Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels: Fauji's Respond to the DMA’s Double Bogey! (Part-3)

Do Indian Generals of the day have the spunk to tell the Govt of the day: "Pay the national insurance premium for national security now or face disintegration. Do not expect the Armed Forces to starve by tightening its belt."

Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels: Fauji's Respond to the DMA’s Double Bogey! (Part-3)

The recent letter by the Department of Military Affairs (DMA) on a revised 'retirement' & 'pension' policy has stirred the metaphorical hornets’ nest! With the move irking several...in both the 'Veteran' and 'Serving Fraternities', many of whom have vehemently opposed lopsided nature of these policy considerations in Part-1.

Part 2 of this debate saw two serving Indian Army officer present some 'bombshell' statements in response to the DMA proposal, cited their displeasure towards the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat, and painted a harrowing picture of the overall state and morale in the organisation following the CDS's latest...in a string of controversial reform proposals.

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Sighter Burst

Yet another controversial development took place on the CDS headed DMA 'pension & age reform row' which had triggered the first and second part of this now three-part debate series. General Bipin Rawat was already under the glare of the media, ex-servicemen and serving communities, when he made another contentious statement defending the move.

"We are more concerned about the well-being of the competent frontline soldiers who face the real hardships and, on whose courage, and valour, we all seem to be basking in glory,"

Said Gen Rawat defending new pension and retirement reforms announced for the armed forces. This statement seems to have further aggravated a section of the already fuming veterans and senior serving officers who had vehemently opposed even the idea of such a move.

A serving officer who was quoted in the previous part of the debate had this to say about the General, his series of controversial policies and by extension his legacy as a career soldier.

"Our Chief of Defence Staff General  Bipin Rawat is an anathema to the Indian Army's Chetwode credo...I hope officers and soldiers will remember the devastation he wrought on the morale, image, psychology and well-being of the Indian Army and treat him accordingly.
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The Discourse Continues...

Major General CD Sawant, AVSM, SM (Retd), ex Maratha LI

“Pension is not in the purview of the Department of Military Affairs! We can, and if needed fight the case in court.”

Pension is not in the purview of the DMA. We can, and if needed fight the case in court. However, I believe that the Government with their present absolute majority and sweeping powers can make and change any policy, rule, and judgement! How true or practical? What options do Fauji’s have...both serving and retired, to keep a check on this apparent (obvious) doom in these state of affairs?

Colonel Rajinder Singh Kushwaha (Retd), Author & Analyst

"Do Indian Generals of the day have the spunk to tell the Government of the day: Pay the national insurance premium for national security now or face disintegration. Do not expect the Armed Forces to starve by tightening its belt."

This policy of increasing the retirement age of officers and soldiers, along with a new pension policy, is fraught with rising discontent and friction within the Tri-services. The gross discontent is due to the arbitrary tinkering of the terms of employment.

Even if the decision were for new entries to the Armed Forces, it would, in effect create separate categories of soldiers. Some new entrants might take it as discrimination and a violation of the fundamental right of equality! Courts may overflow with petitions of this nature!

Another point is that all the three services might not be on the same page as far as the proposed new pension rules are concerned. The Indian Army and the CDS cannot and should impose its will on the other two services.

Furthermore, what to even say of seeking Jointmanship by creating Theatre Commands? It will lead to insurmountable walls of differences between the tri-services. This would be anti-thesis of integration and jointmanship.

"Even if the decision were for new entries to the Armed Forces, it would, in effect create separate categories of soldiers. Some new entrants might take it as discrimination and a violation of the fundamental right of equality!

In any case, even the idea of age enhancement might not be appreciated because of rising ‘dead -wood liabilities’ after supersession of officers. Let us say an officer becomes a full Colonel after 15-16 years of service then 85-90% will get superseded for next rank by 20-21 years’ service. Army would have to suffer them for other 14-15 years of service against 10-11 years now.

The disadvantage of age enhancement, besides leading to ageing Colonels/Commanding Officers (CO), would also create a huge flock of disgruntled officers. What more, it would also block vacancies in the rank of Colonels for five more years and thus the age of COs would go up by five years.

Furthermore, by implementing the policy of age enhancement, the armed forces would be violating the cardinal principle of ‘Younger the leader; More risks he would take in combat decision making’. At the executional level of Command, a more aged a CO is more cautious he becomes and thus may let go of the fleeting opportunities presented at crucial times.

The question comes to mind as to what is forcing this policy change of age enhancement and pension rules. Is it to save money? What an irony? Lakhs of crores of rupees loans of farmers are being written off by the Government at various times, then why is this crunch for national security and integrity? What about the subsidies and grants being given to certain communities and states? Are they above national security?

It must be noted that any expenditure on national defence and security was a national premium for the national insurance of its security. It is indispensable and cannot become an onus of the Armed Forces by squeezing and tightening their belts. This premium must be found by the national government of the day to ensure the survival of the national integrity.

The arrangements of requisite funds for defence and security is not the responsibility of armed forces. It is a dangerous precedent being set by the CDS to please his political bosses.

