Sunday, December 20, 2015
IF THE MILITARY COMMUNITY EXPECT THE SYSTEM TO DELIVER, THEY ARE MISTAKEN - ARMY NEEDS TO LEARN By Brig V Mahalingam (Retd)
The pay commission has done it yet again. The Army has not been equated with the IAS. Was it not expected? The problem with the Services is, we are not prepared to change or learn. I believe, the so-called pyramid is a self-created one and the problem can be overcome only if we are prepared to change. There are two clear ways out of the problem.
The first requirement is for the Army to be prepared to de-link military ranks from our appointments. Once it is done, the government can be approached to increase the number of vacancies in various ranks in the same ratio as that of the IAS to provide better career progression to the Army Officers. The Government too will not be able to deny that. What is the problem if a Major General is the Camp Commandant of the Brigade Headquarters? Haven't we seen as many as twenty DGPs in States holding various appointments including deputation vacancies such as Chairman of the State Housing Boards? Aren't DGP ranked officers co - existing as DGP (Training), DGP (Welfare), Commissioner of Police etc? We are obsessed with the military ranks, decorations, awards and medals which in this country mean nothing. You realize it only when you are out of the uniform. These have been created by vested interests to put the servicemen off track so that they are blinded in a manner as not to see the real issues. Who cares if you are a Retired Brigadier or a Captain? What difference does it make if you are a Mahavir Chakra gallantry award winner or otherwise? Haven't we heard of the bureaucrat who questioned the necessity of instituting a medal for the 1971 Indo-Pak war and its financial implications? He obviously felt that the sacrifice of the men in uniform was not even worth a hundred rupees which is the cost of the medal and its handling. Does any civil servant or a Government official give you your dues leave alone respect you?
The second alternative is to insist on a pay band, which gives our officers the pay scale equivalent to the IAS at every stage, based on the number of years of service. The rank should play no part in the scheme of things. This will also end the rat race for promotion in the Army. If the Army wishes to maintain some income edge for serving commanders, the solution is a command pay for officers holding command appointments at various levels of command. Command Appointments are not very many and can be easily accommodated with hardly any financial implication. The rest needs to be covered by a hazardous pay to compensate all ranks for the service conditions in military service. This will automatically enhance the retirement pension of all ranks at the time of hanging ones uniform.
The BSF, CRPF and other CPOs battalions have a system of maintaining a location as the base location to which all ranks are posted and positioned. All operations and duties are performed from the operational location, which is well away from the Base. All ranks performing various duties at the operational location are thus entitled to TA / DA for the duration of their stay which is virtually their entire service and tenure. Why can't we change and adopt this method, which is beneficial to our men? Have the BSF, CRPF and other CPO units and Para Military units become inferior to the Army units in any way? In today's India, ranks, decorations, and the so-called "Shan" mean nothing and money means everything. The sooner we realize it, the better it is for the Army.
The country has enacted Labour Laws, which stipulate the maximum number of hours of work that can be extracted from a worker, including the staff working in the various State and Central Government offices and departments. Additional hours of work put in by these workers are termed over time and are paid for at double the rates of the normal wages. These laws are based on scientific reasoning and are meant to prevent exploitation of the worker. It is a well-known fact a soldier in the army especially in the arms is made to train and work anything between 15 to 18 hours a day both in field and in peace stations. The question is, is military training and service any less strenuous than the work in any Government Department? Are the army men genetically different from rest of our countrymen? Is the army then exploiting its soldiers? Why cannot we demand overtime for our soldiers whenever they are made to work beyond a reasonable number of hours a day? Why can't a soldier have time to himself and his family at least in peace stations? If such luxuries cannot be given to the soldiers, some one has to pay for it and the payment has to be in line with the civil services.
The Services assume a number of things without any basis. In their enthusiasm to prove to the world that they are the best, they do things which they are not required to and which they are not meant to. Obviously, in this material world, what one has done over and above one's prescribed duties cannot be paid for. The Services on the other hand feel that their hard work hasn't been recognized and feel let down. Let us take a look at a few examples.
