Expenditure on Military Pension and downsizing of Armed Forces has been the most discussed subject for nearly a decade.
Lot of ‘Penny Counters’ have opined that most obvious solution to reduce expenditure on Military Pension is to reduce the numbers in Indian Military. Numerous proposals from all and sundry have been floated. At times even military authorities in chair and/or by former Military Officers appointed to conduct a study have also recommended downsizing of Military. Mentioning such proposals along with independent and self opinionated persons views will require a book of few hundred pages. I will merely quote two outstanding examples of myopic professional point of view by persons in authority.
First case is proposal by first CDS General Bipin Rawat to increase retirement age of Colonels and equivalent to 57 years. He obviously had no clue and had done no homework to realize that such measure will not only make military ‘OLD’ but also result in increased expenditure to exchequer.
Second case is study and conclusions of Shekatkar Committee. Study was merely cosmetic dressing with little or no saving.
Indeed one of the sterling accomplishment of such downsizing exercise was to convert a fully functional Military Hospital into a MI Room by posting out the specialist Medicos thus denying medical facilities to serving and retired former military personnel residing in far flung areas.
As we move on we must first decide on what is important. Is National Security more important or reducing/containing expenditure on Military Pension to former Military Personnel and Pay and Allowances to serving Military Personnel?
No figures are being quoted deliberately because figures do not illustrate and state the national security issues. These are simply digital representation. Likewise even manpower figures are not being mentioned exactly for same reasons.
Suffice to highlight the conflict in our thinking. On one hand we talk about shortages in officer and men strength. On the other we propose reducing the strength.
To switch over to latest fire brand idea of few ‘Bird Brains’; The Agniveer Concept.
I have no hesitation in stating that this idea smacks of outstanding professional insanity on both counts; National Security being the first casualty closely followed by Social Security.
For benefit of ‘Penny Counters’ it is important to mention that ‘Establishments Costs’ do not reduce even if there were no trainees to train. COVID period lesson will be essential for Penny Counters to learn this basic financial tenet. Hence reducing numbers of trainees and/or training period will/might result in cosmetic savings only. Hence cost considerations are virtually irrelevant even for any substantial reduction in budgetary expenses.
Indeed the shorter training period will churn out more recruits per year. But is it that what is true need of National Security? The true need of National Security is a Well Trained and Groomed individual. To develop both attributes requires time and patience. A soldier requires time to emerge as a good leader, who serves for decades and more. Shrinking tenure will result in an elementary but definite shortcoming in the mindset of an ordinary soldier. From the first day of his joining the formation, he will start counting Days Left for Completion of Tenure (DLFCT). In NDA from times immemorial ‘Days Left To Go Home’ (DLTGH) for term break counting is a norm by trainees.
By willfully and deliberately adopting concept of shrinking tenure of 3/5 years for soldiers, we are infusing the thought of number of days/weeks/months left to lay down the arms. Will such individuals become dedicated soldiers? Do we need to discuss the obvious?
Giving fancy names does not fulfill the task. It is merely cosmetic. ‘Agniveer’ is just a name nothing more. His contribution to overall fighting capability will, at best, remain questionable. Do we require knowledge of rocket science to conclude that presence of ‘short tenure’ soldiers will impinge on our fighting/retaliatory capability? National Security will be the obvious casualty.
And now even more serious issue. An ‘Agniveer’ will not even be thirty years old when he will be told to go home and 'Do What’. With unemployment looming large even for trained engineers and others, what are the chances of an ‘Agniveer’ (With 10+2 pass certificate) and five years military exposure finding a job that will meet his ‘ego’, emotional and financial requirements.
He might, rather will be considered fit only to perform duties of security guards in various private and public establishments. Is this what we want an ‘Agniveer’ to do? Else he will have to recommence training/studies for a second carrier from start?
According to figures available around 50,000 soldiers retire every year and around 75,000 are enrolled. Even if 50% enrolment is of Agniveers every year, nearly 25,000 Agniveers will be compulsorily retired every year. After the scheme is implemented.
Will these Agniveers get any employment? The nation will be faced with a situation where in a trained military soldier competent to handle weapons in prime of his youth and physical fitness will be roaming the streets of the cities looking for a suitable job which will match with facility and status that he was granted while serving the Military.
All of us know the likely chances of such individuals getting any worthwhile job. Frustration and angst against the system might, rather will drive him to crime. He will be the most suitable candidate to join the dark alleys of underworld. Even if 2% of compulsorily retired Agniveers choose the underworld, Military will be feeding 500 trained Agniveers every year to industry of crime.
Is that what we are planning and preparing for by recommending such insane proposals merely to save few ‘Pennies’?
Read MVI's Extended Coverage Of The 'Tour Of Duty' Proposal
About The Author
Gp Capt. Tej Prakash Srivastava has served in Iraq and is a graduate of both DSSC and AWC. He was Directing Staff at DSSC and Chief Instructor at College of Air Warfare. He Served at Air HQ, commanded a MiG-21 Sqn and headed the IAF establishment of Strike Corps during 'Operation Parakram'. He has authored a book titled 'Profligate Governance – Implications for National Security'. He has written extensively on international and strategic affairs and Defence Procurement Procedures. The IAF officer graduated from the NDA in June 1970 and trained at AFA with 107th Pilots Course. He can be reached at Email: [email protected]