect that fake currency notes used by “terrorists” would now cease to be effective, and some particularly enthusiastic supporters of the government even went to the extent of calling it a “surgical strike against terrorism”. 
I shall come to the fake currency issue later. Let me first look at the “black money” argument which even President Pranab Mukherjee has gone out of his way to endorse. This argument, namely that the demonetization of 500 and 1000 rupee notes constitutes an attack on “black money”, is based on an utter lack of understanding of the nature of “black money,” a conception of it that is staggering in its simple-mindedness. 
The implicit understanding is that “black money” consists of hoards of cash which are held in trunks or pillowcases or buried under the earth. With this understanding, it is then suggested that if 500 and 1000 rupee notes are demonetized, then people going to banks to exchange large amounts of old notes for the new legal tender would make the banks suspicious; and banks in turn would convey their suspicions to the tax authorities who would then catch the culprits. “Black money” would thus get exposed, and this would discourage further transgressions in future. 
Now, the second part of this argument, even assuming that “black money” actually consists of cash-hoards, makes little sense. If a person possesses, say, unaccounted money of Rs.20 crores, and that too in 500 and 1000 rupee notes, then such a person will certainly not come with the entire Rs.20 crores to a bank to change it into the new legal-tender (he will not be allowed to do so anyway); he would rather send several factotums to the bank, each carrying a small amount, and would do so over a number of days prior to the December 30 deadline. 
In fact even this prolonged effort would be unnecessary, since all sorts of intermediaries would come up fairly soon who would do this job of exchanging old notes for new ones on behalf of customers for a consideration. With such “black operators”, exchanging “black money” from the old legal tender to the new legal tender, the idea, mooted by “experts” on several TV channels, that demonetizing 500 and 1000 rupee notes would unearth illegal cash-hoards makes little sense. 
More importantly, however, this very conception of “black money” is absurd. Indeed the term “black money” itself is a misnomer, since it conjures up the image of a stock of money which is supposed to be held not openly, in the form of bank deposits, but clandestinely in the form of currency notes, and that too in pillowcases or in containers buried in the earth. 
Actually when we talk of “black money” we have in mind a whole set of activities which are either entirely illegal, such as smuggling, or drug-running, or procuring arms for terrorist organizations, or are undertaken in excess of what is legally permitted, or are not declared at all so that taxes are not paid on them. 
If 100 tonnes of minerals are extracted but only 80 tonnes are declared to be extracted, in order to reduce tax payment, then we have a case of “black money” being generated. Likewise, if $100 of exports are undertaken but only $80 are declared, and the remainder $20 are kept abroad in Swiss Banks, which is against the law, then we have a case of “black money” being generated. Or if rupees are changed into foreign exchange through the hawala route and kept as deposits abroad, then we have a case of “black money” being generated. In short, “black money” refers to a whole set of undeclared activities. 
“Black money”, it follows, refers not to a stock but to a flow. ”Black activities”, like “white activities”, are meant to earn profits for those engaged in them; and simply keeping a hoard of money earns no profits. What Marx had said about business activities also holds about “black activities”, namely that profits are earned not by hoarding money but by throwing it into circulation; the “miser” does the former, the capitalist the latter. And those engaged in “black activities” are capitalists not misers. 
Of course, in any business money is also held for a shorter or longer period (e.g. during the C-M-C circuit); but this is true as much for “white activities” as for “black activities”, so that the belief that the differentia specifica of “black money” is that it is held while “white money” is used for circulation, is completely without any basis. Allmoney circulates, with occasional pauses when it is held, whether it is employed in “black activities” or “white activities”. The essence of unearthing “black money” lies therefore in tracking down “black activities”, not in attacking money-holdings per se. And this requires honest, systematic, and painstaking investigation. 
Long before the days of computers, the British Internal Revenue Service had earned the reputation that it would eventually catch up with any tax defaulter simply through a process of grinding and meticulous investigation. True, Britain is a small country compared to India, but that only means that the size of the tax administering personnel has to be larger, tailored to the needs of the country; and if this is done, then unearthing “black money”, at least in the domestic economy, is merely a matter of patient and efficient tax administration. 
A sizeable portion of “black activities”, however, is operated through banks located abroad; indeed some would say that this constitutes much the larger portion. Narendra Modi himself before his election had talked of “bringing back” the “black money” stashed abroad, suggesting that the bulk of “black money” was located abroad, even though his remark displayed the same naïve understanding that “black money” referred to a hoard rather than to a range of activities. But if foreign banks constitute the predominant source of funding “black activities”, then the demonetization of 500 and 1000 rupee notes, while causing much hardship to ordinary people, will do little to eliminate such activities. 
This is not the first time that such demonetization of currency notes has occurred in India. In January 1946, the 1000 and 10000 rupee notes were demonetized; and in 1978 the Morarji Desai government had demonetized 1000, 5000 and 10000 rupee notes from the midnight of January 16. But even in 1978, let alone in 1946, this had caused no hardships for the ordinary people, since most of them had scarcely ever seen such a note, let alone possess one. (Even in 1978 Rs.1000 was a lot of money and common people hardly saw notes of 1000-rupee denomination). But that move of the Morarji Desai government, even though it did not impinge on common people, did not end the scourge of “black money” either. The Modi government’s move, while equally ineffective in countering “black money”, has the added flaw of impinging severely on common people. 
Some have argued that, whether or not the demonetization of 500 and 1000 rupee notes itself has the effect of countering “black money”, it represents a long-term move away from a cash-using economy, and amounts in that sense to a restraint on unaccounted activities that are typically not financed through recognized institutional channels. But quite apart from the fact that “black activities” financed through foreign banks will still escape detection in a cashless India, the very idea of a cashless India represents a pipedream of a segment of the elite, which is totally unaware of the difficulty that a common person faces in obtaining a credit card, or even opening a bank account (despite Modi’s loud boasts about expanding people’s bankability). The move towards a cashless economy, while not being realized, will simply become an additional means through which the common people will get squeezed. 
But, what about the other argument that such demonetization acts against terrorism by preventing the circulation of fake currency notes printed “across the border”? This argument hinges crucially on the assumption that the technology employed in printing the new legal tender will prevent any possibility of faking it. Let us accept that assumption. Even so, the introduction of such new legal tender which cannot be faked, at the expense of the existing legal tender, could have been effected in a gradual and altogether unobtrusive manner, exactly as the introduction of new currency notes in lieu of the old ones is routinely effected. 
It is not as if the government was expecting an avalanche of fake notes on the night of November 8; why could it not have avoided the sudden, surprising, and massive attack on the security and convenience of the people that it launched on the night of November 8? 
What the Modi government has done is unprecedented in the history of modern India. Even the colonial government had shown greater sensitivity to the convenience of the people than the Modi government has done by demonetizing only those notes which were possessed by the super-rich and not those possessed by the people at large. This “emergency measure”, however, is in line with the numerous other measures being currently pursued by the Modi government which has embarked on an undeclared “Emergency”: it is as fatuous as it is against the people. 

(Professor Prabhat Patnaik is a reputed economist and scholar. He is Professor Emeritus at Jawaharlal Nehru University and author of several books including The Value of Money, The Retreat to Unfreedom, A Theory of Imperialism (co-author Utsa Patnaik) 
By the kind courtesy of 
http://www.thecitizen.in/index.php/NewsDetail/index/2/9180/Demonetization-Witless-and-Anti-People

Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Love Story of a Soldier in Kashmir; Lt Gen HS Panag


The Love Story of a Soldier.
He was an Indian soldier, she was a Kashmiri. Could this have a happy ending?

Posted by : Lt Gen H S Panag

Spring was in full bloom in the Vale of Kashmir and sitting in the 100-year-old Chinar Hut, as the Northern Army Commander, I looked back upon the first five months of my tenure with mixed feelings. Two hundred terrorists had been eliminated; summer posture for counter infiltration was in place; the snow-damaged fence was being repaired at a feverish pitch; but human rights violations were continuing to be a matter of concern.

Insurgency had been on the wane since 2004 and with a concerted effort by commanders at all levels, there had been no human rights violations from either deliberate or ‘rogue’ operations. However, due to tension, over-enthusiasm and at times panic, there had been inadvertent violations leading to resentment amongst the people. There were allegations galore.  A 2005-2006 case of ‘fake encounters’ in the Ganderbal area being pinned on the Indian Army turned out to be the handiwork of a rogue police officer, for instance.

As the Army Commander, I had addressed the maximum number of troops at a number of places and sent out a personal message, which was conveyed to the 370,000 personnel of Northern Command emphasising the upholding of human rights. In those days, there was an unwritten code of conduct followed by the people of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). Killing of terrorists, whether Pakistan nationals or local terrorists, by the security forces evoked no protests. There were protests only when there were human rights violations.

Suddenly the mid-day calm was shattered by the breaking news on TV. Massive protests had broken out in the small town of Kangan on the Srinagar-Sonamarg Road. It was alleged that a soldier had raped a young girl and killed a man. There were also confusing reports about the soldier being killed and his body being dragged in the main street. I got through to the Commanding Officer (CO) of the Rashtriya Rifles (RR) Battalion in 30 seconds and was informed that the incident had taken place about an hour ago. The body of the soldier had been retrieved and the matter was under investigation. The protests in Kangan continued and started a chain reaction leading to more protests in neighbouring small towns and villages. BBC and CNN were also giving extensive coverage ridiculing the Indian Army and the local Government.

Noting the gravity of the incident, we decided that this incident would be investigated in 24 hours to assuage public sentiments and punish the guilty. J&K Police, the Intelligence Bureau and the RR Battalion cooperated to get to the bottom of the incident. In addition to this, the profile of the soldier was pieced together to draw appropriate lessons. What came out was a tragic story of human emotions.