The Army assumes that it is the sole guardian of the country, created to solve all problems for which it is employed. It is time we realized that the Army is merely a tool in the hands of the Government in power, (The Defence Forces are not part of the Government while the bureaucracy is) to keep their own "kursis" warm. Haven't we seen commanders insisting on capture of weapons and kills at any cost and branding a unit inefficient when they could not produce the so-called results? Haven't unit and formation commanders been penalized for not bringing in more kills and weapons? Haven't our troops in good faith, out of perceived loyalty to seniors, Regimental Spirit and "Izzat" gone over board resulting in custodial deaths? Who is responsible for such happenings? The Army needs to learn to do its job, and be correct - nothing more nothing less. Army is deployed in insurgency-affected areas to keep the levels of violence at an acceptable level so as to create conditions to enable the Politicians and the Administrative machinery to resolve the issue. They are not there either to eliminate all insurgents and their sympathizers or to capture all weapons in the affected area. Bringing peace in an insurgency-affected area is the responsibility of the political system and the governing body and not that of the Army. Our enthusiasm creates more problems than solving. The Army needs to learn from the IAS in matters like this. Do they ever take a decision or responsibility even on issues for which they are supposedly responsible? Why do things, which one is not required to?
In 1990, when the problem in J & K demanded the induction of additional troops from Nagaland, formations were moved post haste, on verbal instructions followed by signals from the SD Directorate, a part of the Army Headquarters. Almost eight months after the move of the formations, when the officers put up their Permanent move claims, the claims were returned by the Controller of Defence Accounts (Officers) stating that they required a valid move sanction for passing the claims. Requests were sent to Army Headquarters through the formation headquarters up the channel for the issue of necessary move sanctions to enable the claims to be passed. Accordingly, the Army Headquarters issued the move sanction. The claims were however not passed stating that the Army Headquarters were not the competent authority to move the formations and a Government sanction is required for the purpose. The question is, why were the formations moved without a proper written move sanction from the Government? What was the hurry? Isn't it a clear case of misplaced enthusiasm? The government finally issued the move sanction after a humiliating delay and discussions on the file. The Army Headquarters were made to feel as if they had moved the formation for their personal benefit. Had the army's hierarchy insisted on a written move sanction before the actual movement of the formation, the humiliation could have been avoided.
Flood relief operations, disaster management, riot control, rescue operations of civilians who fall in a well accidentally, opening of an oil pipe line blocked by agitating industrial workers, Asiad games, cleaning up a village consequent to out break of a disease - you name anything and the army seems to be the solution. The Army feels that it is a know all organization, which is competent to handle any situation. At the end of the day, the politicians and the local administration invariably take the credit for the resolution of the situation. Obviously the frustration of the rank and file of the army becomes visible. The question is, is the army trained to perform all such duties? Do we have the necessary equipment and expertise to handle such situations? Are we better than the civil engineers of the irrigation department to handle a flood situation? Are they not being paid? If they are not good enough to handle the situation, it is the problem of the government. Why and where do we figure in such situations? Hasn't the Government created the CRPF to manage riot situations? Aren't they organized, trained and equipped to manage riots? Why aren't we protesting when we are called upon to perform such duties, which we are not meant to? Why aren't the men getting paid for the additional responsibilities and duties performed by them? Will any other government employee take on any such duties? Why is the rule different for the Army? These issues need serious introspection and we need to change, if the Army's worth is to be realized by the people and the Government. There is a need to define the Army's role and duties and anything beyond that, needs to be paid for. There are no free lunches in our country today.