On this, one is reminded of General Douglas McArthur of US Army, when he was the Chief of the Army in 1931 before the Second World War. Franklin D Roosevelt was the president of USA then. The European economy had suffered a major slump and USA was helping its revival by Marshall Plans. Thus, there was an urgent need of funds and President Roosevelt decided to make cut in Defence Budget.

Upon learning about it Gen. Douglas Mc Arthur went to the president to dissuade him from making a cut in defence budget. All his arguments were rejected by the President. General Mc Arthur decided to leave president’s office. As he reached the door, he turned on his heels and said to the president: —

“Mr. President, when in the next war, an American soldier lay on the battlefield, with an enemy bayonet piercing his abdomen and he spat out his last curse, I do not want the bane to be McArthur but Roosevelt!”

It is no gain saying the fact that President Roosevelt changed his mind immediately and allowed full defence budget with enhanced allotment too. And history bears testimony that it was the US army that turned the tabled-on Hitler’s Germany in the Second World War.

Do Indian Generals of the day have the spunk to tell the Government of the day: "Pay the national insurance premium for national security now or face disintegration. Do not expect the Armed Forces to starve by tightening it belt. Aged leadership and starved armed forces would crumble before the first bullet was fired".

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Colonel VN Thapar (Retd), Author & Analyst

To me it appears that the very purpose for which the CDS was created has been fairly and squarely deleted. It is clear that the institute of the CDS has become totally subservient to the dictates of the Babus. We can expect extraordinarily little from this office in critical decision making.

So far there has been nothing positive for the forces that has happened whether it is to do with the status, rations, CSD, Cantonment land and now where it hurts the most Pensions and pay.

The hurry with which this momentous decision is being pushed shows that this decision has already been taken and it is only a stamping from the CDS so that in future the CDS is held responsible for this fait accompli. It is a short-sighted measure which will have long term adverse effect.

Group Captain Johnson Chacko (Retd), ex-Instr, DSSC, CDM, AFA, NDA

"Extending the life of demotivated pen pushers and encouraging them to hang on by reducing pensions is a disaster we cannot afford."

If one needs to fight, he needs to be young. Blood needs to boil. One cannot be in the youth Congress if he is above 35. Armed Forces needs to stop fighting after 35. The Commanding Officer (CO) and SM should finish their tenure by 35 years of age.

People who want to leave should be encouraged to leave. We should not hold on to experience, it only makes a fighting unit less effective. The experienced guys think that they are indispensable. All the graves around are filled with those who think they are indispensable.

The sun still rises in the east, youngsters are better motivated and smarter. I used to finish cross-country in NDA in about 20 mts, now the first cadet finishes in 38 mts due to increase in distance. Let us not populate the Armed Forces with oldies.

Veterans of the Armed Forces are a great talent pool. If retrained, they can do wonders for the growth of the Nation. I had trained myself for a second career as I knew that medical is a sword of Damocles for a pilot. It did get me great, I transitioned effortlessly into the top management of a multinational corporation (MNC).

AVS Ph 2 would have ensured consideration for promotion to three stars at 25 years of service (age 47) if it had been implemented correctly. 13 years of stability at three-star rank would have done wonders to Forces.

The Atal Bihari Vajpayee encouraged giving civil licenses to Armed Forces personnel performing similar trades. Resistance....pilots will leave, so he said tell me the number of flying academies you need, I will grant it. Vision...pilots are national assets.

Extending the life of demotivated pen pushers and encouraging them to hang on by reducing pensions is a disaster we cannot afford.

Group Captain Kaushik (Retd)

"The Indian Air Force and the Navy are no better off than the Army. Having seen the Tri-services from close quarters, let me tell you we are heading for a disaster! There is no jointness in the services whatsoever."

I would like to add IAF and Navy too. These two organisations are no better than the Army. Having seen the Tri-services from close quarters, let me tell you we are heading for a disaster. There is no jointness in the services whatsoever. At one point of time the forces have become a joke.

I will quote two instances. I was the Chief Administration Officer at Air Force Station Lucknow and was called to attend Civil Military liaison Conference at UP Sachivalay.

Before the start of the meeting, one Babu came and said all those junior viz., Lieutenant Colonels and below to occupy the rear seats. We were so furious, half the Air Force officers walked out. (Army officers could not because GOC-in-C was present). Then came another Babu, who now had the audacity to inform the house that only Colonels and above to be seated and rest all can leave.

This time all the IAF officers left and many Army officers too left in protest. All this while none of the senior brass ever opened their mouth. In another incident the Collector of Nagpur, during the heights of Swachh Bharat, had written a letter to the AOC-IN C to send their men to clean up an area in civil. In spite of protest from the rank and file, a small contingent of personnel did go.

Now the issue is; why can't the organisation take a stand on such issues? Who are we scared off? Why are we scared to counter the bureaucrats? Look at the present state. For every damn thing, be it rations, accommodation, pensions, Non-Functional Upgradation (NFU), One Rank One Pension (OROP) and even promotions one has to approach the judiciary for the decision.