Sowar Ranjit Singh was from a small village in Punjab and had joined 63 Cavalry (CAV) – an armoured regiment – after his training. ‘Sowar’ (the one who rides) was a term used for a Sepoy in cavalry units and continues to be used by the armoured regiments even today. It was also once used as the moniker by the Swiss West End Watch Co for a line of watches. Ranjit was a handsome Sikh, who joined the army at the age of 17, in 2000, after finishing school. He was an all-round sportsman, excelling in basketball. A gunner by trade, he was appointed the gunner on a tank with only two years’ service, which was an exception. His mother was pressing him to get married, but he insisted that he would get married after his J&K tenure.
RR units were raised to specifically to fight insurgency in J&K in the early 1990s. Today, we have 62 RR Battalions under 15 Sector Headquarters and five Force Headquarters. The composition of the RR is based on 50 per cent troops from an Infantry Regiment and 50 per cent drawn from all arms. The RR forms the mainstay of our Counter Insurgency Grid and is a success story of the Indian Army. Ranjit was very excited about his RR tenure, but was also apprehensive about the infantry predominant operations in J&K for which he had done only the basic training that is applicable to non-Infantry arms.

With these thoughts, he arrived at the Corps Battle School (CBS), which conducts the most comprehensive and realistic training for counter insurgency and counter-terrorism in the world. As the Director General of Military Training, I had also made a contribution for refining the three CBSs. As the Army Commander, I visited the CBSs at least twice a month. At any time 3,000 – 4,000 soldiers were under training at one CBS. Every soldier/officer inducted into J&K has to undergo four weeks of training at the CBS. Training is done under realistic conditions to simulate situations troops would encounter in operations.

Ranjit did very well in the training at the CBS and was adjudged the best student of his batch. That is when I met this young soldier. I presented to him the Best Student award and remembered him, due to his excellent bearing and fitness, and also because he was from 63 CAV, which had served under my command when I commanded 43 Armoured Brigade at Patiala.

The young soldier joined his unit after the tough training, hoping for some respite. But he soon found that the life at Company Operating Base (COB) was even more gruelling. Indian Army follows the grid pattern of deployment and response in the hinterland of J&K. Each RR Battalion deploys 5-6 COBs. A COB depending upon its composition can have 60–80 troops. Out of these, one third are engaged in administration and security, one third are out for patrolling or operations and one third are resting and training. During a big operation or in an emergency all hands are on deck, for as long as 24-72 hours. On an average, a soldier gets only 5-6 hours of sleep in a 24-hour cycle, and that too wouldn’t be in one stretch but in two or three intervals.

Human intelligence is the mainstay in counter-insurgency. Each COB has an intelligence cell that develops sources in the local population. Ranjit acquitted himself well in operations and in next six months, he was a member of small teams that took part in a number of operations that killed seven terrorists. He was enjoying his work and liked the challenging life. After one year, he was selected to be part of the Intelligence Cell.

Personnel of the Intelligence Cell went to the villages with Medical Teams and also as part of the Sadbhavna Projects. Ranjit developed a number of sources based on whose information successful operations were launched. On a visit to one of his sources, he met the source’s cousin who was a college-going girl. It was love at first sight, straight out of folklore. A handsome young Sikh soldier and a beautiful Kashmiri girl met shyly at first, but then daringly found ways to meet despite the societal restrictions and Indian Army rules and regulations. Soon, they were madly in love, oblivious of their religion, cultural background and the raging proxy war. Ranjit knew he was violating orders, but who can resist the call of the heart? Since meetings were infrequent and that too virtually in public, the two spoke for long hours on mobile phone and in so doing, Ranjit had to forgo his rest time, which he did not begrudge.

When he went on leave he bought a ring and quietly handed over the same to her at a Medical Camp. His tenure of two years was getting over. He volunteered and got an extension of six months. At the end of it, he went to meet his soul mate to reassure her that he would be coming back on leave from his place of posting to take her away to get married.

Ranjit coordinated with her to meet in Kangan town. Since, he was to move on posting the next day, he had not been assigned any duties and hence could not go out of the COB. He saw an area domination patrol moving out of the COB and joined its tail without either informing his immediate superior or the patrol leader. As the patrol reached near Kangan town, he quietly peeled off. He was armed as all soldiers are in J&K, all the time. As he moved towards the rendezvous, an abandoned house on the outskirts of Kangan, he was aware of the risk that he was taking. But in matters of love, caution is thrown to the winds. The meeting was brief, but both were in bliss. He promised he would be back in a few days to take her back with him. Needless to mention that in the given circumstances, the relationship was platonic and there had been no intimacy beyond holding hands.

After the meeting, as he came out of the house, he was surrounded by an angry crowd, which accused him of molesting/raping the girl. He tried to reason with them and tried to tell them the truth. The girl also arrived on the scene and screamed his innocence. But when tempers are high, who listens to anyone?