The Indian Military Academy and the National Defence Academy not being fully subscribed is not the army's problem. It is the problem of the Government. It is for the Government to decide as to how potential officers are to be attracted to serve the army. The Army needs to lay down the minimum number of officers required to be posted in a unit to classify it as operationally fit and functionally viable to manage the available manpower and equipment till the required number of officers are made available. Where the strength of the officers go below the laid down standards, the unit concerned should be classified unfit for war or un- maintainable respectively and the Government notified for such action as considered necessary and appropriate. The bureaucrats and the ministers are paid for the purpose and not the army.
Where do we go from here? Can the services ever have its say in India? Yes.
The solution lies in creating a Services constituency and the servicemen and the ex - servicemen being able to elect their representative to the Lok Sabha and the Legislative Assemblies. The postal ballot system has not worked satisfactorily for various reasons. The servicemen live away from their homes all through the best part of their lives. As a result, they are neither aware of politics nor the local politicians. They derive no benefit from the present political system. The local politicians have no concern for the problems of the servicemen. Local issues do not concern the servicemen. He has a world of his own. He therefore needs his world to give him what he needs the most. He is entitled to, voice his concerns and problems in the Parliament so that his problems and needs are understood and resolved within the framework of governance.
Accordingly, representatives to the Services Constituency need to be elected by all the serving and ex - servicemen separately at the time of General Elections and elections to the State Assemblies. The contestants may be servicemen, ex - servicemen or civilians not holding any office. They may be from any political party or independents. Photo identity cards for election purposes can be issued to servicemen and ex - servicemen and elections conducted under the arrangements of the Election Commission assisted by the services at unit locations for servicemen and in various states for ex - servicemen. Election campaigns can be conducted through the media and by visits to units and formations where possible. In any case the soldier has no access to election campaigns even in the present set up. Until and unless the services can get this implemented no one would ever care for the services in this era.
Does the country deserve the type of Armed Forces that we have inherited in our country today?
A conversation between OSD at the Directorate General Resettlement, Ministry of Defence and me would perhaps provide a realistic answer to the question. I was wounded in war and was posted to the Directorate General Resettlement, Ministry of Defence in 1973 immediately after a year's hospitalization to enable me to get an ear surgery done at the Army Hospital Delhi, which had been damaged during the war. The facility for microsurgery of the ear was available only at the Army Hospital Delhi Cantt then. Immediately on posting, I was directed to meet all officers of the directorate to get to know the charter and working of the organization as a part of induction training and familiarization. I came across a Director rank IAS officer Mr Menon who was positioned as the OSD War Widows' call. He informed me that he has been positioned at the DGR in addition to his own duties in the Ministry to coordinate provision of Gas Agencies to War Widows and Petrol Pumps to the war wounded officers. On a query he told me that the gas agencies and petrol pumps, which were allotted for the purpose, were not adequate to meet the requirement and they have been distributed even before he joined the organization. He had nothing more to distribute to the applicants on the waiting list. There was a long waiting list and the applicants were regularly visiting the DGR hoping for the miracle to happen. On a query as to what was he doing about it now, he told me that he spent about an hour or so in DGR every day and was just passing time at the cost of his main job. He also informed me that there was no chance of getting any more Gas Agencies or Petrol pumps for allotment, as it was too lucrative a business to be given away to these categories of people. I grew curious and asked him why then was he here. "I am here just to enable the government to tell the Parliament that a Special Cell has been created in the Ministry to look after the welfare of the war widows and the war wounded," replied the officer. Till I left the organization in 1976, no more gas agencies or petrol pumps were allotted barring two ladies who had personally met Mrs Gandhi and got gas agencies allotted to themselves.
It is unfortunate that the genuine spirit, the National pride and interest of the servicemen and the ex - servicemen have not been recognized by the political and the administrative system in the country. The people for obvious reasons are mute spectators to the whole issue.
It is therefore apparent that the servicemen and the ex - servicemen need to strengthen themselves through the available methods, within the political system and the system of governance in the country. This needs to be done urgently for the benefit of the future generation of servicemen.
If the servicemen and ex - servicemen expect the system to deliver, they are mistaken.
(SOURCE- VIA E-MAIL)