By PG Kamath
Not many know how the Third Pay Commission which submitted its report in Mar 1973 undermined the Indian Armed Forces and cut it to size after the historic victory in 1971 Indo- Pak War. Anyway this is not the time to brood over the miseries inflicted on the Armed Forces in the past by its own government. Again in the 4th Pay Commission, the perfidy of the bureaucracy in omitting the rank pay from the basic pay of the Armed Forces is a case in point where injustice was deliberately perpetrated on the Country’s Armed Forces. This injustice was set right by the court and all arrears were paid to Armed Forces after two decades of court battle. The successive governments, who were in power went all out to support the contention of the bureaucrats, who had taken patently insidious decision. However the moot point being that no bureaucrats who had conspired to enact this mean and anti-national act of commission was punished. Rather the honourable court did not even consider, asking the government to bring to books the scheming and vile brood? In the 5th Pay Commission again there were 48 anomalies and the government addressed eight of them in 10 years and balance of 40 have remained unresolved till the start of the 6th pay commission.
Again in the 6th Pay Commission one of the greatest injustice was perpetrated on the armed forces by not allowing ‘Non Functional Upgrade’; though this provision was applicable to all other Central Government Service. The Pay Commission also placed a ‘Lt Col’ of the Indian Army in the Third Pay Band literally making him junior than those who were hither-to junior to him in other Government Organisations. To further amplify; those who were junior to him in other government organisations were made senior to him. It was then that the Chairman of Chiefs of Staff Committee, who goaded the reluctant Chiefs of Army and Air force to accompany him and raised their grievance collectively before PM Manmohan Singh. Due to their collective stand, the Lt Cols were put in the fourth Pay Band and a grave injustice was remedied.
This act by the Three Service Chiefs, who just did their duty in standing for their subordinates was criticised by Mr Sekhar Gupta in his article in the Indian Express on 4 Oct 2008. It was obvious that he had pandered to the bureaucrats and he got his reward soon! He was conferred with ‘Padma Bhusan’ the very next year i.e. within three and half months after the publication of the article. What a coincidence; and we talk with gusto about the freedom of press? Again he tried for Padma Vibhushan by alleging coup by Gen VK Singh when he moved two small units for exercise in Jan 2012. Why should the Chief move the two measly units from two different places for a coup? Don’t worry Sekhar, two or three articles against the Armed Forces properly timed, you would get Bharat Ratna? It is just a matter of time; as you have shown your class and acted as an ‘errand boy’ of Indian bureaucracy; that you actually are! Your rant in the ‘Walk the Talk’ and your freedom for being a ‘presstitute’ is well established. Where will you hide now?
Returning to the 6th Pay Commission; the three services pointed out 39 anomalies including the ‘Non Grant of NFU’. A High Powered Committee of Secretaries was formed under the Cabinet Secretary on 18 Jul 2012 and were to give out their recommendations before 8 Aug 2012 so that the PM can announce it from the ramparts of Red fort on the I Day. However the Committee of Secretaries scuttled the very raison d’être of its formation. They very cleverly left the Armed Forces of their own country, cold, humiliated and seething with anger and resentment. We have to give credit to the Indian Bureaucracy for demoralising their own Armed Forces and making the politicians look like a bunch of naïve doddering old fools; who eat out of the hands due to their ineptness.
The 6th Pay Commission has undermined the Armed Forces and demoted them below the Organised Group A Services. Delhi High Court has now given a ruling that the Central Police Organisations should be treated as Group A service. That singles out Indian Armed Forces and deprives them the benefit of NFU. It is sad but true that the demoralisation of the Armed Forces is being caused by its own government; lest you think it is being done by China or Pakistan Governments?
