RAKSHABHARATUK. .Ill-equipped, poorly paid and ill-motivated defence forces is like a dud cheque on a failed bank'

Date: 05 May 2008


Express News Service

Posted online: Monday , May 05, 2008 at 01:21:15
Updated: Monday , May 05, 2008 at 01:21:15

The mandarins of the Raisina Hill are a cagey lot and not known to give in easily. Reminiscent of classic bureaucratic manoeuvre, in the face of mounting pressure from the Armed Forces, and country-wide protests by ex-servicemen, the Ministry of Defence has asked the empowered committee of Secretaries looking into the Pay Commission recommendations to double the Military Service Pay (MSP) for soldiers from Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,000. The MSP would be merged with the basic salary and form the basis on which other
allowances will be calculated. As per the same news item, the service chiefs are to meet the Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrasekhar over lunch on May 5 to firm up the largesse that appears to be backed by the defence minister. How very magnanimous, and how very patronising =97 could they be more =

The dole of extra Rs 1,000, and, there is no surety whether this amount would be over and above the recommended basic scale, or merely a reverse merger, all one hopes is that this does not turn out be another lemon, "a typical bureaucratic obfuscation that could take years to untangle".

Besides, they would take the wind out of the Armed Forces protests without any effort. The paltriness of MSP is just one of the issues, there are many more like non-representation of the Services on the Pay Panel, recommendations of Pay Panel structured on the chimera of lateral move of soldiers retired in the prime of their youth to other organisations, depressed pay scales of middle rung officers and lowering of their status
vis-=E0-vis civil and police services. As General N C Vij has written in his letter to the Prime Minister, the problem is of "basic principles and not mere technicalities".=20

Any acceptance of a quick-fix is bound to dent the Services forever. The soldiers are resentful that their leadership is being ignored. It is widely known that there was no representative of the Services in the pay commission
despite numerous representations to this effect.

That there is a tendency to constantly lower the status of the services officers, rank and file. The irony is that the Services have been pushed down a rung after each successful war India has fought. And lastly, and worse of all, an impression is gaining ground that the chiefs do not count with the authorities that be.

In a country where the elites customarily avoid military service, and exult in patriotic rhetoric only in election speeches; or at the time of war; it is difficult for them to appreciate what all goes into the making of a soldier, and the soldier's credo, very aptly summed up by Alfred Lord Tennyson in his stirring epitaph of the charge of The Light Brigade at Balaclava in 1854:=20

"Theirs not to reason why Theirs but to do and die."

No other profession demands such exacting code of behaviour! Is it merely the result of training imparted at the military academies? Is it a result of brainwashing soldiers into accepting their superiors orders blindly? Is it a result soldiers being so dumb that do not understand the danger to their life and limb? Are the soldiers no more than unthinking rifle wielding
automatons who are fed into the war machine in a rum-sodden state? Without the undergirding of a caring and nurturing society even the best of armies can be reduced to a rabble.

If there is one thing worse for a country than not having armed forces to defend her sovereignty; it is to have ill-equipped, poorly paid, and ill-motivated defence forces. It is like having a dud cheque on a failed bank. Should India have forgotten that she has been slave for a thousand years = slaves even to the Slave Dynasty!

Unlike the bureaucracy, where you are here today and gone tomorrow, the Armed Forces are a living organism, almost like a family. Like families, they are capable of taking great punishment and still deliver extraordinary results.

However, like families they get hurt when uncared for long, and =
slighted. Then they sulk, and are capable of causing great damage. Or, they simply go into a vegetative state.

While the politicians go about making vague promises, and bureaucrats carry on with their games, the Services chiefs would do well to remember that they carry a heavy burden =97 the Indian nation expects them to defend the country, not sundry politicians and bureaucrats. It is the Indian Army that has had to live with the disgrace of 1962. General Thapar, the then Army Chief was
made a convenient scapegoat whereas the Nehru Dynasty continues to rule the country.

When they lunch with the Government's factotum, the chiefs would do well    to be wary of platitudes and cosmetics, and not fall for any facile formulations, or accept petty money.

It is their bounden duty not to allow the wanton destruction of a fine fighting outfit by cunning but unthinking office cogs. They must insist on a time bound holistic review, with full  volvement of the Services representatives.=20

The Anomalies Committee is no more than an eyewash. The very people who created the problem are being tasked to provide the balm. As they say, there are none as blind as those who refuse to see and none as deaf as those who refuse to hear. The need of the hour is a Group of Ministers to holistically review the Services problems.