|| By Lt. General P.C. Katoch (Retd.)
Former Director General of Information Systems, Indian Army
The Parachute Regiment marching contingents passes through the Rajpath, on the occasion of the 67th Republic Day Parade 2016, in New Delhi on January 26, 2016
It is quite apparent that civil-military relations have reached the lowest ebb with the military sick of being sidelined and continuously denigrated. A high point was the Service Chiefs issuing letters that the 7th CPC will not be implemented till the anomalies pointed out by the military are addressed and the Defence Minister ordering the Service Chiefs that 7th CPC be implemented immediately assuring that the anomalies will be looked into. Both these were out in the media and some call it a standoff, which it certainly is not. Frankly, Defence Minister Parrikar was seen in very poor light; instead of standing with the military of which he is Defence Minister, especially when he has made no move whatsoever to resolve the anomalies of the 6th CPC as well as earlier CPCs. The Committee of Secretaries usually appointed to address such anomalies are from the same bureaucracy because of which the Army is being done down consistently.
Parrikar should have thought twice before ordering the Service Chiefs to implement the 7th CPC that brings the military below the civilian government employees and even the police forces. As Defence Minister he appears to have not realized what respect and izzat means to military-men and that it is the man behind the machine that is most important in any military. Respect is a relative term and difficult to quantify like say loyalty. But then it is not difficult to decipher that the veterans protest at Jantar Mantar and elsewhere in the country showcased the plight of the military, bringing the country, not veterans, to shame. The police action against peacefully protesting veterans made it worse with Parrikar and his MoD bureaucrats not making a single move to assuage hurt sentiments. The Koshiyari Committee had clearly defined OROP implies uniform pension be paid to military veterans retiring in same rank with the same length of service, irrespective of their date of retirement; and, any future enhancement in the rates of pension to be automatically passed on to the past pensioners; bridging gap between pension of the current and past pensioners as also future enhancements of pension automatically granted to past pensioners.
Not only did this imply yearly actualization of pension, it was endorsed by two Parliaments and endorsed in writing by MoD on 26 February 2014. Yet when the Central Government Notification of OROP was issued on 7 November 2015, it said revision would be after every five years – amounting to one rank, different pensions. Post protests against OROP, a former Justice one-man commission was appointed to look into the anomalies of OROP intially for three months and later extended by six months. But the definition of OROP is not even part of the terms and reference of this commission, so what he would recommend is not verry difficult to decipher although he is certainly enjoying the assignment touring 19 cities pan-India to interact with veterans. As to the 7th CPC, lot many conflicting reports are being floated around, ostensibly on behest of the poliico-bureaucratic mafia (journos even tasked to create rift between the sodiers and officers) but the military is reportedly amenable to implement 7th CPC only after the anomalies are addressed.
The difficulty of visualizing how military values ‘izzat’ is well understood because no ward of a politician or bureaucrat joins the military but it should suffice to understand it cannot be haggled with as traders do for money. As Defence Minister it is Parrikar’s job to ensure that the prestige of the soldiers is not hurt and the soldiers get their due. No country places its police forces above the military anyway. This should be more relevant to India where the military is called out at the drop of a hat. Look at the situation in J&K where there were calls of removing AFSPA and now the Army has been called in to “restore order” where the state administration has failed miserably. Parrikar needs to terminate the inordinately ongoing Reddy Commission looking into OROP anomalies, strongly bat for military getting full OROP and work for towards resolving anomalies of the 7th CPC in quick time – say within three-four months. It is ironic that he has made no move to induct military professionals into the MoD, merge HQ IDS with MoD, and kept the Department of Ex-servicemen Welfare (DESW) exclusively manned with bureaucrats who continue to play ‘dog in the manger’ at every step.
Photo Credit: PIB