The recent letter by the Department of Military Affairs (DMA) on a revised 'retirement' & 'pension' policy has stirred the metaphorical hornets nest! With the proposed 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 of this 'No Holds Barred' debate by MVI.
The debate over this 'contentious' development continues with 'bombshell' responses by two senior officers presently serving in the Indian Army.
From the Editor: It is important to point out that both the officers willfully volunteered their names to be published, despite being fully aware of the consequences it may have on them and their otherwise stellar military careers.
The first respondent had in particular voluntarily divulged his name, rank and arm in his response, in an effort that doing so would have greater impact; as naming a serving officer would be taken more seriously by the citizenry and by extension policymakers.
The names of the officer have been withheld at the publications discretion, in an bid to protect their identities despite their objections. It is important to highlight the moral courage exercised by them in wanting to do the right thing as they had vowed to when they took the sacred 'Chetwode Oath, so many years ago.
A serving officer
“I will die happily on the battlefield if you order me to do so. I will follow your orders as I have sworn to do so. But my heart evokes no loyalty to the persona of Bipin Rawat.”
For ages the armed forces requested the political govt to institute the office of the CDS. But the devastation on morale, psychology, image, status and well-being of the armed forces by the persona inhabiting the Chair will earn him the position in the 'hall of shame', joining the likes of Generals like Kaul and Thapar. (My perception entirely).
Earlier this year in a grand, televised and hyped event the CDS personally announced the grand scale flower dropping operations to commemorate the medical staff fighting Corona.....but I did not see his presence to condole the death of 20 brave soldiers and Colonel Santosh in Galwan. Nor was there a whimper from him when Veterans were manhandled in Jantar Mantar in Oct 2017.
Whether it was the Balakot Strikes or the riposte by Pakistan, the media management of the forces has been pathetic. Yet again, just prior to his appointment as CDS, in Dec 2019 he vocalised against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) riots in the country. What does all this portray - Is the General bothered about the army or is he self-serving?
In Jul 2017, rations were stopped. It took four years and a court case to reverse the order. The same year as COAS he extended the 'Swachh Bharat' campaign into the cantonments (which were already pristine in cleanliness).
As a result it was common sight to see Colonels and Brigadiers move with troops in civil areas with brooms in their hand. (Is this what the Army is?). When I spoke to him, his answer was "If we can clean the Everest in a foreign country, why can't we clean ours?" (Such irrefutable logic).
Later, cantonments were thrown open. Hooligans and lecherous elements abounded in SF accns forcing the Army to post more guards and soldiers. No more morning PT on the roads....now littered with rickshaws and bikes.
Then all of a sudden newspapers carried the news that temporary duty stays in hotels have been suspended in order to economise defense budget and "To prevent officers exchanging suitcases of cash" (the generals own words). Can any more damage be done to the Army's image?
A Right to Information (RTI) query revealed this year that ₹ 8 Crores in legal fees has been expended by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in fighting against War-Widows and Veterans seeking pensions on disability. But the word out of his offices state that many people and specially officers fudge facts and fake disabilities.
It is now common practice to scan newspapers and media outlets to search for Army Routine Orders. The litany of debacles and publicised caustic comments against his own fraternity and especially the Veterans (whom he utterly detests) have put all in gloom.
Generally, fantastical ideas, letters and forwards on social media are considered fake-news. The new letter on reduction of pensions was at first dismissed as fake-news due to its ludicrousness. But the sentiment soon turned to hapless confusion.
I wish the General could understand that the Armed Forces are an organ of the government. If the budget is unable to meet the expenses, then the budget needs to be increased.....not pensions cut or retirement ages increased....or land sold to buy weapons....or canteen facilities curbed....or TDs stopped. There is also a huge retinue of civil staff who are a major burden on the Army budget....why doesn't he target them?
The degradation in stature, pay, precedence and Morale of the Indian Army since the day Bipin Rawat has instituted (post supersession of others) has been continuing rapidly. The morale of the Army and it's soldiers in their boots....some say at the same level after the defeat of 1962.
The organisational spirit has been broken. No longer is there a sense of belonging to an elite organisation (something that is essential to perform). In all my years of service, never have I witnessed or experienced such acrimony, hatred and widespread disdain for any General. I know this because I am still serving. But as I said, I will carry out my obligations
“I will die happily on the battlefield if you order me to do so. I will follow your orders as I have sworn to do so. But my heart evokes no loyalty towards you [General Bipin Rawat]. Jai Hind! God save our army and our Nation.”
A serving officer
“While other government establishments secure their cadre, we for a few political brownie points, will surely let down our own as always!”
It is sad that we are axing ourselves in the foot constantly with poorly thought out policies and futuristic plans. We are our own worst enemy! While the retirement age is certainly a factor we can debate, I personally welcome it.
The misnomer that we will have an old army is a statement open to the house to ponder over. Because the fitness levels are much higher today. A brigadier with 31 years of service and 51 years old is as fit as any other officer.
But at that rank and age, it is not physical fitness but mental mobility, decision making capability, indomitable spirit, risk taking ability, calling a spade a spade, intellectual honesty and the tolerance for ambiguity that is required. Age therefore is not the ruling factor for retirement.
However, what this letter is trying to do is create an enigma of insecurity. Deny you alternate careers, you in your wisdom of Annual Confidential Reports (ACR) being the main and only factor for promotion have already dug your grave, the manipulators, the managers, and the yes men are many, yes a few good men exist. But the minority are not even worth making a change in our system.
The manipulators, the managers, and the yes men are many, yes a few good men exist. But the minority are not even worth making a change in our system!"
The degree of non-empanelment due to a pyramidal structure is a reality that we are not even addressing. What we have done by giving them opportunities in staff and the United Nations is like a laugh riot
Employment without promotion prospects is a dead horse, yet we still want to flog it. We have mediocrity in senior leadership which surprisingly addresses itself as the privileged class, because they have climbed the ladder while some of the unlucky ones who just happened to have a whimsical Initiating Officer (IO) have been left behind. Our own officers constantly beat the system.
Take a breather out of the recently conducted National Defence College (NDC) list. None of the guys decorated for gallantry or serving in field formations as young officers and company commanders have made it. Maybe a minuscule but hardly worth the reckoning.
The guys with two to three tenures in Army Headquarter (AHQ) are surely embedded there. We are just chanting our queens English to a Bermuda Triangle of in-retractable catastrophe. An Armageddon of the mediocre.
While other government establishments secure their cadre, we for a few political brownie points, will surely let down our own as always!
(Views expressed are the respondents own and do not reflect the editorial policy of 'Mission Victory India)
Also Read: Should COs be Leading from the Front?
Donate to our Patreon, every bit of contribution counts to keep the discourse alive! #ForTheFauj