Pushing and shoving began. Ranjit cautioned them that he was armed. On hearing this, one enraged man, wielding an axe, came towards Ranjit. Having no choice left, he fired and killed the man. The crowd parted and Ranjit walked away. He had barely gone 50 yards when from the opposite side, an even bigger crowd came towards him. Soon he was in the centre of the street, surrounded by a crowd of 150 people. He fired in the air to warn the crowd, but it had only a temporary effect. The crowd started stoning him. He tried to use his mobile to contact the base, but it got knocked out of his hand. He was in a dilemma. He could resort to firing and throwing grenades to make a getaway, but it would result in four to five people being killed. He was probably already feeling guilty of having had to kill one man in self-defence and would have known that he was likely to be court martialled for this violation of law. He looked beyond the crowd, searching for his friend. He saw her weeping helplessly and held back by the crowd. Not wanting to cause more loss of life and overcome with perceived guilt, he put his forehead on the muzzle of his AK 47 and pressed the trigger.

The police retrieved his mobile and through it got to his friend. The brave girl stood by Ranjit and gave full details of the incident. The village elders were called and the girl narrated the tragic story. The protests ended. The family of the man killed by Ranjit was suitably compensated by the Government. The girl was adopted by the Indian Army and her education was sponsored.

And Ranjit Singh? How would we handle the death of this young soldier in unusual and tragic circumstances? After a lot deliberation, we decided that since he committed suicide to save innocent lives, he would be declared ‘killed in action’.


Monday, October 3, 2016

Disasterous Seventh Pay Commission- Military Again Taken For A Ride

By Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi, PVSM, AVSM, VSM

PREAMBLE

Before I address major issues of the 7th Central Pay Commission (7 CPC), it is essential to know how the downgrading of emoluments of all military personnel started. The start point was the 3rd CPC, as prior to that the military was not part of Pay Commissions.

Prior to the 3rd CPC, all military personnel were paid their emoluments according to a military pay scale, which was different from what was being given to civilian government employees. The two major and logical reasons for this were: firstly, entirely different terms and conditions of service of the military; and secondly, the bulk of military personnel retired much earlier than all civil government employees. Consequently, pay and allowances of military personnel were higher and the veterans were paid a higher pension. This was correct, as most military personnel retired at younger ages and higher pension was compensation for this. This is in line with what most democracies do for their serving personnel and veterans.

The 3rd CPC’s recommendations reduced both pay and pension. While the reduction of pay and allowances was not across the board for all ranks, for the veterans, it was a big blow, as pension was reduced for Junior Commissioned Officers (JCO’s) and junior ranks drastically from 70 to 50%. At the same time, illogically, pension of civilian employees, who were getting 33% as pension, was boosted to 50%, for no cogent reason except greed, as retirement ages were 58 years for all civilian employees, as opposed to much younger ages of retirement, for 99% of military personnel. As an example, lower ranks retired after 15 to 21 years service, in the age groups of 30 to 35.

In addition, the draconian 33 year rule was promulgated, which stipulated that at the time of retirement full pension would be given only if a person had served for 33 years. This was the triple whammy for the military, as 90 % of lower ranks could not meet the criteria of the 33 year rule and hence received pension that was as low as 33 % for most. On the other hand, civilian employees were not affected, as all retired at 58 years age.

Successive CPC’s kept reducing emoluments of military personnel on baseless grounds. Now, with the recommendations of 7 CPC being forced on the military, we have reached a nadir, wherein from being at the top of pay and allowances at the time of Independence, we find the military at the bottom.

Yet, it is the military that is called all the time for doing jobs that lie in the domain of others! A perverse situation indeed!

QUESTION I – ANOMALIES

General

There are broadly two types of anomalies, those relating to 7 CPC and those that have been carried forward from earlier CPC’s. The total varies from about 30 to 50, depending on how different analysts have calculated them. Some, having remained unresolved over decades, cannot be resolved now. Perhaps that was the reason for the various committees set up to resolve them to postpone resolution on one pretext or the other and later directing that these anomalies would be passed over to the next CPC for resolution. Of course that never happened. It is only when the higher courts were moved that they were resolved favourably, despite the Ministry of Defence (MoD) fiercely fighting them and wasting huge amount of government funds, even when they knew that they were fighting a losing battle.

Prominent cases are those of Major Generals getting less pension than their junior brigadiers; and the Rank Pay case affecting all military officers. In both cases, the MoD lost, but they took so much time to resolve the issue that many veterans passed away in the process!

Another important but sad case is that of broad-banding of percentage of disabilities relating to war disabled and non-war disabled personnel, where even after bringing all the top lawyers of the country at hefty expense to the exchequer, the MoD lost when the Supreme Court not only came down heavily on the MoD for opposing such an obviously correct case, but passed its judgment in favour of nearly 900 disabled veterans who had gone through various subordinate courts at great expense. The irony is that the case is still unresolved for those who did not take the judicial route, because the egoistic MoD refuses to accept the inevitable, instead of issuing a fresh policy letter.

It is not possible to list and discuss the large number of anomalies that continue and on account of these the Service Chiefs have correctly not accepted the orders of the MoD. However, the important ones are discussed below.

