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Friday, 19 August 2016
“The Armed Forces are not a limited liability company........If bullied it sulks, if unhappy it pines, if harried it gets feverish, if sufficiently disturbed it would wither and dwindle and almost die, when it comes to this last serious condition it is only revived through lot of effort and lots of money”-COL SJ SINGH
TRUTH BE TOLD
“The Armed Forces are not a limited liability company........If bullied it sulks, if unhappy it pines, if harried it gets feverish, if sufficiently disturbed it would wither and dwindle and almost die, when it comes to this last serious condition it is only revived through lot of effort and lots of money” - Winston Churchill
Recently there has been a lot of concern expressed about the civil military divide in the country. Before independence, the Indian Civil Service was placed below the military with the Commander-in- Chief placed at No 2 after the Viceroy. Even after independence, the three Service Chiefs were senior to the Defence Secretary. Post independence a re-alignment was inevitable to make the governance structure compatible with the aspirations of democratic India. However, the re-alignment has gradually manifested in bureaucratic control of the military instead of the intended civilian control. This has not only brought the military in conflict with the bureaucracy but has also resulted in deep distrust of the babus. It has also lowered the morale of the military, with ominous consequences for the nation, at a time when the country is facing serious challenges from its ever-hostile neighbours. To make matters worse, the turmoil in the Islamic world, reverberating in Europe and elsewhere,could soon be touching Indian shores.
This should be an issue of serious concern to every citizen who sleeps peacefully reposing full confidence in its soldiers. Taking a leaf from history, to quote Chanakya, from his letter to Chandragupta, “Pataliputra reposes each night in peaceful comfort O King, secure in the belief that the distant borders of Magadha are inviolate and the interiors are safe and secure, thanks only to the Mauryan army standing vigil”. The same is true of the Indian army. Any country can flourish only if a safe and secure environment is provided by its military. While the citizens contribute to the progress of the state, the soldier guarantees it continues to exist as a state.
Post independence the bureaucracy lost no time in pushing down the military while propelling itself in the seat of power. This nefarious move was no doubt helped by Nehru’s deep seated distrust of the military. In the absence of mature and capable leadership the wily babus seized the opportunity to fill the vacuum to become ‘supreme’. To browbeat the military, Chiefs were debarred from making any public statements, and to lower the status, a pay reduction was imposed, citing lack of funds. Since then the Chiefs have shunned any public statement even on matters military, leaving the turf open for the babus. The real mischief started with the 3rd CPC when even the pension of armed forces personnel was reduced from 75% to 50%, while babu’s went up from 30% to 50% (apparently there were no lack of funds for this). Most leading nations who respect their military, pay upto 75% of pay as pension.
It is interesting to note the justification given by 3rd CPC to upgrade the babu. It said, ‘an IAS officer gets an unequalled opportunity of living and working among the people, participating in planning and implementation of developmental programmes, working with the Panchayati Raj institutions, coordinating the activities of govt departments in the district and dealing directly with problems of law and order’. This argument was cleverly used as a justification to grant extra increments at successive seniority grades, to maintain an edge over the military.
The ‘super’ babu regarded himself as superior and felt justified in having an edge over other services. Any person with average intellect, availing multiple chances (upto six) to qualify for the civil services, is bound to succeed in ‘ lagge raho Munnabhai style’, but, does that make him superior ? In any case the proof of the pudding is in its eating. What have the super brains delivered to the nation in the last nearly seven decades? Take any of the social parameters of corruption, poverty, education, health, management of drought / floods, farmer suicides, unemployment, law and order- the list is endless. The J&K problem, the Naxal problem and the insurgency in the North East are some of the other burning issues, still begging for a solution. Take the recent Haryana riots during the Jat agitation or the floods in Srinagar, Chennai, Assam, or even a child falling into a bore well, their abilities or rather the lack of them, actually suggest imposing a ’negative edge’. It is the army that is eventually called in to salvage the situation for them.
In a recent editorial in a leading daily, the bureaucracy has been severely castigated. It lamented that, “what was once celebrated as the steel frame of India is now seen as a slothful babudom, painfully inept at delivery of public services and translating political initiatives into action”. And yet they go on rewarding themselves. The high pedestal on which the IAS has positioned itself is actually inhibiting deliverance. ‘Superiority’ complex makes them believe they are competent for any job. Imagine a babu shuttling between the ministries of environment, aviation, mining, defence, finance, external affairs, etc, and obviously unable to do complete justice to any. A rolling stone gathers no moss.
Bureaucracy has become the epitome of inefficiency, as evident from the ill- conceived social schemes which have failed to achieve their aim, in spite of huge amounts being spent. Mostly, it is a case of putting square pegs in round holes to suit individual / collective convenience rather than organisational interest. There are ministries and departments, which require technocrats rather than bureaucrats, but the babu must have his finger in every pie to remain at the helm of decision making and protect his turf. They have clearly failed to deliver.
Contrast this with the performance of the military, respected by country men for its professionalism. Barring the 1962 debacle, for which the Govt of the day was responsible (Henderson Brooks report has not been declassified even after 50 yrs), the military has performed creditably. In 1948 the army succeeded in pushing back the raiders to save Srinagar in the nick of time and had it not been for Nehru, it would have liberated POK too. The 1965 war gave Pakistan a bloody nose and 1971 dismembered it. This rattled the bureaucracy, which responded with a massive degradation in the 3rd CPC.
The professionalism and bravery with which Kargil incursion was countered, has been appreciated the world over. The terrorism in J&K and insurgency in the North East have been ably contained by the army, but the political and bureaucratic class have failed in their duty to find a lasting solution, leading to unnecessary loss of lives. Should there be no accountability for this collective failure of the bureaucracy? Instead, the non-performers are rewarding themselves and denying the dues to the military, that too, with the arrogance of power. No proper explanation for denying genuine demands of the Armed Forces is ever forthcoming. Sadly, courts are the only remedy available to the men in uniform.
Anomalies of the 6th CPC are still pending and those of 7th CPC will only lengthen the list. Quoting again from Chanakya’s letter, sending a blunt warning to the king “The day the soldier has to demand his dues will be a sad day for Maghdha for then, on that day, you will have lost all moral sanction to be King”. It is high time that the PM takes note and initiates urgent corrective action to reign in the babudom that is adept at misleading the govt and often obfuscates the real issues. The best way to achieve this is to utilise the talent pool of experienced veterans by inducting them into the administration with age relaxation. Morale of the military should not be allowed to get damaged beyond redemption. As it is, the armed forces are reeling under severe shortages of manpower, with the bright and capable shunning this profession. The military deserves its izzat and status to be restored. The govt should listen to the voice of its soldiers whether it is on pay parity, NFFU or OROP issues. The agitation at Jantar Mantar should not be taken lightly as it is for the first time in the history of independent India that veterans were forced to speak out. It may not be prudent to wait for the serving to express their anguish.
The writer is an Army veteran