Where does the fault lie? In our system, because of the spineless top brass or audacity of the bureaucrats. In the entire Air Force, probably there 20 Air Marshals. In any State capital there will be 50 such officers. For their own selfish and personal agenda, these senior officers are screwing up the organisations.

What is the sanctity of the Oath we take on the day of graduation from the respective academies? Any ways, we can continue to crib without any visible outcome. Bottomline is who will Bell the cat? Sad but true. God save the Armed Forces!

Vice Admiral Vineet Bakhshi (Retd), VSM, ex CO INS Shivaji

Megasthenes, the Greek traveller, visited India around 300 BC observing the Indian society, he found discipline, and harmony amongst citizens, who trust each other even in large financial issues. He recorded “They (Indians), dislike a great undisciplined multitude, and consequently they observe good order. Theft is of very rare occurrence.

They have no suits about pledges or deposits, nor do they require either seals or witnesses, but make their deposits and confide in each other. They generally leave their houses and property unguarded.

These things indicate that they possess good, sober sense …Truth and virtue they hold alike in custom.” Leaving aside the Armed Forces and closed cantonments, where in India would one find this form of an ideal society?

An underlying tenet of good order and Naval (Army/Air Force) discipline, is the faith and trust in the senior leadership to protect the interests of the rank and file, the sub ordinates.

Are we about to upend it? It is quite bewildering that the country seems not to have funds for rifles and suitable bullet proof jackets, yet the non-performing assets of over Rupees seven lakh crores of PSU banks is simply an RBI statistic. Good taxpayer’s money down the drain. And this is about 150 % 0f the entire Defence Budget!

Do we see a reduction in the salaries and pensions of Bank PSU employees, the Directors of the Bank, the persons responsible for running the banks, directly and indirectly? In fact the emoluments continue to rise. In essence, have we become a country which rewards inefficiency and penalises those who put their lives on the line to protect this nation’s sovereignty?

The reduction of benefits may possibly give rise to passions and resentments amongst the disaffected populace, making them rife for disturbing the equanimity that exists in the Armed Forces. Such initiatives may become precipitators of dissatisfaction.

It is not that the issues would be forgotten, the thoughts and efforts of a form of denigration would continue to smoulder long after the decision and effect the core of beliefs in the sanctity of the chain of command. The thinking would not be based on a cost-benefit analysis, but on a more diffused emotive appeal, where the foundations of trust and the faith of the communion between the state and the soldier would now be questioned.

A rationale given is the arresting of the outflow of superseded officers, and suggesting in a way, giving them a disincentive of lowered pensioner benefits if they chose to leave. A rather unusual logic, suggestive of an accountant’s outlook, hardly that of a leader, soldier or a statesman.

The deed makes it worse for the ill-conceived words. What worth is the leadership, when instead of the promised ‘vikas’ offers ‘hras’? Surely those who leave service, carry their discipline, training and experience for the betterment of the country.

Their continued service, wherever it be, contributes in no small measure to the strengthening of the recipient organisation and that of the nation. As has also been pointed out, the diminishing of terms of service post induction is likely to be contentious and may not find favour in the courts in view of prior precedents.

If they are to be implemented two decades later, it would need to be thought through carefully, keeping in mind the already undersubscribed recruitment.

To conclude, the slew of rather unfortunate measures taken in the near past to the detriment of the interests of the Armed Forces personnel does not speak highly of our leadership. The proposal for curtailment of pensions is a rather deplorable thought, fraught with disturbing possibilities.

There is great weakness in the belief for the scheme, for it doesn’t seem to have strong grounds. It would be prudent to let it be yet another study, lying in the dark closets of the Ministry of Defence.

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Concluding Remarks From The Editor

The recent letter from the  DMA (on proposed increase of retirement age of military personnel  and proportionate decrease of their  pension based on their length of service) initially surfaced on social media without any press release or formal statement.

The contents of the letter itself led many to believe that it was a fake letter planted to create ripples in the Army circles. After the breaking of the news story by the Tribune also many veterans found it difficult to digest its contents.

The news of this proposed letter was believed to be true by all only after the Times of India (TOI) and Indian Express reported the same and of course when the contents were divulged by the CDS himself!  Since the contents of the proposed letter were highly disturbing this highly agitated both the veterans and serving officers alike.

Mission Victory India decided to initiate an objective debate by obtaining well considered responses with views, comments, and analysis of the same to reach a possible conclusion, consensus, and proposed way ahead. Our three-part fierce debate has highlighted frank, forthright and hard-hitting views from serving officers and veterans.

Collectively all these well-articulated and analysed responses convey that the implementation of the contents of the proposed letter will cause immense harm to the Armed forces than do any good.

All the issues are highly debatable and likely to further agitate the veteran fraternity and may lead to another agitation like OROP, possibly Protection of Pay and Pension (POPP) Agitation. We earnestly hope that better sense prevails, and such lopsided and controversial proposals do not ever surface again.

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