|| By Lt. General P.C. Katoch (Retd.)
Former Director General of Information Systems, Indian Army
India’s Presidents have said that the military is the last bastion of India. The typical example of today is that while the J&K State Administration in the Valley responsible for the current messy situation went ineffective and the police abandoned their posts, the Army has been tasked to re-establish the rule of law. The surgical strikes by Indian Special Forces into POK on September 28 shook Pakistan but despite the Pakistan aggravating insurgency, successive J&K governments have failed to capitalize on the Army keeping violence at certain levels for the administration to function. Yet, the military continues to be denigrated and soldiers denied their dues.
The 7th CPC is the perhaps the unfinished grand design of the politico-bureaucratic nexus to completely degrade and demoralize the military; bringing the military below all government employees like the IAS, central armed police forces, police, even the civilian defence employees. The latter anyway have been consuming large share of the defence pension budget despite their small numbers. The surprising part was Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar telling the Service Chiefs to immediately implement the 7th CPC despite it denigrating the military to lowest ever levels, and singing the farcical political tune that anomalies will be looked into. It is unthinkable that a Defence Minister would do so to his own military. Rightfully the Service Chiefs want the anomalies to be tackled first. This has created an unprecedented situation and actually amounts to a slap in the face of the mafia that is apparently dancing to the tune of our enemies that want to hollow the military from within – hitting at the honour and morale of our military.
The MoD The DRDO has recently announced that they are going to bring back the smile of the soldier, even morale in conjunction IITs albeit the plan for this is yet to be worked out. Obviously they have yet to decipher what morale is all about. Colonel Preetpal Singh Grewal had recently petitioned the Punjab & Haryana High Court pointing out that: while Government constituted Anomalies Committees to look into 7th CPC recommendations, these committees are granting hearings to civil employees, their associations and the civil establishment but not to defence personnel or even the defence services or establishment which ironically constitute the highest number of employees and pensioners; no information at all was given to defence services about the institution of the committee – they heard about then through media reports; the Committee had held several meetings with civil employees; since there is bar on military employees forming associations, the system should be more sensitive in hearing views of defence personnel; not granting any opportunity to hear or interact with official defence establishment is against the principles of natural justice as ruled by Constitutional Courts, and; even the Standing Committee on Welfare of Ex-servicemen which was ordered to hold meetings every three months by none less than the Defence Minister has not even held a single meeting thereby undermining political authority by lower officials.
So the said Court has issued notice to the Central Government and has also directed that in the meantime the Anomaly Committee shall take into account the views on anomalies affecting defence personnel. Should this not be a matter of shame to the Government of India particularly Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Defence Ministers Manohar Parrikar? Why should a military officer have to knock on the doors of law for what should be the fair function of the government unless there is a diabolical design to do down the military. Why should the High Court have to pass such directions? Why despite scores of petitions against the department of ex-servicemen (DESW), it continues to be manned by bureaucrats who take sadistic pleasure in denying dues to every widows and even war wounded and disabled, forcing them into prolonged litigation that they can ill-afford. Parrikar has simply turned a deaf year to have military representation in DESW.
Similarly, Parrikar has not made any move whatsoever to induct military professional into the MoD other than the charade of posting a former CISC as advisor while the Defence Secretary plays riot with his power without accountability; charged with defence of India (not the Defence Minister) under Government of India’s Allocation of Rules (AOB) and Transaction of Business (TOB), 1961. The OROP drama continues with the one-man Reddy Commission touring 19 cities. On 30 September 2016 MoD has issued the notification for grant of pensionary awards based on the recommendations of the 7th CPC. While fitment of 2.57 on the pension drawn by pensioners as on 31 Dec 2015 including OROP pension drawn on the said date, the notification very regressively has reduced the amount of disability benefits admissible to disability pensioners relegating the rates to the ‘slab system’ as was prevalent prior to the 6th Central Pay Commission thereby placing defence disability pensioners at a sharp disadvantage as compared to civil disability pensioners. Meanwhile the one-man Reddy Commission to address anomalies of OROP is continuing its circus across 19 cities. The significant issue of military being paid below all government employees like the IAS, central armed police forces, police, even the civilian defence employees as per 7th CPC is yet to be resolved too. When will military get its due?