The 7th Pay Commission has been most hostile to the Armed Forces to the extent they have given out wrong data to support their flawed recommendations. One such grave error is page 397 para 10.2.3, where they have said that a soldier retires at 42-48 years of age. In fact a soldier retires between 36 and 38 years of age. It is not a mistake but a mischievous blatant misrepresentation so that wrong conclusions drawn by the Commission are substantiated by erroneous data. The entire Armed Forces of the country was represented by Shri D.K. Rai, and in the words of Justice Mathur in the Acknowledgements; Page iv of 7th CPC, “a young officer from Accounts and Finance stream who had a deep insight into the financial matters especially, the defence. His knowledge about defence finance has been of great help to this Commission in determining the pay structure for the defence forces. He is a young man and hold a long career before him and his insight into the financial intricacies of the pay structure of the defence service will take him to great height. I wish him great success, a bright future awaits him.” I have no doubt Mr Rai would render great service to China and Pakistan by lowering the morale of Indian Armed Forces in the long career ahead of him.
There is a need for the PM to take a strong exception to such misrepresentation and haul up the Pay Commission and take them to task. If the Pay Commission was so honourable, how come they deliberately misrepresent? Obviously! There is much more than what meets the eye? It is time the PM wields his stick. If they were prejudiced against the armed forces that prejudice has run in the entire report; aided and abetted by the bureaucrats, who were just waiting to exploit such inclinations of the Commission? In the long list of consultants there was not a single officer from the Armed Forces. A million and half forces have to put their faith in Mr DK Rai, an accountant; the one with long and bright career ahead of him (in case you have forgotten) to do justice to them? Don’t you feel a humongous national tragedy has unfolded?
My WhatsApp was agog with a grapevine that the ire of Justice Mathur was that he was not given a Type 7 house from the Defence Pool; that would have obviously denied ‘a serving Lt Gen/Vice Admiral/Air Marshal a house in Lutyens Delhi. I do not believe in it, as Justice Mathur is an honourable man and has always been above board. However what stands out clearly is that: Retired Justice Mathur retired justice to the Armed Forces in the 7th Pay Commission as he failed to see the intent of vested interest around him?
Now, instead of the PM dissolving the Pay Commission, he has set up an ‘Empowered Committee of Secretaries’ under the Cabinet Secretary to study the recommendations of the 7th Pay Commission. How can the Armed Forces trust this Committee that has always been inimical to them; more so; after their earlier experience in 2012? How on earth it would inspire confidence in the Armed Forces? Pray! Prime Minister, you are indeed imaginative; only that you have stretched your imaginations so much that you appear to be living in a world of your own creation.
As a last resort, I am appealing to the three Service Chiefs that in case they need to take a positive pre-emptory action; this is the time. In case you lose out and await the recommendations of the Committee, the posterity would not pardon you. All three of you carry the hopes, aspirations and trust of your troops; who would give their lives to your command? All three of you have been brilliant and displayed your mettle to reach the august positions. This is the time you need to self-actualize your potential and be worthy of troops you command? Do not let go of this unique opportunity unchallenged? In case you do, in days to come you will repent with a heavy heart that you have let down your troops and belied their trust. I wish to assure you that all three of you will fall in your esteem and no one can salvage you from the bottomless pit of self-pity that you would experience. All I ask you is to meet the PM and apprise him of the demoralisation of the Armed Forces consequent to the recommendations of the 7th Pay Commission. Your action would indeed may give another opportunity to Sekhar Gupta to extract a ‘Padma Vibhushan’; so be it! It should not deter you from acting in on behalf of your troops. Remember you get your pay to uphold the morale of your troops and get victory to our country. You cannot let them down for any petty largess the government may throw at you? In case you have already done it and or planning to do it; I am sure you will forgive me.
Dear Defence Minister; this is the time you also need to act your role; lest you will join the brood of the three worst Defence Ministers India has ever had viz; Krishna Menon, Saint Anthony and probably the third one would be you? This is the time to act as, I have no doubt that you will not let the moment pass. Krishna Menon has a road named after him for being instrumental in losing a war for the country. I only hope Anthony would have his name only on his tombstone and not at any public place. You! Mr Manohar Parrikar, an intellectual, IIT graduate, known for your unconventional ways; please do justice to the Armed Forces. We are waiting for our Defence Minister to deliver JUSTICE!
(The author is a retired Lieutenant General of the Indian Army)