Pay Fixation.

An important anomaly that appears after every CPC is Pay Fixation, which is wrongly carried out, intentionally or due to wrong interpretation of rules, resulting in some seniors getting less pay than their juniors. This anomaly continues. JCOs and junior ranks suffer the most.
Risk & Hazard Allowance (RHA) vis-à-vis Special Duty Allowance (SDA)

The 7th CPC correctly termed Siachen as the riskiest and most hazardous area and recommended Risk & Hardship Allowance (RHA) for Siachen at Rs 31, 500 for officers and Rs 21, 000 for JCOs and lower ranks. Yet, for civilian employees it has recommended 30% of the basic pay (of the new pay matrix) as Special Duty Allowance (SDA) to all personnel of All India Services (AIS), in Guwahati or in the salubrious climate of Shillong or Aizawl, to name a few places. This works out to much higher amounts. The reason given is to “offset security environment and the difficult working and living conditions in the North East Region”! 

Is it not mind-boggling that military personnel will only receive RHA for Siachen at much lower amounts of Rs 31, 500 for officers and Rs 21, 000 for JCOs and lower ranks, while civilian government employees will get SDA at 30 % of pay (Rs. 60,000) for in the north east?

Non-Functional Financial Upgrade (NFFU)

The case of non-functional financial upgrade for military officers has not been accepted by the government, although IAS and all Allied Services, as well as others have been drawing it for over a year.

Officers account for less than 5 per cent of defence personnel. It needs to be recognised that promotion avenues at senior levels are very few in the military. A large number of officers stagnate at different levels in the military and many of them get superseded, not because of incompetence but on account of insufficient vacancies; medical reasons arising from harsh border conditions; and no lowering of standards.
Therefore, compensation and allowances for stagnating soldiers and officers should factor in such extreme conditions to ensure that they stay motivated.

War Injured and Disabled Personnel

7CPC has done it again! 10 years back, 6CPC had recommended that while all civilian disabled employees will get disability portion of the pension as a percentage of pay, military disabled personnel, both war-disabled and others will get a lump sum. Besides disabled veterans getting lesser amounts, it was a clear case of being ‘bad in law’ as it was discriminatory that within a specific group of disabled persons there were two norms for compensation. I being war-disabled, having lost a leg in the 1965 India-Pakistan War, filed a case in the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) and won, but as usual the MoD appealed in the Supreme Court (SC). After many hearings and delays, the SC gave a judgment in my favour and then a new policy letter, bringing all government employees at par was issued. Now, the 7CPC has gone back to square one and again recommended lump sum for disabled military personnel and percentage for others. When will these idiots learn?

Extending the Edge to Civilian Officials

The pay matrix for civilian employees is much higher. The excuse stated is that as military personnel are paid Military Service Pay (MSP), their matrix is less. The same excuse is trotted out when the civilian employees are given double increments thrice within 13 years. No one however mentions that MSP of Rs 15, 500 per month per officer (and Rs 5200 for JCO’s and lower ranks) is a fraction of the SDA and the six increments now authorised for civilian employees.

The CPC justified the edge for IAS officers, on the grounds that ‘it would neutralise the problems of small places, frequent transfers, and the pulls and pressures they have to withstand’. That military personnel face identical or worse problems of small places, transfers at least once in two years, and the pulls and pressures of executing duties outside their primary task, because the civil administration, police, Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF’s) and others are ill-trained and reluctant to take risks.

7 CPC has justified giving extra increments to IAS & IFS, stating that these were necessary because ‘they were doing complex, difficult, or critical jobs’. Does it therefore mean that the army’s Platoon, Company, Battalion and even Brigade Commanders & equivalents are doing simple and non-critical jobs? I suppose facing bullets; shrapnel; and mortar rounds; being fired at and risking losing lives and limbs are simple, easy, and insignificant to deserve special increments!!
7 CPC has stated that one more reason for giving an edge to civilian officers was the difficult AIS Entrance Examination. The reality is however different.

A candidate for IAS has 6 chances or till the age of 32 years in the General category; 9 chances or 35 years of age for OBC candidates; and 37 years of age for SC/ST candidates; to appear for and pass and qualify for All India Services.
On the other hand, a candidate opting for joining the Air Force as a pilot gets only one chance in the Pilot Aptitude Battery Test (PABT) designed by Defence Institute of Psychological Research (DIPR) of DRDO.

If he/she fails the PABT test, then he/she is permanently disqualified from joining the Flying branch of the Air Force!

Advancing the same argument about the AIS entrance examination, all officers of the Air Force’s Flying Branch (and Army Aviation Corps and Naval Aviators) should be entitled to pay advantage, or an ‘edge’ in the form of two additional increments, but that was conveniently ignored by 7 CPC. 

In no CPC or empowered committees set up after CPC recommendations, a member from Defence forces, which comprise 30.9 % of Central Government employees, was ever included. Consequently, the defence forces continued to be at the mercy of bureaucrats and the political leadership was not bothered. 7CPC was no different.

