Two letters written by Lt. Gen. (Rtd) Oberoi to the Editor, Indian Express, Delhi are reproduced below with the hope that a lot of viewers will get access to this opinion.
Letter No.1 for publication on September 2, 2008. Not yet published.
KUDOS TO THE SERVICE CHIEFS
– Stick to Your Guns
Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi
The chiefs of the army, navy and air force need to be commended and congratulated for their upright and bold stand for the men and women under their command, as reported on the front page of The Indian Express of September 02, 2008. The chiefs have represented strongly against the glaring disparities between military and civilian officers of equal rank and service, as listed in the notification relating to the implementation of the sixth pay commission (6 CPC) recommendations, issued after cabinet approval. This is as should be, for emoluments and status, especially the latter; affect morale, which is one of the immutable principles of war, followed not just by the Indian military, but all militaries of the world.
Since 2006, when the 6 CPC was in the offing, the chiefs had requested the government to ensure that the commission when set up should have representation from the defence forces. Despite making polite noises, the political leadership did not accede to this legitimate and logical request. When the setting up of the commission was formally announced, the chiefs went back to the government and again asked it to ensure representation, even in the shape of an advisor, if not a member in the commission. That this was a legitimate demand is amply borne out by the numbers involved. More than one third of government employees, under the purview of the commission, comprise serving military personnel. The percentage of military veterans, who also fell under the commission’s purview for deciding their pensions and related emoluments, was even more at nearly 25 lacs. Once again, the request was ignored.
When the pay commission submitted its report in March this year, there was an understandable uproar from serving personnel and military veterans alike. The government then set up a review committee under the cabinet secretary, but again without representation from the military. Why this ‘apartheid’ against the only organization that delivers and does so efficiently and effectively? The obvious reason, well established amongst the serving personnel as well as the military veterans, was appeasement of the bureaucracy by the political leadership, especially those from the IAS, who were loath to have a representative from the services, lest their plans of accumulating everything for themselves were foiled. That is how the bureaucracy works in our democratic country – everything for themselves!
What the chief’s are objecting to and rightly, is the lowering of the status of defence officers’ vis-à-vis their civilian counterparts. The IAS has, unfortunately, tried very hard since Independence and also succeeded to a great degree, in the lowering of the status of the service officers. They did so by making themselves indispensable to the political leadership and even being identified with politicians and political parties unashamedly. The politicians found this an ideal arrangement to further their activities for perpetuating their individual causes as also those of the party they belonged to. This is possibly the main reason for the deterioration of governance everywhere and corruption reaching stupendous proportions. In the bargain, the ‘aam aadmi’ remained ‘aam’, whereas both the politicians and the bureaucrats continued to become ‘khas’ in every respect! How unfortunate that democracy in our country has reached this rock bottom?
No doubt there were and are some political leaders who are above this self-perpetuating syndrome, but alas not enough to matter. As for honest, diligent and efficient bureaucrats, they disappeared many decades back, leaving the field wide open for clever and self-serving ones, whose dharma is to exploit and loot both individuals and the nation. I am sorry I have digressed from the main theme of this piece, but unless such activities are publicly exposed in and by the media, how will the nation know the truth?
Reverting to the reason for this piece, I would urge the service chiefs to stick to their guns and not waver in their determination to get a fair deal for their men. The essence of command of troops is well known to them; otherwise they would not be chiefs of their service today. It is once again their dharma to ensure that they lead highly motivated troops, for then alone will victory be achieved on the battlefield and for making our nation safe and secure. The serving as well as retired military personnel, but more importantly the nation, looks up to you to not let the security of the nation be frittered away because some civil officials want to have their cake and eat it too!
The author is a former Vice Chief of Army Staff (VCOAS) and resident of The War Wounded Foundation.
Letter No.2 sent when the first letter was not published.
You must all be aware of the front page headlines published in the Indian Express of 02 Sep 08, relating to the three Chief’s objecting to some aspects of the cabinet cleared proposal on the pay commission recommendations. After reading it I had prepared an article and sent it to the Editor of the Indian Express. The piece is enclosed as an attachment. I had initially not planned to make it public till it was published, but I have my doubts if it will be published. Hence the change of heart.
The editorial in The Indian Express of 03 September 08 further reinforces my thinking. I have since sent a Letter to the Editor, a copy of which is appended below.
All the respect I had for your newspaper, with “Journalism of Courage”prominently featured at your masthead, vanished when I read the puerile Editorial titled”It’s the Uniform…..”in your edition dated September 03, 2008. The shock was greater when it followed the front page headline story on the same subject you broke only the day before. Did the bureaucrats get the editor in question in the interim or did he not consult the news editor? I cannot think of any other plausible reason as I am aware that your editors are usually well read and understand nuances of important news.
Are you really serious when you say that the military’s complaint regarding being deliberately downgraded is ‘spurious’? It is obvious that the worthy editor has no idea about the military and how important status is for them.Neither it seems he is aware of what the military’s stand has been all these months. Throughout the sordid episode generated by the injudicious recommendations of the pay commission over the last six months, the military has not asked for enhancement of pay, only parity at levels that have existed hitherto. Therefore,for the editor to pass scurrilous comments on the officers of the defence forces and particularly against the service chiefs, is not only downright unfair but is an attack on their sacred uniform.
When the next war comes by, though no soldier wants one, the same editor will no doubt be singing paeans for the military, but perhaps it is fashionable to do down the military when peace prevails, not because of IAS and IPS worthies, whom he seems to worship, but because of the same military which he has attacked with his pen or is it the cursor on his lap top today?
Lt GenVijay Oberoi
Now that the Chief’s have taken up the case, we need to support them. Will the leaders of various organisations, movements etc consider organising support? There are many ways; the least that can be done is to send press releases supporting their move. There are other possibilities too, including organising events.
Former Vice Chief of Army Staff (VCOAS)
Former Director Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS)