NEW DELHI: The military holds Pakistan to ransom but India is held ransom by the bureaucracy, indispensable to politicians no matter how unprofessional and unaccountable.

This is particularly relevant to the Ministry of Defence where a systematic degradation of military has been effected through past decades.

The Koshiyari Committee on One Rank One Pension (OROP) had lambasted the government for total “Bureaucratic Apathy” against military veterans. Yet this apathy is growing, a recent example being the military’s recommendations for the 7th Central Pay Commission being blocked at the defence secretary level.

The Armed Forces have rejected the salary and emoluments recommended by the 7th CPC on grounds that its implementation be put on hold in view of the “unresolved anomalies” that lowered the status of the forces vis-à-vis their counterparts in the police and the civil administration.

The Government doesn’t seem to realize this is a watershed in civil-military relations and wants to bulldoze their writ with the Defence Minister ordering the military to immediately implement 7th CPC.

Numerous unprecedented occurrences in the recent past have adversely affected rank and file of the military both serving and veterans, some being: one, baton charge on peacefully protesting veterans wearing medals (including gallantry awards) and regimental caps at Jantar Mantar;

two, post the despicable baton charge, representative of Delhi police sent to apologize instead of any MoD official;

three, government sanctioned OROP after 1973 but in half-cock manner despite clear definition given by the Koshiyari Committee that was approved by two Parliaments and defined in MoD communications during 2014, and;

four 7th CPC lowering status of the forces vis-à-vis their counterparts in the police and the civil administration. While no government would do this to its own military, it is for the government to examine how such decisions were taken - whether only due to prejudices or any politicians / bureaucrats are receiving foreign funds to do so, possibility of which is very much exists in asymmetric conflict.

The Service Chiefs sure are facing flak because of the above, particularly for not making any statement against the naked disrespect shown in baton charging veterans, watched by serving soldiers on social media. The Service Chiefs should have told the government what they have done is not good of the nation as it badly hurt the psyche of the military.

But now if the Service Chiefs have officially rejected the 7th CPC, the Modi government must realize that the tipping point has arrived.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s Chinese Checkers of ordering the military to implement the pay panel immediately and anomalies will be looked into is the usual cock-and-bull game played for decades.

Has he done anything about the anomalies of the 6th and earlier CPCs? OROP anomalies have been shoved aside with Reddy’s circus touring pan-India. One can count on the Reddy circus being extended into more such circuses organized to look into the anomalies of the 7th CPC till the 8th CPC overtakes it.

The Service Chiefs need to hold steadfast and tell Parrikar bluntly enough is enough, and that pushing the jaundiced recommendations down the throat of the military is adverse to the nation’s security as it affects morale of the military. This is the ‘battle royale’ with the bureaucracy that holds the politicos captive. But the Service Chiefs also need to do something else .

During 2007, army garrisons at Mathura, Allahabad and Kanpur notified civil authorities they would participate in the upcoming Uttar Pradesh State elections. The chain of events that followed included: one, RTIs to concerned MLAs and MPs querying details of help rendered to veterans, serving soldiers families in their areas during last five years and what development funds used to improve infrastructure in cantonments;

two, standing MLA of Mathura met the Station Commander offering Rupees 10 lakhs (with promise of more) requesting orders be issued for military garrison to vote for his party – money was returned and politico told soldiers are free to vote as per individual wishes;

three, at Allahabad, an illegal encroachment on cantonment land had just been removed after proper court order. The woman heading a political party (whose house was ransacked and burnt few years later by opponents) for garnering votes of the evicted rang up the party President in Delhi, who in turn rang up the Defence Minister. HQ Central Command was asked to order an inquiry into the evictions but when army informed the civil authorities they would participate in state elections at Allahabad, the woman in question dropped all and sought when it would be convenient for the Divisional Commander to have a meal with her;

four, a special cell was established in the office of the Deputy Commissioner, Mathura to look into grievances of serving soldiers, veterans and their next-of-kin;

five, political parties sought permission to hold election rallies inside cantonments which was denied but election posters allowed in the ‘civil’ market;

six, army garrisons voted in special booths under election commission set up within cantonments;

seven, MLA who won election from Mathura, came to Station HQ querying how he could assist in improving infrastructure of Mathura cantonment over the next five years. So on and so forth.

One of the reasons that the Koshiyari Committee refused to equate civilian officials with military personnel was because the fundamental rights of soldiers are drastically curbed. But not only the fundamental right to vote of soldier is safe, the Election Commission has authorized every soldier to vote in his place of posting if he has served for one day or more in that place – he can vote both in state and municipal elections.

By not ensuring every soldier exercises his franchise, Service Chiefs are actually curbing the soldier’s right to vote and contravening the Constitution. Hence, Service Chiefs must take conscious decision to ensure:
first, every soldier authorized to vote in forthcoming elections in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttrakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Goa and all elections beyond must exercise franchise;

second, voter identity cards must be obtained for every soldier on forthwith basis;

third, procuring individual voter cards must be institutionalized by all Regimental Centres for every young soldier on completion of recruit training;

fourth, official liaison with Election Commission for provision of election commission teams in ‘remote areas’ for military personnel – if Election Commission can send teams inside Gir forest for a single voter no reason they cannot send teams down to battalion / equivalent level in remote areas;

fifth, soldiers must participate in respective municipal elections also as authorized to every citizen;

sixth, casting franchise by every soldier should be treated as ‘Command Function’ and any commander down the line not ensuring same should be made answerable and viewed accordingly for promotion, and

seventh, if the news of Army appointing dedicated officers to liaise with veterans is correct, they should liaise with veterans and NOKs of all military (preceded by mutual agreement at Service HQ level) to address grievances and help them procure voter cards, where not made.

The Service Chiefs must acknowledge that this is the ‘only’ method to counter Nehru’s legacy of the military being called in at the drop of a hat and yet treated as a ‘necessary evil’ - that is being diligently followed till-date.

What will likely follow is Government telling the Service Chiefs they will be dismissed if the 7th CPC is not implemented immediately. Intelligence agencies will be deployed simultaneously to blackmail individual Chiefs and create a divide among them.

Need of the hour is to stay steadfast. Let them dismiss the three Chiefs but the next in-line should refuse to fill the vacated slots – the country anyway is headed by bureaucrats. This by no means is insubordination; it actually is loyalty to the nation at the higher plane which the mafia is incapable of comprehending.