QUESTION II – NEGLECT OF MILITARY FOR DECADES

The politico-bureaucratic nexus has been systematically lowering the status and remunerations of military personnel. It is an attack on the very institution that guarantees the security of all citizens of India. Motives need not be spelled out, but do include arrogance; inability to grasp what the military desires; personal agendas; and pure greed!

The armed forces have served the country loyally, both before and after Independence. However, the political establishment has neither supported nor rewarded the military. The governing elite seem to be suffering from a perpetual ‘the man on horseback syndrome’, despite the sacrifices made by the military and defending the nation against heavy odds.

These actions of all governments, irrespective of political affiliations, have deliberately downgraded the military. We in the military do not understand such actions that have lowered the status and not given adequate compensation to us. This obviously has to end, for the consequences will inevitably be disastrous for the country.

QUESTION III - NAIVE RESPONSE OF RAKSHA MANTRI (RM)

The initial response of the RM to the three Chiefs informing the MoD that the recommendations of 7 CPC would not be implemented till all anomalies are resolved, was both bureaucratic and naïve. It indicated how little the Minister understands the ethos, pride and élan of the military.

Curtailment of salaries, pension, and allowances of military personnel can hardly be termed as a correct strategy or policy to balance the fiscal deficit, or whatever other excuse the bureaucrats and Mandarins of the Finance Ministry can come up with. The need is to ensure that soldiers are secure and satisfied, so that they can focus on safeguarding our borders.

Before Independence, Indian officers and soldiers were happily fighting for the British in alien lands. Besides various types of awards of land (Jagirs) and handsome pension, the veterans were looked after well. The civil administrators gave over-riding priority to settle the grievances of the veterans. This attracted the youth to a career in defence services.

This is in sharp contrast to the present situation where the military finds itself downgraded in both emoluments and status, when compared to their counterparts in government service. The local administrators too have no time or inclination to assist the veterans and their families in solving their many problems and grievances.

QUESTION IV – CHALLENGES FACED BY INDIAN MILITARY DUE TO DIRTY POLITICS

In generalised terms, the underlying theme of 7 CPC recommendations and their approval by the government appears to be yet another attempt to downgrade the military. Even a cursory study of what the government has approved indicates that it is heavily loaded in favour of the bureaucracy, the police and other non-military government employees. This has been the methodology of all CPC’s since 3 CPC.

This is a potentially damaging scenario for the security of the nation. Morale of fighting men and women, as well as the equipment they fight with are two sides of the same coin. In both counts, all governments after Independence have been following a policy devoid of realism.

The real problem is not resolving the large number of anomalies that stretch back to over four decades, but the approach that is increasingly being adopted by the political leadership, at the behest of their bureaucratic advisers towards the one institution which has always performed, irrespective of the dangers and challenges.

In terms of recognition of the armed forces as the only institution that has delivered consistently, it is sad to state that all past and present governments have adopted an approach that borders on schizophrenia. Maybe their advisers have been indoctrinating them of a non-existent threat from the military!

There is high rhetoric on the regard in which the military is held by everyone; yet, no effort is spared to denigrate its leadership or to downgrade its stature. Some examples may elucidate the point further.

The early 1960s case of Army Chief Thimmaya protesting gross interference by the Defence Minister in promotion of senior army officers, and the sordid drama by PM Nehru is too well known to repeat it here. A year later, there was the well-documented retreat by a demoralised army.

In 1973, less than two years after the armed forces gave the nation the biggest victory ever against Pakistan, Indira Gandhi's government, reduced the pensions of retiring military men through 3 CPC, as already explained earlier!

In the middle 1980s, when the army chief made a perfectly valid comment that the armed forces were as interested in good governance as others, PM Rajiv Gandhi got Defence Minister Sharad Pawar to humiliate him in the Lok Sabha.

In 1998, the government of Prime Minister Vajpayee summarily dismissed Naval Chief Vishnu Bhagwat without any notice.

In other major democracies, there is respect for the military. There have been cases where senior military officers have been asked to resign on moral grounds, but the governments of these countries never downgraded the stature of the armed forces as an institution. The reason is that our political leaders have little knowledge of security and strategic affairs and they foolishly depend on the generalist bureaucracy for advice, a case of ‘the blind leading the blind’!

Sadly, the Seventh Pay Commission report falls well short of the standards expected of it. Therefore, if the three Service Chiefs have addressed the Defence Minister, it is for sound reasons.

Grievances of retired veterans are important as they are the representatives of the military for future generations. If they are vilified or made to run from pillar to post and their entitlements withheld or curtailed, it will have highly negative effect on youth who may want to join the military. Already, traditional military families are no longer enthused to send their children to the armed forces. The more important and pertinent issue, however is that the attitudes and actions are resulting in demoralisation setting in among serving personnel.

