SP's LandForces - - LEAD STORY -

While ad­dress­ing the an­nual Com­bined Com­man­ders, Con­fer­ence in Novem­ber 2013, Prime Min­is­ter Man­mo­han Singh had listed some se­ri­ous chal­lenges fac­ing not just the armed forces but the en­tire na­tional se­cu­rity struc­ture of the coun­try. He then, be­fore con­clud­ing, spoke about civil-mil­i­tary re­la­tions. He said: ÒThere have been con­cerns that have been raised in re­cent times about the na­ture of civil-mil­i­tary re­la­tions in our coun­try. Let me as­sert, clearly and un­equiv­o­cally, that the po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship of In­dia has the high­est faith in its mil­i­tary and its in­sti­tu­tional rec­ti­tude within the demo­cratic frame­work. The apo­lit­i­cal na­ture of our mil­i­tary and its proven pro­fes­sion­al­ism are the envy of the world and have also nur­tured the In­dian demo­cratic ex­pe­ri­ence. Our democ­racy and in­sti­tu­tions have proven their abil­ity to deal with any is­sues or doubts that may arise.Ó

He was ob­vi­ously re­fer­ring to the ugly age re­lated spat that had occurred be­tween the gov­ern­ment and Gen­eral V.K. Singh, the for­mer Chief of the Army Staff. The read­ers will recol­lect that one na­tional news­pa­per had even al­luded to a coup at­tempt. This news raised the heck­les of all serv­ing and re­tired ser­vice per­son­nel of the armed forces as to them it seemed that the bu­reau­cracy was once again at work to tar­nish the im­age of the armed forces. One of the pub­li­ca­tions re­ported: On top of all this, mem­bers of the armed forces are fu­ri­ous about what they see as erod­ing pay, pen­sion, and sta­tus in com­par­i­son to their civil­ian coun­ter­parts. How­ever, with the re­tire­ment of the for­mer Chief the mat­ter went into the back­ground.

With the elec­tion of the NDA gov­ern­ment with an over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity in the Lok Sabha, that achhe din would ar­rive and that the long-de­layed mod­erni­sa­tion com­pletely put off the rails by the UPA De­fence Min­is­ter A.K. Antony would now see ad­e­quate progress and the other long­pend­ing is­sue of One Rank One Pen­sion (OROP) de­mand would also fruc­tify. This was a strong be­lief in the ex-ser­vice­men com­mu­nity in view of the prom­ises made by Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi per­son­ally prior to the elec­tions. But as usual they were not aware of the forces at play.

The mod­erni­sa­tion of the armed forces is mov­ing for­ward, if we can say that, at a snailÕs pace. ÔMake in In­diaÕ seems to have caught the fancy of all with­out any clar­ity about what it means. Till date there is no im­ple­mentable pol­icy that has emerged in this re­gard. As far as the armed forces are con­cerned they are still go­ing by the Make Pro­ce­dure in vogue since 2008 in the De­fence Pro­cure­ment Pro­ce­dure. This pro­ce­dure al­lows a min­i­mum in­dige­nous con­tent of 30 per cent with an im­ported con­tent of 70 per cent in the man­u­fac­ture of any sys­tem within the coun­try.

Out of the three Ser­vices, the Army is the worst af­fected ser­vice with lit­er­ally no mod­erni­sa­tion in any arm of the ser­vice and noth­ing in the pipe­line, at least not in the next few years. Apart from the non­cha­lant ap­proach in the Min­istry of De­fence (MoD), the Army has to be ap­por­tioned a cer­tain per­cent­age of the blame be­cause equip­ment and re­lated of un­der­stand­ing mod­ern tech- nol­ogy of army re­lated sys­tems. They should be ca­pa­ble of tak­ing/ rec­om­mend­ing de­ci­sions re­lated to mod­erni­sa­tion of all equip­ment used in the army and push­ing the cases for­ward with com­pe­tence and vigour. A pedes­trian ap­proach in this re­gard will in­vari­ably lead to in­ac­tion and de­lays which is what is hap­pen­ing.

As re­gards the OROP, the gov­ern­ment, af­ter pro­tracted dis­cus­sions with all con­cerned, made the much awaited an­nounce­ment on the im­ple­men­ta­tion OROP on Septem­ber 5, 2015. How­ever, as usual some - cial an­nounce­ment made by the De­fence Min­is­ter which led the United Front of Ex-Ser­vice­men (UFESM) to point out seven se­ri­ous short­com­ings of the for­mal an­nounce­ment made by the De­fence Min­is­ter which are on the In­ter­net. There­after de­spite many other let­ters in­clud­ing the one signed by 155 all ranks (in­clud­ing 80 re­tired Gen­er­als) ad­dressed to the Prime Min­is­ter have not been ac­knowl­edged by the gov­ern­ment. We have also learnt that the ear­lier let­ters writ­ten by the for­mer Chiefs of the Army, Navy and the Air Force to the Pres­i­dent have also not been ac­knowl­edged. The men­tal­ity and the dis­po­si­tion of the pow­ers that be to­wards to the uni­formed com­mu­nity are there for all to see.

On Oc­to­ber 26, 2015, the De­fence Min­is­ter Manohar Parri will be is­sued soon af­ter the Bi­har elec­tions, and pos­si­bly be­fore Di­wali. It re­mains un­clear whether the short­com­ings pointed out by the ex-ser­vice­men will be taken into ac­count.

We would not be do­ing jus­tice to the mat­ters re­lated to OROP if we do not high­light the part played by the me­dia. In the ini­tial days of the re­lay hunger strike of the ex-ser­vice­men from July through Septem­ber 2015, the me­dia was very ac­tive and sup­port­ive of the ex-ser­vice­men, how­ever this stopped sud­denly from end Septem­ber on­wards be­cause the re­lay hunger strikes are still be­ing un­der­taken with the same gusto as be­fore. Many are of the view that un­writ­ten in­struc­tions from the gov­ern­ment are re­spon­si­ble for this me­dia black­out. If this be touted press free­dom and the bravado of our me­dia men.

Lt Gen­eral (Retd) V.K. Kapoor

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