The Services: Their Unheard Lament


The three services have been downgraded and today are a shadow of what they were.

Is the morale high?

Are the troops properly equipped?

Are the services prepared for the next war,on land, sea, air or space?

Is there a problem of family accommodation?

Why are youngsters not coming forward to serve in the army?

How many politicians and babus have their sons in the services? And why not?

Why will the problems of the services never be addressed?

True answers to the above questions will only mean harassment , and charges of sedition.

The Services need to understand the systems in place.

Writing pious articles and photo ops of dharnas at India Gate cannot get them anywhere.

Ed:

Extracts from an article

*AS APPEARED IN ‘THE TRIBUNE’ , CHANDIGARH – 18 JUN 2008*
*Our Knee jerk Reactions*
*Get bureaucracy out of the way *
*Lt-Gen ( Retd ) Harwant Singh*

*India invariably reacts only when matters come to a head and ends up with knee jerk responses. There is no foresight or forward planning and the nation is constantly being overtaken by events.* Whether it is terrorist
attacks, followed by cry for draconian laws and a Federal Police Agency, congestion on roads to be resolved by Bus Rapid Transport, similar ad-hoc solutions for pollution in our cities, the vanishing tigers, or the long pending demands of Gujjars etc. The list is endless.

When Chinese make forays into our territory we order the raising of two mountain divisions and move one from J and K to Sikkim. While the Chinese have already built an extensive road communication system and military infrastructure in Tibet, we suddenly wake up and order border road construction at a frantic pace. Once these roads come up we will realize that there is hardly any military infrastructure along these roads and as such would merely be convenient routes for ingress. We will then rush to build infrastructure and create military capabilities along these. But all this would invariably come about only as, too little too late!

Military capabilities take a long time to build whereas policies and the geo-strategic scene can under go a change faster, threats to national security and clash of interests can manifest all too suddenly. No one could foresee the coming of 1962, 1965, 1971 or even Kargil. All those who seek comfort under the illusion that there is no near threat, to national security or economic interests of the country and that 1.8 % of GDP allocation for defence will suffice for the time being and that first we must become a n economic super power and then think of security, are living through India of the fifties. It is already near impossible to catch up with some of the competing powers in the region.

Therefore it is no surprise that when matters have come to a boil in the armed forces, due to their periodic down gradation in every conceivable manner, and there are few takers for the profession and near exodus from the services, the political executive is digging out decades old cases, on which it had sat through, all this while and is trying to push these through, post haste, i.e. AV Singh-Bagga Committee Report Part-2. Housing projects andmore senior posts for medical corps officers are being sanctioned, but still missing out on the core issues of pay and status of armed forces, which is the cases belli for the profession becoming so unpopular and the current turmoil.

*The bureaucracy has no accountability or stake in national security and Pay Commissions are not answerable for the fallout of their perverse dispensation to the defence services. Their prejudice, malevolence and malafide is too apparent and well known to need reiteration. *

Instead of getting to the heart of the problem, the RM is flying off at a tangent. He wants to introduce a hopelessly unattractive proposal of introducing short service commission of 14 years, ending with a gratuity of 28 lakhs,( 2 lakhs for every year of service ) and pack off the officer to the mean street, at a time when his family commitments will be maximum.

When there are not enough takers for the regular commission how does he hope to draw suitable material for this patently unattractive career package.

No, that is not enough. He wants to know why such bright and possibly ambitious officers do not want to attend the higher Command Course. Is it some mystery that he wants the Army Headquarters to unravel for him, when expectedly he should know in some detail the damage the 6CPC has done to the morale of the armed forces.

*Earlier he had, through the press, ‘ticked off,’ the Army and the Naval Chiefs for no valid reasons and in bad form. Now he tells the army commanders that officers should not ‘ill treat troops.’ which is resulting in suicide cases. The relationship between officers and troops is friendly and congenial and his remark will undermine that trust. Regrettably no army commander in that conference put him wise on the issue.*

Causes of suicides lie in the stress factor, inherent in counter insurgency operations and other travails on military life in the Indian army. Break-up of joint family system and lack of separated family accommodation has resulted in families being left alone in civil localities with poor facilities and insecure environments which constantly play on the minds of troops. Specter of early retirement with inadequate pension and no second career is equally disturbing. The cumulative effect destabilizes the mind. The suicide rate is lowest compared to other armies committed on much less strenuous tasks.

*So it will not wash by skirting the main issue of making career in the military, both for other ranks and officers attractive enough to draw on the right material and keep it contended. The solution lies in redrawing the contours of the pay packet and status of the military and getting the bureaucracy out of the way. There has to be some equity in life time earnings between those in and others outside the uniform: in the same groupings. *

*Let not events overtake us even in this case too. *