QUESTION V – PARRIKAR’S RESPONSE

The Raksha Mantri (RM) talks a lot and makes grandiose promises, but only implements simple and peripheral issues. Much was recently made by the ‘Sarkari’Media that the RM has carried out a reshuffle of the MoD, wherein he neither trimmed the burgeoning bureaucracy, nor inducted any military officers in it, as has been the mandate of the government since 2001, when a Group of Ministers (GoM) headed by the Deputy Prime Minister of his own party had directed the integration of the civil and military officials in the MoD.

QUESTION VI – WELFARE OF MILITARY

Over eight years back, the government created a Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare (ESW), by carving out three already existing entities of the MoD and placing them under yet more bureaucrats. They were also assigned the task of pensions of the veterans. The main objective of this new Department was to give focused attention to the welfare programmes for ex-servicemen and their dependants. Even after eight years of its existence, except for garnering additional vacancies for their cadre, the department is yet to come out with a single programme for the welfare of the veterans. The hash they have made of pensions is too well known to need any further elucidation.

Here is a department tailor made to make much of the sacrifices of the Indian Military by conceiving a comprehensive and long term plan to commemorate the valiant deeds of our military officers and jawans. Mere file pushing will not work. The need is for vision, empathy and dedication. All these require the staffing of this department by military personnel. They know what soldiers want and how best to meet their needs. The incongruity of welfare of soldiers by the bureaucracy needs immediate burial. Let us do so without delay.

CONCLUSION

At Independence, the Indian Military had firmly believed that the new dispensation would be as fair as the last one, if not better, and the ‘System’ would take care of their concerns and aspirations, without their kowtowing to the new political leadership. Sadly, the bureaucracy did just the opposite and ingratiated themselves with the new leaders. Even then they were not satisfied, for their thirst for power and the filthy lucre was unending and continues to be so.

Over the years and decades, on account of the naivety of the political leaders, the bureaucrats have made themselves indispensable to the political leaders. Without going into any detailed explanations, it is quite obvious that the elected representatives of the people have steadily abdicated their responsibilities to the bureaucrats.

Let the political leadership reflect on two truisms;
“No country ever became a great power by putting down its own military”; and as advised by Chanakya to his King: “The day a soldier has to demand his dues, is truly a sad day in the history of the nation”.

(The writer is a former Vice Chief of Army Staff)

e-mail interview of Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi, PVSM, AVSM, VSM, by a Delhi-based magazine - 'INDIA LEGAL' has since been published by them in a truncated form. The link for accessing it is :http://indialegalonline.com/center-has-downgraded-the-mili…/




Sunday, October 2, 2016

Postponement of Relay Hunger Strike for Protest Movement of OROP

Dear All Veterans

1.   Our  military has, as  ever, demonstrated to the countrymen that they are the real protector of the  Sovereignty and Integrity of our great Bharat by  carrying out  Surgical Strikes on the  Terrorists camps across the LOC  with military precision. It was a difficult operation executed daringly with perfect success. This was a befitting response to the Pakistan’s designs of Bleeding India through thousand cuts by unleashing Low Cost War.

2.   This change in the Govt policy to strike at Terrorist cum Military Camps is a courageous and determined shift in the National Security Policy for which our PM, RM and the members of the Govt deserve to be congratulated. This is the need of  the hour to build National Pride. WELL DONE BHART KI FAUJ.

3.   Pakistan would be well advised to shun supporting the Terrorists and hostile attitude towards India. With this change of Security Policy, all designs of Pakistan to wage a proxy war against India will now onwards be suitably responded to with lots of Body bags of Pak Soldiers and the Terrorists.

4.   We the Ex servicemen of India Welcome this change in security responses policy.

“The solder protects what? Guards whom?
A piece of land/terrain! barren, inhospitable, worthless?

No! for the love of his country and countrymen,
his motherland he protects, her citizens he guards, his  KARMA  he  performs, with honour and pride,

FOR  YOUR TOMORROW HE SACRIFICES HIS TODAY.”

5.   Keeping the prevailing situation in mind, we have decided to postpone the Relay Hunger Strike of our Protest Movement which was to restart on 02 Oct 2016 at Jantar Mantar New Delhi for getting Actual OROP and restoration of “Izzat & Insaf to Soldiers”.

6.   We  hope  the Govt would also reconsider and grant actual OROP to Defence Personnel by  removing the  Anomalies arising out of the Govt Notification vide GOI letter no 12(1)/2014 dated 7 Nov 15 and issue of Implementation Tables vide GOI Letter No. 12 (1)/2014/D (Pen/Policy)-Part-II dated 03 Feb 2016. 

With regards,

Yours Sincerely,

Maj Gen Satbir Singh, SM (Retd)

Chairman Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement (IESM)                                                                                           
Mobile: 9312404269, 01244110570
                                         

Letter To PM from Veteran & Very Senior Citizen - Lt Col Inderjit Singh (Retd)

Dear Shri Narendra Modi, my Chotte Bhai Saheb,

Every leader is mincing no words while saying 'INDIAN ARMY HAS MADE NATION PROUD.'

Indian Army has always made India proud. There is nothing new about it? 

What have the Indian Armed Forces got in return. 

Can the Armed Forces also say this about their political leadership and the powers that run our great Nation? 

If I say 'NO NOT AT ALL' I will not be telling any lies.

Greatest Achievement

The greatest of their achievements was victory in the Indo Pak War in 1971 when they broke India's enemy into two Nations and captured over 90,000 POWs. 

Thereby eliminating threat to the Nation of having to fight on two fronts every time Pakistan threatened India, for all times to come. 

What did the Armed Forces get in return. 

Down gradation of their status and reduction of their pensions from 73 % of their salaries to 50 % as pensions? 

This was also the beginning of systematic down gradation of their salaries and status.

Systematic Down-Gradation
First Major Shock. 

Every time the revision was done the Armed Forces were down-graded and facilities reduced.

If they questioned they were told this was all that they could get. 

Take it or lump it. 

The Sixth CPC left them aghast with degradation further when they were the only Service not granted NFFU along with with many more anomalies. 

The matter was taken up with the leadership but nothing came out of that till today.

Another Bombshell. 

While the matter is still under consideration of the Govt, another bombshell has been delivered with 7th CPC award. 

When the Chiefs took it up with our worthy Raksha Mantri they were brusquely told to go and implement it first and then their request will be considered. 

More amazing was his reply to you my Chhote Bhai Saheb, when after meeting the Chiefs you asked him why these anomalies could not be removed before the Notification was issued. 

His answer to you was amazing. 

His answer was that Cabinets decision once taken can't be changed before the Notification was issued. 

The surprising aspect of this matter was that you accepted this ridiculous statement without any comment. 

I know of cases when after the Cabinet has taken a decision about a matter, the concerned Ministry referring back to the Cabinet for reconsideration.

OROP Struggle - Contemptuous Treatment. 

The latest and most degrading of these all, is the Veterans ongoing struggle for OROP for the past over 470 days at Jantar Mantar. 

A major unforgivable blot on all leadership.

The Veterans are seeking the 'ASLI OROP' that you have promised them before and after the Elections. 

Nothing more nothing less. 

Need I say that your absolute majority is only for their whole hearted support to you. 

You doubt it? 

If you do then you may continue with your disastrous policy of following the dictates of bureaucrats about matters pertaining to Armed Forces and see the results in the next General Elections. 

The amazing and shocking aspect of all this is that you have even refused to meet any of these Veterans leave alone solve their problems.

Why? 

Are they untouchables that a Pradhan Sewak doesn't want to see them? 

This being done to those who make the Nation proud every time, is most heart rending.

OROP Easily Implementable

The Veterans are your admirers for what you said before elections and want to continue to be so. It is time to mend the fences. Please take action to do it soon and before it is too late. 

Whoever tells you that OROP is not implement-able is a blatant lier. 

I am the person who raised it with the Hon'ble PM, the first time on 22 Feb 1982 and struggled all these years for it and got it twice before. 

From the Congress Govt in 1990 through a High Level Empowered Committee (HELC) headed by RM in the form of One Time Increase (OTI) formula and second time from UPA Govt on 25 Jan 2006, through a Group of Minister Committee headed by RM, who now is The President of India.

It was easily implemented both times by the very people who are misleading you now.

Draft Govt Letter Issued In April 2014

The 3rd time we got it announced on 17 Feb 14 by the UPA. 

They were in the process of implementation when the Govt fell. 

The Govt however before falling, had in consultation with Veterans prepared a Draft Govt Letter which was to be issued shortly. 

Even a Chief was asked to announce that to Veterans by your Govt, which he did. 

The bureaucrats dilly dallied over it in the hope they would be able to wriggle out of it with your Govt and they did by projecting blatant lies about it. 

How sad? 

Its implementation will not only solve this long standing problem but will also save the precious time of CPC for working out pensions every time.

I have written to you despite being paralysed for the last twenty months waiting for my flight to my Heavenly abode. 

All because I wish that you continue to serve the Nation for long time as PRADHAN SEWAK.

You take it or leave it. 

Despite my problems I am prepared to come and pay you my regards and clarify what I have said about OROP or any other matter.

Congratulation For Bold Decision

Heartiest Congratulations for allowing the Armed Forces to do their job to make the Nation proud. 

I hope that you will take equally strong decision to put another matter write for the Armed Forces.

What is needed I wrote you soon after you assumed charge. 

You had accepted and issued instructions about two of these matters i.e. Ex-servicemen Commission and SCOVA, but the bureaucrats have yet to constitute these even after two years.

It will be interesting for you to know the reasons for the delay. 

If these were in position, the Reddy Committee hopping around India meaninglessly wasting time and expense would not be necessary. 

The acceptable solution would have been worked out after in house discussions as we did for DGL early 2014.

I am aware that this appeal may never be allowed to reach your desk, I am, therefore, sending it to all those who matter with the hope that some well-meaning person like me would reach it to you.

The Hon'ble

Shri Narendra Modi

The Prime Minister 
Govt of India
South Block

New Delhi 110001